Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wobbly times number 137

Channel 4 - Islam: The Untold Story (banned in the U.K.!) from Sassan Irandoost on Vimeo.

Well, you know what Mr. Carr used to say: "History is nothing more than the thin thread of what is remembered stretched out over the ocean of what has been forgotten." from page 43 of WHISKY, CHARLIE, FOXTROT a novel by a local author, Annabel Smith.

Tom Holland has written a history of this time and place (the one in the doco above, of course).  It's titled, IN THE SHADOW OF THE SWORD.  Holland's approach to history requires an anti-authoritarian sense of humour.  His book is full of tales to be memorised and re-told over ale and conversation with your mates. Tales?  Those concerning the mentality, beliefs and actions of members of the human race who existed in the ancient world i.e. before the establishment of feudalism in Europe and the Middle East.  

And now some views of IN THE SHADOW OF THE SWORD from hirelings of the bourgeois media:

Praise for Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword
“Elegantly written. . . . A veritable tour de force.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomaniacal empresses and visionary prophets. The book is unputdownable. . . . An important work based on respected scholarship. It takes courage and intellect to confront such complexity and sensitivity. Written with flamboyant elegance and energetic intensity.”
The Times (London)

“Accessible but delightful . . . as fun to read as any thriller, and with far richer intellectual nutritional content. . . . Those unwilling to struggle through academic texts have long needed a guide to the story of Islam as it’s understood by those with the fullest access to the latest linguistic and archaeological evidence. Now at last in Tom Holland’s In the Shadow of the Sword, they finally have it. . . . Holland—author previously of Rubicon and Persian Fire—is about as exciting a stylist as we have writing history today.”
The Daily Beast

“[Holland’s] prose is shot through with wit and empathy. The result is a portrait of a lost world that is complex, contradictory and populated by people in thrall to ideas future generations would dismiss as ridiculous. Much like our own, in other words.”
Dallas Morning News

“[An] elegant study of the roiling era of internecine religious rivalry and epic strife that saw the nation of Islam rise and conquer. . . . Holland confronts questions in the Quranic text head-on, providing a substantive, fluid exegesis on the original documents. Smoothly composed history and fine scholarship.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Tom Holland is a writer of clarity and expertise, who talks us through this unfamiliar and crowded territory with energy and some dry wit. . . . The emergence of Islam is a notoriously risky subject, so a confident historian who is able to explain where this great religion came from without illusion or dissimulation has us greatly in his debt.”
The Spectator (London)

“This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves. He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit—there’s something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing. In the Shadow of the Sword remains a spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world.”
The Independent (London)

“This is a handsome volume, tackling an important question from a novel perspective.”
Sunday Telegraph (London)

“Holland tells a complex story, dotted with names and places leagues beyond the realm of popular recognition. Yet he makes it unmistakably his own. He is one of the most distinctive prose stylists writing history today, and he drags his tale by the ears, conjuring the half-vanished past with such gusto that characters and places fairly bound from the page. In the Shadow of the Sword may reach provocative conclusions, but it is also a work of impressive sensitivity and scholarship.”
Telegraph (London)

“An exhilarating read because Holland succeeds in capturing much of the excitement, strangeness and importance of a long past age. It is difficult not to be bedazzled.”
Financial Times (London)

“An ambitious and important book. . . . His excellent book will be lauded, as it should be for doing what the best sort of books can do—examining holy cows.”
The Observer (London)

About the Author

Historian Tom Holland is the author of the nonfiction works of history RubiconPersian Fire, and The Forge of ChristendomRubicon was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the 2004 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, and Persian Fire won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s 2006 Runciman Award.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wobbly times number 136

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." - Edward Abbey.

It’s About Time

We came out of Africa
ages ago
We roamed o’er this planet
in various tribes
our numbers have grown
We’re hitting six billion
We don’t need any more
We need a rest
some disposable time
We’ve got enough families
and too many swine

We need a shrink
We’re working too long
driving for hours
with ring-toned
bright mobiles
stuck fast to our ears
jammed ‘twixt car bumpers
to-ing and fro-ing
producing more gadgets
than we’ll ever use

And what’s most of it for

To profit the powers
increasing their greed
immersing our planet
in fads become junk
twelve percent plastic
and toxic to boot

truth is still beauty
but look what WE’VE got
beauty’s become
a ware to be bought
a thing to be sold
In this day and age
cheapness’s the measure
of market-share gain
It’s just so much fools’ gold
What happened to leisure
Why so much pain
Come on fellow workers
Let’s turn the page

Our faire Sister is groaning
under this weight
We’ve created more wealth
than ever before
measured in money
and we’re still insecure
Output per worker
has shot through sky
do-dads are humming
boss profits are high
while needy go hungry
and poor children die
by thousands each day
because water is dirty
and boy is it scarce
The deserts are coming
the planet is warming
and pundits are talking

they’re talking ‘bout more

All for the bosses
More power for them
to grow their damn
and lest we forget
we’ll get more landlords
and rent hikes galore

Oh my god
can’t you see
by the dawn’s early light
Come on
all you workers
wage slavery’s a bore
It’s taking up your life
and taking up mine
Let’s make something real
something useful for us
for us and our planet
before we go bust
Let’s grow us some FREE-TIME
Give it a think
We’ve piled enough crap up
We need a shrink

"An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted." Arthur Miller