Simple Thoughts

May 23

Innflyttingsfest i kveld! -

garethlaerernorsk:

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@GarethChantler haha! Hurra! Nå blir det bra fest :D

— Karin (@crienexzy)
23. mai 2014

Karin svar meg tweet. Jeg embed neden hennes youtube leksjon om artikler. Jeg kjøpe to mest foretrekke tingen på Norge for mine innflyttingsfest i kveld…. øl og pizzafrossen.

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Dahl…

May 12

Yesterday…. i går

Jeg løp å Bymarka i går. Det er stor park av Trondheim. Bymarka er øst av byen. 

Jeg løp om ni mi. Men vi er i Norge, så fjorten kilometer. Jeg møtte noen folk å veien. 

En par har litt hund, bulldog hvis jeg husker. Før jeg var i skogene, jeg sa hund gikk å toalett på torget veien. 

Når jeg løp ved siden av jeg så ¨god sted!¨ Jeg vet ikke jeg hvis det er riktig. Men både lo. 

På topp av Bymarka jeg kunne si gjennom Trondheim. Det er pittoresk .. vakkert. Det var lørdag så mange folk trekker for rekreasjon. 

Jeg tenker jeg var på Våttakammen, men jeg skal finne ut neste gangen. 

Jeg tak ikke camera. Men her er bra eksempel. 

Engelsk

Okay so the main thing I think is going to cause confusion above is the story about the dog.

I was on my way to Bymarka. I saw a couple walking their dog. The dog took a shit on the train tracks. I said god sted as I went by. I think this might mean Good Place! As in, good place for the dog to take a shit.

Inflection would be important here in English and I think I got it right, if not the words, in Norwegian. Most of the time in Norwegian I will get it wrong, words and inflection. Often when I get words right, inflection will be wrong. I think this might have been a rare time I got inflection right. Not too sure about words. 

The above in Norwegian I wrote without help. It represents my present level of writing. Today I did some homework in Ny i Norge, the Norwegian immigrants learning book (New in Norway). This week I hope to write about that, about Eurovision, about me sticky-noting my apartment, and maybe about a poker game in Oslo!

Snakkes senere

Gareth

Dec 20

Best Books I read in 2013

I read nonfiction. I basically only read fiction when it is philosophically motivated and influential, a historical landmark, or when it contributes to some sort of context I want to have, like if I am going to a country in which it takes place. Therefore, I wouldn’t take my fiction commentary too seriously. 

Antifragile

Taleb’s often endearing, but frequently overbearing (and in the midst of key passages, no less) ego, absent-minded disorganization, indulgent and liberal analogizing, amid other avoidable errors, are not enough to extinguish the brilliance of his original thesis. Overlap with The Black Swan is relatively (surprisingly) small. A must read for those interested in nonlinearity talk, in the vein of Jervis’ System Effects, but without the rigour and with, to steal a phrase from a Howard Zinn jacket, “a shotgun blast of revisionism.” I would still start with the Black Swan, but stopping there would be self-punitive. This is not a technical work and relating technical matters is not Taleb’s forte. His forte is effulgence. 

Thinking Fast and Slow

The pitch-perfect, comprehensive introduction for laypeople. An antidote to Gladwell, but so much more. High school textbook material, in a good way, but also recommended for lake-side reading. Basically what textbooks should be, bestowing definitions, examples, and evidences for various cognitive biases, without any of the usual eye-glazing roadblocks. I would go so far as to say asocial science triumph. 

Dubliners

Elegant, crisp, and lucid prose. Astounding in arrangement at every scale — word, sentence, paragraph, story, work — with expansive sublime commentary through inference. Instills resonant heartbreak.

Bird of Chaman, Flower of the Khyber: Riding Shotgun from Karachi to Kabul 

Matt Aikins intrepid journalism in long, narrative form. Full disclosure, I worked directly with (and under the tutelage of) Matt at the magazine he ran during his final year of Queen’s University. A talented writer, he has traveled extensively in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria…Are those hotspots sufficient? He has interviewed warlords, crossed through dangerous checkpoints, ducked gunfire, investigated torture, exposed the murder of Afghan civilians by US forces, spent days with Syrian bomb makers, the list goes on and on. He’s written for Harper’s, Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, et al. To my mind, the premier conflict journalist under forty writing in the English language. 

Elements of Poker

The starting point for any aspiring poker professional looking to enact a lifelong tuning of their mental game. 

The Swerve

Sneaking into the list, is effective, interesting scholarship and well organized, informative history, overlaying an intriguing narrative. What puts Greenblatt a cut above is his uncanny ability to lay out in plain language the nuts and bolts of competing philosophical premises, in their context. With this power comes some responsibility, and Greenblatt errs on hyperbole a smidgen at times. Another must for those touring the history of ideas. 

Arguably 

He was the best living writer of English nonfiction until he wasn’t. A man who wrote in a wide variety of formats, Arguably is a collection that plays to his strengths. His reviews outclass his long-form work, such as the infamous and popular god is Not Great, to the point where it is, to my mind, unfortunate that it is the book he is most well known for.

In this collection he is the epitome of freethinker, navigating everything from animal rights to Benjamin Franklin studies.

His review of an apparently forgettable Mark Twain biography is a study in critical dissection. His prose are crafted to sever. He balances detailed consideration and pithy wit, but not delicately, because he is seemingly never in danger of being hysterical or hyperbolic, while simultaneously ravaging the banal, the lazy, the haphazard, the uncritical, and the misinformed. A unique collection whose only fault is its exclusion, despite dozens upon dozens of entries (ie plenty of room), of his 2006 Slate column on Slobodan Milosevic. That piece, again highlighting my own bias, contains the following favourite: “Beware of those resentful nonentities who enter politics for therapeutic reasons.”

Incredible writing like this does not litter Arguably, it forms the ground on which everything else stands.

Honourable Mentions

Infinite Jest

Unique, virtuoso, and perpetually intriguing.

Simply, for prolonged stretches, not achieving a state of being compelling. Not a page turner. One has a hard time identifying with any characters, much less the majority of those who might be roughly pigeonholed into the role of protagonist as their portion of narrative is limelit. 

Wallace is a prose artist, a classic case of, pardon the cliche, perfecting the rules in order to break them — with spectacular results. Coinage and spin, technically playful. If Wallace, as a 1,000 page novelist, were to be rendered into a basketball player, coaches would unanimously assert “he does all the little things.” 

There is simply no way Jest cannot be characterized as self-indulgent. But that is fine, because indulging Wallace is surrendering to something majestic. My preference to be rendered a hapless page-turner, ignorant to my surroundings, was never fully actualized, particularly in the first 400 pages, as important in my mind as any other 400. 

On the other hand, for what one supposes Wallace was trying to do, he, in my present, humble estimation, executed it near-flawlessly. 

The Signal and the Noise

A noble effort. The world is better that this book was written. Nate Silver was not the hero some wanted, as far as literary capacity, but he is the hero they got. 

The Idea of Decline in Western Civilization 

A survey of history that suffers from a lack of corroboration in the assassination of various philosophers with whom we can infer the author brooks philosophical disagreement. An otherwise excellent survey, certainly worth studying, drawing from a breadth including W E B Dubois and Nietzsche. 

Naked Lunch

The filthiest book I have ever read, bar none. Its black type on white page is make you look over your shoulder on planes filthy. Truly pornographic. 

Crescent and Star

American Stephen Kinzer (who wrote the also recommended All the Shah’s Men) has written an informative work that suffers from narrative injections and unabashed romanticism for his adopted state. 

The worst books I read in 2013

I feel bad about my neck - Nora Ephron

This book humoured me less than I did it. 

Bone in the throat

Not the elsewhere brilliant, Renaissance flaneur-on-camera Anthony Bourdain’s best. Far superior to Ephron’s offering, though. 

May 24

The Quebec Student Protests

Almost two years ago I made this post, which is uncanny in its applicability to the current Quebec student protests. 

A play without a hero

People might point to Quebec’s emergency legislation as proof of the fact that the government is in the wrong. Sure, it is in the wrong, but not in comparison to the student protesters, only in general. The students also happen to be in the wrong.

Misguided would be a great adjective to describe both parties. Anytime a Western democracy passes an emergency powers law it makes an unwitting admission that its legislators have no idea of the history of their own polity. It is an admission of ignorance. Not just of practicality — the fact being that these laws and efforts never work to their intended effect. More importantly is the total ignorance it shows with regards to the history of laws of this nature. Their absence and repeal, over time, is one of the main benchmarks of progress on the road to the prosperous and flourishing society we find ourselves in today. Those in the Quebec legislature cannot argue, without betraying ignorance to the seriousness of crises past, or the relative lack of seriousness of the student protests, that this is a crisis worthy of an emergency powers law. Moreover, there are laws on the books. Not to point out the obvious but, somehow, up to this point in recent history, Quebec has been a relatively orderly place. 

The students are more obviously in the wrong, that is to say their wrongness is more conspicuous. They seem to realize that there is a state and that the state has interests. What they are painfully unaware of is that they are not an oppressed minority standing up for itself, but rather, an incredibly fortunate group merely protecting their interests. 

Wrapping yourself in righteousness

Were these students aware they were receiving essentially a corporate hand out from the state, at the expense of the rest of society, and wanted to protect themselves from their subsidy being reduced, they would draw up a public relations campaign that painted themselves as an oppressed, hard-working minority “up against it” as it were by the penurious provincial government “going back” on its word. Moreover they would paint the issue in light of its fairness, its justice, cosmic justice! It would be a brilliant way to brand your interest group and to deceive the public who may or may not know better or who may or may not take the time to find out. 

It just so happens, by way of happy accident, that the student protesters have painted themselves in this optimal public relations light: the unwashed, hardworking low men and women on the totem pole, simply fighting for what is right.

The truth is a neat little proof of the fact that, independent of whether age bestows wisdom, those lacking the former don’t possess the latter. I feel partially obliged to write this now since, at twenty-six, my ability to make such statements with any credibility is expiring. 

Because the students actually believe what they portend on their placards and signs, they actually shout their slogans with conviction, not in sole interest of fulfilling their interests, but also in interest of supposed and phantasmic cosmic justice. They’ve been tricked by lightswitch enlightenment; the light is on, but nobody is home. Such is the privilege of privilege — the ability to inculcate yourself in the belief that what has been given to you is deserved.