Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The Classroom of Your Mind

by p------- Thu Feb 9th, 2006 at 11:16:02 PM EST

This is really a non-diary.  But most of you across the pond are nestled into bed right now, there is no permanent hoppin' open thread, and by the time I get around to enjoying the European Breakfast, everyone is already hitting the pubs & brasseries for happy hour...

So.  I have a question.  Or a request.  I've finished the little pile of books on my nightstand (or at least the books I actually want to read) and so was going to stop by the bookstore on the way home.  But I'm one of those people who has to have something specific in mind before I enter a store or else the whole purchasing experience is wrought with fear and indecision.  (And before anyone lectures me on the rewards of browsing I'll remind everyone that I'm a librarian and you'd be wasting your time.)

Anyway, despite listening to NPR, reading the papers, blogging, working at a fancy university and generally hanging out with hip young intellectual fringe types, I just had nothing in mind as I got ready to enter the store, and so I did not, but walked past the doors and down the stairs to the train and went home and consoled myself with a very generous glass of wine and some disappointingly soft olives.

I know there are people I should be reading.  I know there must be great thinkers out there from whom I can learn valuable insights about life and history and gain some framework for understanding this perplexing, frustrating, frightening time I find myself living in.  But who are they?  If they've been on Charlie Rose, the either give me the creeps or are closet neo-cons.  Or both.  I don't trust the NYT bestsellers.  Not because of their depressing journalistic standards but because I used to work in the book industry and know the whole thing's as rigged as Wal-Mart's price structuring.  I'm not cool and young enough to have that finely tuned radar that hones in on the most brilliant people, places and things since sliced bread seemingly without effort.  I'm reduced to looking at the bookshelves and ascertaining the quality of a book by the number of copies on the shelf (the more the worse, and if it is on display run for your lives.)

So.  If you were in charge of teaching the world, what would be on your syllabus?  Who are the Great Thinkers?  Who should I read?  Nothing dry. And if the prose is rotten but the ideas are sound, forget it.  I need good prose and good ideas.  Fiction, non-fiction.  History, sociology, psychology.  I feel nothing I've read to date has adequately prepared me for this insanity I see around me. I can look within my heart and all, but surely some French philosopher or Italian novelist has more insight than this 31 year old American girl.  Or at least they should be able to keep me occupied on the train.  Right? And nothing (and I get a lot of this) in some well intentioned but manipulative attempt to get me to accept religion into my life.  Again, wasting your time.

So, given those conditions, what do you recommend? Here's your personal chance to mold my mind!  And the minds of others!

Fire away with your required reading lists!


Display:
What a great question, poemless!  I can't wait to hear what others recommend.

As to your question... well, you've probably already read anything I can think to recommend, but assuming you haven't, I'd say must-reads (for these troubled times!) are the original Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.  

The former has probably been more informative to me about societies than any sociology book I've ever read.  The latter is flat-out funny.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 01:03:22 AM EST
And how did I forget?  Hard Times by Studs Terkel.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 02:20:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks!  Studs is so amazing, we Chicagoans are very proud of him.  Actually, "Hope dies last" was on my mental list before I suffered anmesia last night.  Thanks for jogging my memory.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:50:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is really an excellent question and an excellent title for the diary, poemless will always be poemless.

Just like you, I cannot stand rotten writing even if the idea behind it is good, that's why I read only dead novelists. Not a pre-set rule, but just something I noticed.

I used to be a voracious reader, and still am, to some extent, so I have to think about your question carefully before I come up with suggestions.

Anyhow, thank you for this thread ; you have a way of bringing up universal matters in a ways that makes them interesting.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:05:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rather fond of the dead novelists myself, but there are some good contemporary fiction writers out there.  They are just few and far between.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:52:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a start though I can't keep the darned list up to day.

Most important book I read last year was probably Keen's Debunking Economics, though if you don't like math it may be heavy going...  it really is time to update that list.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 01:28:28 AM EST
up to date

shouldn't have had that glass of wine.  'night all.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 01:28:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm, I'm not near my pile of books at the moment and I have no idea what you have already read...

Earlier I wrote a diary about "No God but God" by Reza Aslan. I think it's a great view on the history of Islam and some possible implications for how that affects us in the West now.

"I Want That! How we all became shoppers" by Thomas Hine is an interesting little book on "consumerism." It's too optimistic about it, but it contains some gem-like insights into the social life of shopping that you would (IMO) have to wade through a whole pile of other books to begin to get. And it reads well.

Hmmm, dredging through my memory here, ouch.

As an aside, the seven by seven diary has some great books in it...

As another aside, some books have great assemblage of important facts and some good concepts, but I struggle in reading them because I find myself shouting at the right wing assumptions every 5 minutes. How do you feel about that kind of book?

The Right Nation and The Next Attack are two tomes that fall into this category for me. There's a wealth of detail which gives much greater understanding of the US government and the Republican party, but...

The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman is a good read, but you've probably already heard of that one.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast is a good read, but by now you may have heard most of what he has to say repeated by others.

A lot of the difficulty is "what is well written?"

Manufacturing Consent by Chomsky is a good one for insight into how big media turns into a self-regulating system. I think it is ok written, but not everyone agrees.

If you've never read any Terry Pratchett, it's worth reading some, in my opinion. It's comedy, so personal taste dictates you may not like it. I'd say start with "Small Gods" as that has some nice twists for looking at our world. (Unless you're a completer-finisher-perfectionist, where you would of course want to start at the beginning of the series...)

A good managerial economics book. Hmm, have to look up the details. Once you've understood how companies try to work you're in a great position to understand the limits to "privatisation."

Them, Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson is a great book, well written and amusing.

Um... now we're scraping the bottom of my memory without access to my bookshelves...

Ah yes, old classic you've probably already read:

Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond.
If you already have the right educational background (or just think the way I do) then there's nothing surprising in this book, per se. However, it is well constructed with lots of fascinating detail. It is an important book for a lot of people to read as it can open their mind to the structural causes of success.

The Economics of Innocent Fraud by J.K. Galbraith!
You MUST buy this one, it is really short and well written.

Heh, that's all I can come up with for now.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 04:04:12 AM EST
Oh, I forgot good old Joeseph Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents and The Roaring Nineties.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:29:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's got a new one out called <Fair Trade for All</i>, too.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 02:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Pratchett is a good choice...the more recent ones are excellent.  the early ones are good for a laugh on the train in the morning...but the recent ones...THEY are my favourites.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde
by Sam on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel nothing I've read to date has adequately prepared me for this insanity I see around me. I can look within my heart and all, but surely some French philosopher or Italian novelist has more insight than this 31 year old American girl.

I recommend a heavy dose of Stanisław Lem. Cyberiad, the Ijon Tichy novels, and Failure.

Staying with my known favourites, Imaginary Homelands, Salman Rushdie's essay collection.

Also seek out Imre Kertész: Fatelessness.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:43:52 AM EST
And, of course, CEE classics of grotesque or surreal: Kafka, Karel Čapek, Arthur Koestler.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:51:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CEE?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Central and Eastern Europe, or Central-Eastern Europe, as the case may be.

Together with the beef about saying "Holland" to refer to The Netherlands, and avoiding the term "Anglo-Saxon", this is one of the key things that people need to be sensitive about around here.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:55:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aah ...  I love what I consider to be "Eastern European" writing.  I avoid lumping the "Central" into that category because I can't say the same about the Germans, Austrians, Swiss, etc.

Perhaps if I say, "I love the stuff coming out of those European countries which used to be under communist rule, except for the Baltics, only because I haven't read much Baltic lit," that would be politically correct?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 11:02:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I sort of agreed with DoDo's contention that anything to the west of Jutland should be Western Europe... That makes Switzerland and Germany Central-Western, and Austria Central (most of Austria is, in fact, directly south of Czechia and the former East Germany, with Vienna being East of Prague).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 11:11:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you like 'East European' authors, here's a few that DoDo didn't mention, I'm not sure about insights into the world but they're good, and that's generally my chief criterium for fiction.

Bruno Schulz and Witold Gombrowicz (Polish) Danilo Kis (Serb, sort of), Christa Wolf (East German), Uwe Johnson (East/West German), Joseph Roth and Robert Musil (Habsburg).  

I could also provide a pretty long list of good history books, primarily dealing with modern European history, particularly Germany and ECE.

by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 03:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oooh, thank you!  Can you post the list of history books or a link to it?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 03:53:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could post links to orals type lists (or dig up my old orals lists), but a lot of that stuff gets pretty specialized and it sometimes is of the extremely dry but you've got to know it category. Here's some good ones at semi random.

Carl Schorske Fin de Siecle Vienna

Stephen Kern Culture of Time and Space

(both about the birth of 'modernity' in the decades leading up to WWI)

Fritz Stern Politics of Cultural Despair (intellectual origins of the mindset that led to Fascism)

Fritz Stern Gold and Iron (Bismarck, Kaiserreich, Germans and Jews)

Robert Paxton An Anatomy of Fascism (short, excellent summary of the subject)

Stephen Kotkin Magnetic Mountain. Stalinism as Civilization (my favorite book on Stalinism, through the prism of the creation of Magnitogorsk)

Richard Evans Death in Hamburg. Society and Politics in the Cholera Years

Claudia Koonz _Mothers of the Fatherland. Women, the Family and Nazi Politics

Ian Kershaw The Nazi Dictatorship. Problems and perspectives of Interpretation (overview of the debates, updated every few years)

Brian Porter When Nationalism began to Hate. Imagining Modern Polics in Nineteenth Century Poland (ok, a bit dry but it's good and pickings are limited for good quality Polish history in English)

Larry Wolff Inventing Eastern Europe (Englightenment Europe looks east, heavily influenced by Said's Orientalism)

Jerzy Jedlicki A Suburb of Europe (East looks West)

and perhaps one that I haven't read yet, and which isn't really history but I've been meaning to read since it came out a half year ago, good author, interesting sounding reviews.
David Ost The Defeat of Solidarity. Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe

And three on Europe and America, might be interesting to Eurotrib readers, two of them quite recent.

Volker Berghahn America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe

Victoria de Grazia Irresistable Empire. America's advance through 20th c. Europe

Mary Nolan Visions of Modernity. American Business and the Modernization of Germany (on the Weimar era)

I think that's a start ;)

by MarekNYC on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 08:59:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps if I say, "I love the stuff coming out of those European countries which used to be under communist rule, except for the Baltics, only because I haven't read much Baltic lit," that would be politically correct?

Yes, and geographically correct, too :-) I see you missed this discussion two months back, so here is the gist of it -

The geographical centre of Europe, depending on the method used and areas taken into account, is at:

  • Bernotai, near Vilnius, Lithuania;
  • Číhošť, near Ledec nad Sazavou, Czech Republic;
  • Krahule, near Kremnica in central Slovakia (Hungary before 1920, then called Kékellő);
  • Dilove, near Rakhiv in western Ukraine (before 1945 Czechoslovakia, before 1920 [Austria-]Hungary, then called Terebesfehérpatak);
  • Suchowola, north of Białystok, in northeast Poland.

As you can see from that, today Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Western Ukraine, and maybe Romania and Austria could be considered Central Europe. In the languages of most of these countries, they are called Central European. It was only because of the Iron Curtain and Germany's territorial changes that for people in the West, Central Europe shifted West - but people here were never happy about that, they are sensitive to it.

Post-1989, for international fora, the term "Central-Eastern Europe" was adopted as a compromise. (However, some accepted "Central Europe" in English, for example the English-language university George Soros established for the region, which used to reside in Prague and Budapest but now only in the latter, is called Central European University.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 04:11:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for the explanation.  Now I understand my faux pas.  And you are correct.  The Czech Republic will probably always be "Eastern" in my mind ... Yes, because for so long we used the term to mean "mysterious underdevoloped oppressed country Americans weren't allowed to visit" not a proper geographical designation.  How could I have missed that?  Well, thank you for enlightenning me.

BTW, this just underlines my desire to have a nice informative map of Europe linked to the front page here.

Now.  I have friends who insist that Finland can be considered part of Scandinavia.  What's the proper designation there?  


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 04:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ooooh, you probably opened another can of worms :-) I let Sven Triloquist, Nikita, Sirocco et al decide that, but I would say that though Finnish is not a Scandinavian language, well Saami isn't either, and Finland could be considered part of Scandinavia by history and geology.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 04:57:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Check out the ET Wiki, the "Politics and Policy by Country" section: I added some links for you.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you.

Hmmm. "Eastern Europe" still looks rather "East" to me.  Whatever...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:18:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, much of East-of-Urals Russia is off that map :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:23:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahh, but is that "Europe"????

Anyway, what does this have to do with recommended reading?  So far off topic...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:35:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some days I think DoDo's idea of "really Eastern Europe" is Vladivostok...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:37:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't understood your and Metatone's comments until reading my own comment again - uh oh, sorry, I meant West-of-Urals...

As for recommended reading, well, I recommended some maps for reading :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:42:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
HaHa.  Well, maps wouldn't be very practical for my commute, though.  People would either think I was a tourist or terrorist (all the same in America these days, esp. if you're trying to get on a plane...)  And I'd inevitably biff someone in the eye.

I actually LOVE geography.  One of those people who can get lost in an Atlas for hours...  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 05:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You live in Washington State, right?

Once I had the pleasure to go to a public lecture by Sherman Alexie (recommended reading!!!) who is a Spokane indian (for the rest of you: that would be an important indian tribe in Washington, and a town on the Eastern fringe of the state).

Anyway, the theme of Alexie's lecture was what it was like to be brown in America after 9/11. He told this one anecdote about how, right after 9/11, he was waiting to cross the street at a traffic light in Seattle and this "phallic" [sic] pickup truck with a huge American flag rolled by and the driver screamed at him "Go back to your country!". When Alexie was able to recover from his laughter, he shouted back "you first!", but the truck was too far away.

The lecture was part of the promotional tour for Ten Little Indians (recommended reading!) and a lot of the anecdotes and impressions in the lecture were actually incorporated into the stories in the book. I don't remember whether the one about the pickup truck was.

Alexie's lecture was more like stand-up comedy all the way, but with lots of food for thought.

Hmmm... I don't know what the point of this whole rant is... Hey, I also suggest Maps in a Mirror, the collected short stories of Orson Scott Card.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:10:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm in Chicago, actually.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:16:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aye!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:21:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Never mind, the point of the rant was (I remember now) "tourist or terrorist".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:22:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Methinks she is in the Chicago area.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:21:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All of these seem to make sense only if you take a good chunk of Russia in to weigh in countries. Russia is not really part of Europe. It's part of European history and culture, but it does not consider itself to be part of Europe, and it certainly won't be part of the EU for the foreseeable future.

Nah, the center of Europe is now somewhere in Western Germany.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 04:54:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Geography is not about subjective feelings.

"it does not consider itself to be part of Europe"

We were presented Russian polls to the contrary during the Russian debates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:04:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, the most recently determined of these centres of Europe, the Lithuanian one (only from 1992), was determined by a French geographer.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:28:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But if you accept the geographic definition of Europe going to Urals, why should it have changed at anytime in the past century?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:55:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because I guarantee you the people who "calculate the center of continents" use no more sophisticated methods than drawing the contour of the continent on cardboard, cutting it out, and balancing the resulting shape on a pin. The variations come from the different projections used to draw the maps.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2006 at 06:08:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only: some weighed the borders of Europe (i.e. the result was 'equidistant' from the extremities), there can be differences in how much shallow water is included, and Northern Russia wasn't all that well known when the earliest were determined.

Tho' the Wiki says that the Soviets' re-determination got the same result as the last Austro-Hungarian one, that village in the Western Ukraine.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 12th, 2006 at 07:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:33:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe or maybe not, but it is almost certainly about political agendas.  Atleast when we are drawing boundaries.  And one cannot decide the center of something without drawing boundaries.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 09:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia is not really part of Europe.
With opinions like this being throuwn around, it's no wonder all the Russians disappeared.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:07:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a bit like The Economist with its energy price figures.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:30:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What did I say to deserve such a nasty insult? We're not talking facts here, only opinions!

I'll stick with it: Russia does not have a European telephone prefix - it has its own, like any self-respecting continent. Russia is big enough to be something else altogether, and it is a European power, but it is not in Europe.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 06:59:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll stick with it: Russia does not have a European telephone prefix - it has its own, like any self-respecting continent.

What are you talking about?

There are no continental prefixes for line telephones. If you meant zones, who cares - the rest of Europe is on two zones already, and so is the rest of Asia. Meanwhile, looking at the contry code for base stations of wireless phones, Russia is in the European zone.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 12th, 2006 at 07:55:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You do remember that they only showed up when they felt really insulted. This must not be enough to make them reappear (or maybe we need someone else to add on to my ignorant insults).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 07:00:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd really like someone to define, definitively, "Europe," before we go making statements of that nature.  

Jerome's "opinion" is in no way is offensive to Russia.  Whether Russia is in Europe or not is an age old question and last I heard, no one has had the last word on it.  Not only do many Russians not consider Russia implicitly part of Europe, many Europeans would absolutely shudder at the thought of including Russia in the EU.  

So to be blunt, it is convenient to include Russia in "Europe" when attempting to de-ghettoize the former Communist nations of Europe (saying it is not correct to call it "Eastern Europe" which I think one can only find offense with due to the political and socio-economic implications of the label, not the geographic ones.)  But when it comes to accepting Russia with open arms into the European political club, suddenly we can all agree that Russia is it's own thing.  And I think, frankly, Russia would prefer to have it that way.  And I know they play the European card for adcancing their own intersts too.

It's just perverse that we would be asked to accept outright that Russia, any part of it, is de facto part of "Europe."

Is "Europe" geographical, political, cultural, what?  Not the topic of my diary but I do think the issue needs to be addressed.  If only to illustrate the problems with making such assertions.

To me, Europe is a goal, the EU is a governing entity, and everything else is up for debate.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 09:49:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never heard anyone doubt the geographical meaning of Europe. In geography, Europe is the continent delimited on the East by the Ural mountain and river, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus. (Check Wiki.) The cultural realm is another thing, but let me point at Turkey, another country mostly in Asia but partly in Europe, whose joining is also discussed.

The EU is yet another thing, where I must mention that the EU existed long enough on a much smaller part of Europe, and people in many of its members weren't exactly happy about some or all of the 'new members'. Furthermore, there are other international organisations - for example the Council for Europe, the OSCE, and of course the 'most important', UEFA (football) and Eurovision (silly song contest), both of which include both Turkey and Russia.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 12th, 2006 at 07:41:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, izzy's right about studs...try the 'great war' also.

charles kuralt and bill moyers...

i read a good one lately: 'mediated' by thomas de zengotita

 i can't decide if it is his real name, whatever, way cool

and last but not least: animal farm.

delicious in its accuracy and brevity....

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 09:26:17 AM EST
"Neither Wolf nor Dog" by Kent Nerburn. Nerburn basically took dictation from a Lakota Elder, who shares his views and critiques of white culture. It is interesting to understand our culture from the perspective of an resident "outsider." Another good perspective of our cultural hegemony, which infuriates folks around the world.

For fun, "Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates" by Tom Robbins. Another good critique of our culture that is also hilarious.

by US Blues on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:23:39 AM EST
Re: Robbins.  That's one of his only books I had trouble getting into.  Never finished it.  "Another Roadside Attraction" is my favorite.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for all the suggestions so far.  A nice combination of things I've already read, would never read, very much am interested in, and things I'd be willing to give a go at.  Nice well-rounded syllabus. :)

I suppose I should offer up some of my recommendations.  It is a difficult task, isn't it?  Hmmm.  The thing is, there all all these quirky things that might not fit everyone's tastes.  For example, I have this book, Inside the Film Factory, which is a collection of reproduced documents, source material, from early Soviet Russia.  Gives a lot of insight into important things like the role of media and the State and how highly intelligent creative and well meaning individuals can get sucked into supporting a totalitarian regime...  Brilliant, and I find myself thinking of it often.  But it's pretty niche material.

Hmm.  "Imagined Communities" by Benedict Anderson, "Instance of the Fingerpost" by Iain Pears, "The Plague," "Candide," "1984," Heidegger, The Federalist Papers, ... some of the usual suspects on my list.

Just googling around I see that Dubravka Ugresic has a new book coming out this month!!  I'd put any of her work on my life syllabus.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 12:08:25 PM EST
A nice parallel to "Inside the Film Factory" is "The Culture of the Cold War" by Stephen J. Whitfield, touching on the American side of the fence.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 01:09:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't read it yet, but my father is reading Franklin Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom by Conrad Black, and he really loves it.

A Summer Bright and Terrible is a good read.  I believe the author's name is David Fisher (or Fischer).

Bill Maher's New Rules is very funny and very quick.

Again, I haven't read it yet, but I've heard Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar was interesting.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 02:29:53 PM EST
Let's see...
  • Michael Spivak: Calculus and Calculus on Manifolds.
  • Richard P. Feynman: The Feynman Lectures on Physics (if these are too tough, you can always go for Six Easy Pieces and Six Not So Easy Pieces and Feynman's Lost Lecture), The Character of Physical Law, QED, the Strange Theory of Light and Matter, Feynman Lectures on Computation, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, and What do you Care what Other People Think?
  • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times and Why the Professor Can't Teach.
  • Marting Gardner's collections of Mathematical Recreations columns for Scientific American.
  • Stuart Kauffman: The Origins of Order and At Home in the Universe
  • Per Bak: How Nature Works
  • James Gleick: Chaos
  • Lee Smolin: The Life of the Cosmos
  • John Horton Conway: Of Numbers and Games, The Sensual (quadratic) Form, (with Elwyn Berlekamp and Richard Guy) Winning Ways, (with Richard Guy) The Book of Numbers.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:42:49 PM EST
Feynman had been on my list for years.  Thanks for the reminder!

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 06:47:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, poemless, for this diary.  It goes on my hotlist for future reference.  Already some suggestions have gone on my wishlist.  Others better read than I will fill out your dream syllabus, but if I might I'd like to make a couple of suggestions.

If I were to recommend one book, particularly for a younger person, it would be Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  Some might consider it juvenile fiction.  After all, the principle character is a telepathic gorilla with the wisdom of Solomon.  Still, it won the Turner Tomorrow book award.  It was the first book in a very long time that I literally could not put down.  I stayed up well past my bedtime on a work night to finish it.  Quinn, through the voice of Ishmael the gorilla, examines the development of human civilization from a decidedly different perspective.  Some have dismissed Ishmael as warmed-over Malthus, but I think it is a good deal more than that.  I know I will never look at what we call civilization or progress quite the same again.

I would also recommend The Masks of God by Joseph Campbell.  In a four-volume set Campbell examines Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology, and Creative Mythology.  A book on mythology might easily be dry and dull, let alone a four volume set, but I found Campbell's wit delightful and his insights fascinating.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Fri Feb 10th, 2006 at 10:01:18 PM EST
Dune by Frank Herbert is an obvious choice for resource politics, and environmental politics. It's also a great tale of religion and power, so relevant in many ways.

I highly recommend Nancy Kress's books to see the potential impact of biotechnologies on man, politically. Start with Beggars in Spain; there are two sequels if you enjoyed it, and several other books by her.

Fooled by randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and several books by Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker is well known and a bit old, but still worth it, and hismore recent books are all easy to read and very interesting) and Po Bronson (especially Bombardiers) are good introductions to how our financial markets work (which means, how they exploit other people's ignorance and put us all in danger).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 05:02:19 AM EST
You can also take a look at the "Seven books (or series) that I love" section of the users' lists in DeAnander's "seven by seven: listmania" diary.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Feb 11th, 2006 at 09:47:30 AM EST
Thanks to the miracle of Tivo, I finally got to see all of Carl Sagan's Cosmos when it re-aired on the Science Channel recently.  It was every bit as good as I remembered.  I felt something akin to grief when I realized how much I miss the mindset that I took for granted when it first aired.

Three television series I would recommend to the classroom of the mind:

Civilization by Kenneth Clark
Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski
Cosmos by Carl Sagan


We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Feb 12th, 2006 at 01:47:55 PM EST


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