Archive for Middle East

the secret Commonwealth [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2020 by xi'an

Now that I have read The secret Commonwealth over the X break, I cannot but wait eagerly for the third volume! The book is indeed quite good, much in the spirit of the first ones in His dark materials than of the previous La belle sauvage. When La belle sauvage was at its core an oniric and symbolic tale floating on the Thames, with some events on the side, The secret Commonwealth on the opposite is much more centred on adventures and quests and a real story (or rather make it three!) and a growing threat, with side philosophical musings. Quite the opposite of the first book, in short. Even the time localisation is reverted. While La belle sauvage was taking place ten years before His dark materials, making Lyra a very young baby, this book takes place ten years later with Lyra a young adult, growing very quickly in maturity through the pages of the book. The two are so incredibly different that they could have almost be written by different authors… The secret Commonwealth is also much more cosmopolitan than its older sibling as both Lyra and Pan leave Oxford, then England to travel through Europe and Middle East towards a most dangerous destination. The central theme of the book is whether or not Reason or Rationalism should guide one’s life. Given the magical realism of the novel, where the soul of each character is expressed as a companion expressed as a particular animal, a marten called Pan (short for Pantalaimon) for Lyra, it is somewhat an easy (easier than in our own World!) plot line to dismiss rationalist thinkers pretending they do no exist. And to paint the philosophers following this route as either shallow and more interested in rethorics (than philosophy) or fake and deluded. Since Lyra reading these authors is the reason for a widening split between her and Pan, I did not find this part the best in the plot, even though it seemed inevitable. But the resulting quest and the “chance” meetings of both central characters are gripping and well-written, as well as deeply poignant. All characters build some depth, esp. compared with La belle sauvage where they were mostly caricatures. As it is very rare that the second volume in a series brings so much pleasure and improvements, I strongly recommend it (even as a start, skipping La belle sauvage !)

and it only gets worse…

Posted in Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2018 by xi'an

“Donald Trump’s attacks on the press are “out of control” and damaging “the civic life and debate of the country”, the editor of the New York Times said on Sunday. Dean Baquet was responding to a tweet in which the president attacked his main rival. “The Washington Post is far more fiction than fact,” Trump wrote. `Story after story is made up garbage – more like a poorly written novel than good reporting. Always quoting sources (not names), many of which don’t exist.’ ” The Guardian, April 8

The Trump administration is expected to announce today a rule that would strip federal funding from clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to places that do. The rule, a return to a Reagan-era policy, is a victory for social conservatives. It’s also a jab at Planned Parenthood, which serves 41 percent of women who receive federally funded family planning services.2  NYT, May 18

“Donald Trump pulled the US out of the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran on Tuesday, moving to re-impose sanctions on Iran and defying pleas from close allies who had called for the agreement to be preserved. The decision marks a bitter defeat for America’s European allies, who have spent months beseeching Mr Trump to stay in a deal that he has denounced as “insane”. Critics warned it would further endanger stability in the Middle East. ” FT, May 8

“Donald Trump has slammed the gun laws of major US allies, claiming foreign countries could better protect their citizens – and possibly stop terrorist attacks – by loosening their gun control laws. In a speech to the NRA Leadership Forum, Mr Trump sought to reassure members of the US’s largest gun rights lobbying group of his support for the Second Amendment, after briefly expressing support for gun control measures in the wake of a school shooting in Florida.” The Independent, May 5