• Fri. Jul 30th, 2021

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Food, climate, disasters, analyses and more…

2014

  1. 2014 October 15 >> Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future (Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer)
  2. 20140927: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, Annalee Newitz, 2013
  3. 20140907: Histoire de ma vie, G. Casanova, Tome 1 (Bouquins; nouvelle édition, remaniée en profondeur par Igalens et Leborgne, de l’Histoire de ma vie est entièrement fondée sur le manuscrit acquis par la BnF en 2010).
  4. 20140713: Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber, 2012
  5. 20140701: Faut-il renoncer à la liberté pour être heureux ? Roland Gori, 2014
  6. 20140629 The Book Case (Kindle Single) by Nelson DeMille (2012)
  7. 20140622: New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe, Michael O’Meara (2013)
  8. 20140619: China 3.0 (ECFR policy report), A collection of essays Edited by Mark Leonard, 2012
  9. 20140608: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History), Eric H. Cline, 2014
  10. 20140508: La violence des riches, Monique Pinçon-Charlot & Michel Pinçon, 2013
  11. 20140502: How To Disappear Completely, David Bowick, 2009
  12. 20140425: Tod und Teufel, Frank Schätzing, 2003
  13. 20140420: The Origin of Indo-European Languages, Franco Rendich, 2013
  14. 20140412: Dictionnaire érotique moderne, Alfred Delvau, 1864
  15. 2014030: The Book of Assassins, George Fetherling, 2001
  16. 20140329: Language and Vocabulary in Science Fiction, Gwyneth Jones, 2013

2014 October 15 >> Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future (Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer)

Loc. 47-58: So it is that I am often unimpressed when people claim that science fiction anticipates science. It doesn’t. The imagination of the natural world far exceeds that of even the most gifted science fiction writer. The really big advances in science are most often unforeseen, which is one of the things that makes science so fascinating and so much fun to be involved in. These include serendipitous discoveries like the antibiotic capability of penicillin, the weird behavior of the expanding universe I alluded to above, or even the overwhelming social revolution created by the World Wide Web. When science fiction and science do converge, there is rarely a causal connection, but rather it is generally because creative people can come up with independent but similar solutions to well-known problems. Thus, for example, faced with the possibility that opening someone up to explore inside his or her body might be less desirable than probing metabolic processes from the outside, the writers of Star Trek invented the “tricorder,” whereas in the real world, scientists came up with ultrasound, CAT scans, and MRI machines. The latter were far more difficult to actually make work than the former of course, so it is not surprising that they arose later. Of course there are periodically examples of science fiction inspiring real-life designers. The original flip cell phone was inspired by Star Trek, and the X-Prize Foundation now has a prize for someone to develop a real-life tricorder. But these are the exception, rather than the rule.

hyeroglyphs_6a00d8341c6bcf53ef01a3fd1654ed970b-800wiLoc. 145-47: In early 2011, I participated in a conference called Future Tense, where I lamented the decline of the manned space program, then pivoted to energy, indicating that the real issue isn’t about rockets. It’s our far broader inability as a society to execute on the big stuff.

Loc. 271-73: They are dreams that became real not because they were easy, but because they were hard. The editors firmly believe that if we want to create a better future, we need to start with better dreams. Big dreams—infectious, inclusive, optimistic dreams—are the vital first step to catalyzing real change in the world.

Loc. 395: The steel industry was, in Carl’s unkind phrasing, “the Jurassic Park of the business world.”

Loc. 1180-82: it was easy to replace teachers with teacher-technicians. They only know scripts; they don’t know anything about how children learn. They have a few layers of how to keep everyone on the same page; that’s all. If that doesn’t work, then they fail the children, hold them back to go through the same fruitless exercises.

Loc. 1782-87: Paul’s face took on a concerned aspect. “How is your wife, by the way?” Ulicez went perfectly still. “Excuse me?” “Well, the house is saying that she hasn’t been feeling too well. The, uh . . .” Paul winced. “The toilet has been logging some extra activity . . .” Morning sickness. Of course. Given how tightly they watched the water out here, the water meter would have probably noticed the difference in their usage from the other users on the line, and the toilet would have accounted for it.

Loc. 2035-36: Sometimes absurdity is the only thing that can combat absurdity.

Loc. 2035-40: Sometimes absurdity is the only thing that can combat absurdity. So what was a story about how surveillance causes us to perform citizenship as an identity became a story about how, for the people in the audience watching that performance, the ubiquitous surveillance is nothing but an unfortunate nuisance. Tragic when it happens to me, funny when it happens to you. What’s really funny, of course, is that American citizens are surveilled just as closely as the people outside its borders, and the ones trying to get in. The whole country is one big border town, to read the Snowden documents. We are all performing our citizenship. We are all living in the Village.

Loc. 2648-52: “Don’t be smart. Look, whatever else happiness is, it’s also some kind of chemical reaction. Your body making and experiencing a cocktail of hormones and other molecules in response to stimulus. Brain reward. A thing that feels good when you do it. We’ve had millions of years of evolution that gave a reproductive edge to people who experienced pleasure when something pro-survival happened. Those individuals did more of whatever made them happy, and if what they were doing more of gave them more and hardier offspring, then they passed this on.”

Loc. 2659-61: “So if being happy is what you seek, and you attain it, you stop seeking. So the reward has to return to the mean. Happiness must fade. Otherwise, you’d just lie around, blissed out and childless, until a tiger ate you.”

Loc. 2662-64: So happiness isn’t a state of being, instead it’s a sometimes-glimpsed mirage on the horizon, drawing us forward.” “You’re such a fucking poet. It’s a carrot dangling from a stick, and we’re the jackasses plodding after it. We’ll never get it though.”

Loc. 2739-40: “Talk all you want about chaos and sensitivity to initial conditions, but here’s the thing: I thought the Gadget would work, and here we are, with a working Gadget. Existence proofs always trump theory. That’s engineering.”

Loc. 2944-45: “You remember Pug?” She rolled her eyes with teenage eloquence. “Yes, I remember Pug.”

Loc. 2966-69: WE WROTE THEM ON the whiteboard wall at Pug’s place. He’d painted the wall with dry-erase paint when he first moved into the little house in Culver City, putting it where the TV would have gone a few decades before, and since then it had been covered with so much dry-erase ink and wiped clean so many times that there were bald patches where the underlying paint was showing through, stained by the markers that had strayed too close to no-man’s-land.

Loc. 2961-63: “And don’t you dare give me any bullshit about generational politics and demographics and youthful rage and all that crap. Things are true or they aren’t, no matter how old the person saying them happens to be.” She drained her drink. “And you know it.”

Loc. 2980-81: “Give me strength to withstand the wisdom of teenagers,”

Loc. 3090: ‘That’s not right. It’s not even wrong.’

Loc. 3110-16: Rather than focusing on strength, they opted for metastability: nested, pressurized spheres made of carbon-fiber plastic that could be easily patched and resealed when—not if—it ripped. Free-floating, continuously replenished gummed strips floated in the void between the hulls, distributed by convection currents made by leaking heat from within the structure. They’d be sucked into any breach and seal it. Once an outer hull reached a critical degree of patchiness, a new hull would be inflated within the inner hull, which would be expanded to accommodate it, the inside wall becoming the outside and the outside becoming recyclable junk that could be sliced, gummed, and used for the next generation of patchwork. It was resilient, not stable, and focused on failing well, even at the expense of out-and-out success.

Loc. 3806-8: the vast ideological range of the dronepunk community. It was a gathering of anarchists, anticopyright libertarians, hard leftists, soft liberals, civil libertarians, militant hobbyists, Pirate Party Scandinavians, transhumanists, Singularitarians, batshit entrepreneurs.

Loc. 3965-66: On reflection, my big mistake is obvious. I thought what I most needed was a job, but Johnny showed me that I needed a vocation.

Loc. 3990-91: book by Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn, and Jérémie Zimmermann, Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet; Jussi Parikka’s Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology;

Loc. 3993-94: See how Lee Konstantinou pitched his idea for “Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA” to the Hieroglyph community at hieroglyph.asu.edu/appledrone.

Loc. 3995-97: Response to “Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA”—Sri Saripalli Sri Saripalli, a roboticist at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, discusses the realism of “Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA” at hieroglyph.asu.edu/appledrone.

Loc. 4367-72: The break over with, and all the attendees finally there, the conference went into full gear. Todd Swanton stood up and began to introduce the afternoon’s agenda. “The technical term for what we have after two hundred years of tug-of-war between the Haida and the Crown,” he said, “is a wicked problem. A wicked problem is not just a problem. You can solve an ordinary problem; at least, you can describe it. With a wicked problem—also called a mess—there’s no definite formulation of the problem. There’s no stopping rule for a mess—no way to prove you’ve fixed it. Solutions aren’t either right or wrong, just different, and every solution is a ‘one-shot’ that can’t be compared to any previous attempt at fixing it. You cannot fix a mess. The best you can do is improve it.”

Loc. 5062-65: Topping their list of required features were penguins—tours to a penguin colony would be one of their main attractions. That part of their search became easier when they found, in an obscure scientific journal, the penguin-poo map. The accumulated droppings from ten thousand penguins spending four months at a winter nesting site made a distinct spectral signature identifiable in satellite images. They made extensive maps showing Antarctica’s penguin rookeries.

Loc. 6818-19: They’d established beyond doubt that barren wasteland was hotter than healthy forest, and that less rain fell here, and that it was similar to an urban heat island. Far from being able to regrow the forest, they had to fight greedy marauders to prevent more of it from being destroyed.

Loc. 6830-31: What was different was that there wasn’t enough rain. When the clouds did gather, there might be a scant shower over the city, but most of the rain would fall about fifty kilometers downwind.

Loc. 7130-32: The other day she’d watched a show on PBS about early humans and how the human race wouldn’t have survived without old people, other people than the parents, to help raise the young and transmit the knowledge of earlier generations. Grandmothers in particular were important.

Loc. 7168-70: “My objection to fracking is entirely on another plane—see, less coal burned here means coal prices fall, and it gets exported elsewhere, so coal usage will go up somewhere else if fracking happens here in the United States—idiots don’t understand the meaning of global . . .”

Loc. 7897-7903: “But you did kill thirteen people. And get caught. Your civil rights are bound to be forfeit after something like that.” He stayed silent. Impulse control had never been his problem. “It’s not psychopathy you’re remanded for,” she said. “It’s murder.” “Mind control,” he said. “Mind repair,” she said. “You can’t be sentenced to the medical procedure. But you can volunteer. It’s usually interpreted as evidence of remorse and desire to be rehabilitated. Your sentencing judge will probably take that into account.” “God,” he said. “I’d rather have a bullet in the head than a fucking computer.”

Loc. 7915: But it’s all art: veils and lies.

Loc. 8430-31: “I like when the Ohio overflows in the spring. The mental liberation around a natural disaster. Everything flat and shiny along River Road. Weird shit floating around. Like the inside of my head. People go down to the floodwaters and party. Atavistic.”

Loc. 8682: ELDER-CARE SAYS PICK UP YOUR DAD, OR WE’LL PAY STORAGE OVERCHARGES.

Loc. 8788-91: If I hadn’t promised to keep him on the mantel for at least ten years, I’d dump his nagging skull in that lake over there. But Carmody knew he wouldn’t. Within a decade the emulation would be much better, perhaps simulating the old guy’s better, deeper side, maybe even some wisdom, too. And perhaps, someday, the glimmering, ever-alluring promise of “uploading” to wondrous realms of virtual reality. If I want my own kids to take care of my head, I suppose I should set an example.

Loc. 8854-55: David Brin explains how science fiction can help us prepare for the future, what science fiction writers can learn from history, and more in an interview at hieroglyph.asu.edu/transition-generation.

Loc. 9019-21: If we had just come out and told the truth about what our products actually did, people would rather die than buy them. Even after Manhattan and Florida. We couldn’t give them away. But if we claimed to be making overpriced, wasteful pieces of crap that destroy the environment? Then everybody would need to own two of them.”

Loc. 9075: Time had made me an older man. Being a horse, Levi was downright elderly.

Loc. 9109-14: A man is a being. And a horse is also a being. But humans are aspirational beings, who imagine, and speculate, and plan, and build. No horse does all that. Yet Levi also had his dignity and worth. Because Levi wore the saddle and was dutiful. Levi had met his bargain with me. Now I found myself alone with him. My boys had grown, my wife had gone her own way. It was just him and me, under those bright stars and satellites. Call me stubborn, or call me a sentimental fool, but I owed something to my sturdy beast. So I settled my affairs. I sold off the spread, and I gave away my earthly possessions. I took a last farewell look around, and I saddled him up.

Loc. 9333-34: Time passed, as is its habit.

Loc. 9334-36: The bandit who turns his coat becomes a thief-catcher. The soldier who disgraces his uniform becomes a warlord. Once they learn that they are feared by other men, they soon find their kinship and commonality.

Loc. 9491-93: To perish as an old man, who has known his own worldly experience, that is not such a big, dreadful thing. Billions of us men have done it, cheerful and unflinching. The fear of dying is way overblown.

Loc. 9544-47: (talking about biologists) It’s only in recent years that they’re coming around to doing what the physicists have long done [with naming]. For example, black holes. That’s a pretty pithy explanation. In the beginning they used to be called totally gravitationally imploded stars or something. Biologists now talk about things like junk DNA or they give genes funny names like hedgehog and NANOG. I think they’ve learned that if you’re trying to communicate something, it really does pay to have some pithy acronym or description.

Loc. 9711-21: When I talk to young people, they don’t seem to have a real grasp of who they are, or what sort of community they’re in, or where it’s going. There’s a terrible sense of living for the moment, of just instant gratification and no real commitment to a well-charted future. Maybe this is where science fiction really can help by giving some sort of structure to the way forward, and getting away from this notion of living in the here and the now and not bothering to plan further down the track. I’m talking primarily of course about liberal Western democracies. It may be totally different in China. EF: China is just beginning to develop a new wave of science fiction. As a cultural concept, it’s of course very different. Soviet science fiction was fascinating if you look at something like Tarkovsky’s Solaris. The way that you imagine the future is always a reflection of the present. We need to build this pathway forward, and not to the distant future, which is still the same as it was fifty years ago. What’s a goal that we could accomplish in the next ten years or twenty years? That was something that we had in previous generations. That was something that the cathedral builders had because they knew that ultimately they were going to finish building the cathedral, and it was going to be better than the cathedral in the city down the road.

20140927: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, Annalee Newitz, 2013

Loc. 79: as a species, we are extremely cunning when it comes to survival.

Loc. 593-94: Lystrosaurus was one of the few land animals to survive the Permian mass extinction, and its progeny spread across the Southern Hemisphere during the early Triassic.

Loc. 595-604: Why did these creatures—our distant ancestors—survive when so many of their fellow creatures didn’t? Theories abound. The Permian expert Mike Benton said it’s possible that they were “just lucky.” More likely, he added, they were well adapted for a world with depleted oxygen. They lived in underground tunnels, so they had a natural way to escape the heat and fire of the initial volcanic eruptions. Plus, the air they were used to breathing in their burrows was likely to be low in oxygen and full of dust—sort of like the air after carbon has been saturating it for a few centuries. Their barrel chests held lungs of a tremendous capacity, which meant more oxygen uptake. Lystrosaurus had the right respiratory system at the right time. Over time, Lystrosaurus’s progeny repopulated the southern part of Pangaea, diverging into many subspecies. Their favored half of the supercontinent eventually broke off from the northern half and became its own continent, Gondwana (named after the southern Ordovician continent), packed with dinosaurs and proto-mammals. It took 30 million years for our planet to grow a robust ecosystem again, packed with predators and herbivores and a wide range of flora and fauna.

scatter-adapt-rememberLoc. 608-10: After the Permian, during the early millennia of the Triassic period, new communities of completely different life-forms rose and fell with alarming regularity. A new ecosystem would come together only to collapse in a few million years. Then another ecosystem would arise. This mass extinction just wouldn’t end.

Loc. 610-15; Why did it take the planet so long to recover from the Great Dying? For answers, I visited Peter Roopnarine, a zoologist at the California Academy of Sciences who has a rather singular occupation among scientists. He’s developed a computer program that simulates food webs, the complex interplay between predators and prey within an ecosystem. Using this program, Roopnarine studies why the worst part of mass extinctions isn’t necessarily the fire, or the eruptions. It’s what comes afterwards, in the centuries of what scientists call “indirect extinctions” caused by food webs that are too unstable to support life.

Loc. 637-39: Based on what he’s figured out so far, Roopnarine’s theory is that a basic imbalance in early Triassic food webs led to millions of years of maimed ecosystems rising and collapsing in rapid succession. Initially, the problem was that so few creatures had survived the Permian mass extinction.

Loc. 713-18: But even the death by darkness that followed would have been just the opening act. It would have taken centuries, and perhaps millennia, before the K-T event achieved full mass-extinction status. The dinosaurs did not die out during one long, sulfur-enhanced night. In fact, Smit underscored that the truly devastating effect of the sulfur cloud was most likely a temperature drop of 10 degrees Celsius that lasted for at least half a century, and probably a lot longer. The lush, green tropics of the Cretaceous cooled, ocean temperatures dropped, and animals who couldn’t migrate found themselves trapped in hostile ecosystems. The mass extinction took out as many as 76 percent of species, including all the non-avian dinosaurs.

Loc. 759: When the evidence in the geological record is relatively fresh, it becomes obvious that most mass extinctions on Earth have multiple causes.

Loc. 864-69: the signs of mass extinction are all around us, and have been for millennia— which is really the only scale on which we can measure mass extinctions anyway. This sixth extinction began with the megafauna, which Barnosky believes weren’t simply victims of human hunting and expansion—there was also climate change from a minor ice age called the Older Dryas that would have decimated the beasts’ favored grazing grounds. If we are in a mass extinction, he concluded, it was kicked off by a “synergy of climate change and humans … the combination was evidently very bad.”

Loc. 871-73: In a widely read article published in the March 3, 2011, issue of Nature, “Has the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived?” Barnosky and many of his colleagues (including the statistician and paleontologist Charles Marshall) argued that we can.

Loc. 923-24: An effective population size is a subgroup of the actual population that reasonably represents the genetic diversity of the whole.

Loc. 928-30: In fact, today’s human effective population size is estimated at about 10,000 people. As a point of comparison, the common house mouse is estimated to have an effective population size of 160,000.

Loc. 932-34: there is one point that nearly all evolutionary biologists will agree on. We are descended from a group of proto-humans who were fairly diverse 2 million years ago, but whose diversity crashed and passed through a bottleneck while Homo sapiens evolved. That crash limited our gene pool, creating the small effective population size we have today.

Loc. 936-39: Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has popularized the idea that the population crash came in the wake of the Toba catastrophe, a supervolcano that rocked Indonesia 80,000 years ago. It’s possible this enormous blast cooled the African climate for many years, destroying local food sources and starving everybody to death before sending fearful bands of Homo sapiens running out of Africa.

Loc. 978-80: Despite the popularity of Dawkins’s Toba volcano theory, Tattersall believes there was “no environmental reason” for these immigrations. Instead, they were all spurred by evolutionary developments that allowed humans to master their environments. “The first radiation seems to have coincided with a change in body structure,” he mused.

Loc. 1021-24: For the first time in history, people could figure out how to adapt to a place before arriving there—just by hearing stories from their comrades. Symbolic thought is what allowed us to thrive in environments far from warm, coastal Africa, where we began. It was the perfect evolutionary development for a species whose body propelled us easily into new places. Indeed, one might argue that the farther we wandered, the more we evolved our skills as storytellers.

Loc. 1398-1402: The first wave of plague also led directly to some of the first city-planning efforts aimed at improving the lives of the general populace. In the wake of the pandemic, many cities established boards of public health, which by the fifteenth century were responsible for sanitation and waste disposal in cities like Florence and Milan. These boards also engaged in what today we’d call “health surveillance,” compiling weekly lists of people who died from epidemic diseases so that officials could spot a pandemic before it became widespread.

Loc. 1418-20: And yet the humans who survived one of the greatest disease apocalypses in our history did not respond with despair and a descent into savagery. There was no zombie freakout scenario, as we like to imagine today. Instead, the Peasants’ Revolt led to social reforms that improved the lot of the poor in the decades that

Loc. 1418-20: And yet the humans who survived one of the greatest disease apocalypses in our history did not respond with despair and a descent into savagery. There was no zombie freakout scenario, as we like to imagine today. Instead, the Peasants’ Revolt led to social reforms that improved the lot of the poor in the decades that followed.

Loc. 1421-23: Though it would be centuries before the renewed interest in science that arose with the Age of Enlightenment, let alone the germ theory of disease, the humans who survived the plague managed to lay the foundations for political structures in which every class could advocate for its own best interests. At the same time, newly created health boards stood a chance of protecting vulnerable populations, too.

Loc. 1432-34: In the City died this week 7496; and all of them, 6102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead this week is near 10000—partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of through the greatness of the number, and partly from the Quakers and others that will not have any bell ring for them.

Loc. 1435-38: Pepys’s horror grows as the death tolls rise, even as he must continue going about his business—which, by the way, was booming in the plague year. As his neighbors fall prey to the disease, he sees “Searchers,” groups mostly of women, who inspect houses looking for evidence of the Black Death. Where they find it, the Searchers impose quarantine on the people living there, and mark the doors with red crosses.

Loc. 1454-72: In his diary, Pepys also noted something that’s crucial for understanding the spread of epidemics during the seventeenth century and beyond: Mortality rates among the poor were skyrocketing, and yet at the same time were not being recorded. He wrote that many believed the death toll was likely 2,500 more people than officially reported, “partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of through the greatness of the number.” Nothing would make that more obvious than the devastating epidemics that were sweeping the Americas while Pepys was getting rich back in London. The Plagues of Colonialism In Pepys’s time, Europeans had been carving out colonies in the Americas for over a century and a half. A lucrative trade in goods and people turned the Atlantic into a maze of shipping lanes, packed with cargo vessels bearing everything from gold and slaves to animals and produce. They also bore disease. One of the enduring questions in American history is why ragtag groups of European and English colonists were able, in just a couple of centuries, to claim the riches of two continents packed with enormous cities in the Aztec and Inca empires, along with highly trained armies, vast farms, and millions of people. In the seventeenth century, the dominant theory would have been that God was dishing out justice to the heathen natives. Up until the mid-twentieth century, historians and anthropologists offered rationales that weren’t much better. They believed the natives were too innocent, savage, stupid, or inferior to mount a decent defense against the European invaders. In the late 1990s, Jared Diamond argued in Guns, Germs, and Steel that the Inca weren’t culturally inferior, but instead victims of historical and environmental circumstances. Diamond popularized the idea that the Inca fell to the Spanish because the Americans’ “stone age” technology and lack of writing left them unprepared to deal with the Europeans’ guns, cavalry, and greater stores of knowledge. These issues, as much as the plagues Europeans brought, were what left the Inca empire vulnerable to conquest. Over the past decade, however, new information has emerged about the civilizations of the Americas. As Charles Mann explains in his book 1491, an exploration of new scholarship on pre-Columbian life, the Inca were technologically advanced enough to have defeated the Spanish.

Loc. 1483-88: Many of these new theories were first popularized in the historian Alfred Crosby’s influential 1972 book The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. In it, Crosby argues that European and American meetings constituted a vast environmental experiment, in which plants, animals, and microbes that had been separated for sometimes millions of years were suddenly thrown together. Peas, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, maize, and other native American crops were brought back to Europe; horses, pigs, and cows were brought to the Americas. Syphilis returned from the New World in the bodies of explorers, and Europe’s plagues arrived in the New World the same way.

Loc. 2263-64: The thread that runs through Lilith’s Brood is the idea that human survival involves radical transformation.

Loc. 2272-73: The strength of Lilith’s Brood as a thought experiment lies in Butler’s suggestion that human survival means an endless and increasingly profound series of compromises.

Loc. 2316-18: “There’s no single answer that will solve all our future problems. There’s no magic bullet. Instead there are thousands of answers—at least. You can be one of them if you choose to be.” First, however, you must be brave enough to turn away from death, embrace change, and survive.

Loc. 2389-91: Tantalizing evidence from a southern Turkish site called Göbekli Tepe, dating from 10,000 BCE—a fascinating circular formation of monuments covered in bizarre human-animal imagery—suggests that the very earliest urban formations were built before evidence of agriculture.

Loc. 2403-7: one house in Çatalhöyük whose residents rebuilt the structure six times over a couple of centuries, each time with exactly the same layout. Like their neighbors, these people shared a religious tradition of burying the bones of their ancestors in the floor of the house. As time passed, the house became more than just a dwelling. It was a monument to previous versions of the house, to the family, and to the city itself. This is a useful way to think about cities in general, and helps illuminate why we attach so much significance to preserving ancient structures in our modern cities.

Loc. 2490-91: One of the biggest questions for urban planners and engineers is how to build cities that can withstand common calamities. It turns out the best answer is to destroy a lot of buildings on purpose.

Loc. 2653-55: In the 1850s, a doctor named John Snow carefully mapped every incidence of cholera he could find in London, eventually determining that a single well was ground zero for the disease outbreak. It was the first great triumph of epidemic modeling, or using maps and data to figure out how infectious disease spreads through a city.

Loc. 2868-69: Nearly two millennia ago in what is today central Turkey, Jews and Christians fleeing Rome built villages on top of vast underground cities that could protect thousands of people from Roman raiders— and later, from Muslims during the Crusades.

Loc. 2975-91: In this description of underground cities, we’ve considered city designs that would make us comfortable living underground, and we’ve learned that our worst enemy underground will be seeping water. But we’ve danced around the real issue we’ll confront in our radiation-proof cities: food. As the atmospheric scientist Alan Robock of Rutgers University points out in one of his many papers on nuclear winter, the biggest issue we’ll face may not be radiation at all. It will be starvation in the wake of extensive burning: Smoke—especially black, sooty smoke from cities and industrial plants—would block sunlight for weeks or months over most of the Northern Hemisphere. And, if a nuclear holocaust occurred in the Northern Hemisphere in summer, it would affect much of the Southern Hemisphere as well. The cool, dark conditions at the earth’s surface would eliminate at least one growing season, resulting in a global famine. Famine will also be a problem if one of our planet’s many megavolcanoes goes off. Ash and soot from such an enormous eruption would be blasted into the stratosphere, cutting the planet off from life-giving sunlight. The atmosphere would likely be full of sulfides and dust as well, both of which we’d want to avoid. So we might be looking at generations who live much of their lives underground. Our underground cities will have to be farms as well as shelters. In the next chapter, we’ll explore in greater detail how such farms might work. Just like underground cities, farm cities are being built already, for many of the same reasons. Farm cities, like the green cities the urban geographer Richard Walker described in his book on San Francisco, are far more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable than the industrial cities most of us inhabit today. They are also less likely to suffer famine. In the next chapter, we’ll speculate about what cities might look like in a century or two. It’s possible they’ll be nearly indistinguishable from the natural surface of the planet.

Loc. 2991-3165: EVERY SURFACE A FARM WE’VE EXPLORED HOW cities are not static objects to be feared or admired, but are instead a living process that residents are changing all the time. Given how much bigger and more common cities are likely to become in the next hundred years, we’ll need to change them even further. Using predictive models from the fields of engineering and public health, our future city designers will plan safer, healthier cities that could allow us to survive natural disasters, pandemics, and even a radiation calamity that drives us underground. But there is a yet more radical way we’ll transform our cities. Over the next two centuries, we’ll probably convert urban spaces into biological organisms. By doing this, we make ourselves ready to prevent two of the biggest threats to human existence: starvation and environmental destruction. Eventually this biological transformation might result in cities unlike any that have existed before. But for now, the best way to understand how such a shift would begin is by paying a visit to a city park or garden. These are places that we’ve built in the middle of cities to closely resemble the natural world. Usually they are just as engineered and artificial as the buildings surrounding them, but they do a lot of things that buildings typically can’t do, such as sequester carbon, absorb runoff storm water, and provide a cool, shady environment without drawing any energy from the grid. Many city parks today are reclamations of previously blighted areas. In Vancouver, Canada, for example, residents of the Fairview neighborhood converted a stretch of abandoned railroad tracks into dozens of garden plots where locals grow vegetables, flowers, and grains around the still-visible iron rails. And in New York City, a group of enthusiasts lobbied the city to let them convert a historic elevated-train structure into a park, which is now called (appropriately enough) the High Line. This once abandoned viaduct now features trees and grasses that seem to sprout from its concrete columns. People in these cities and many others throughout the world are slowly blanketing their barren causeways in habitats where plants and animals can thrive. If we want the populations of our cities to survive, however, we’re going to have to do a lot more than plant flowers in lower Manhattan. We’ll need to transform urban areas into regions that can, as much as possible, feed themselves. That means prairie cities can’t rely on distant countries for bananas, nor can people living in desert outposts expect to get grain from fertile basins hundreds of kilometers away. More pressingly, we need to build cities that draw energy from their local ecosystems. By growing biofuels, and using sunlight for power, we make it less likely that humanity’s home planet will one day no longer sustain our need for energy. The biological city could provide us with food and energy security for millennia to come. Food on the Streets When I visited Cuba in the early 2000s, the best places to buy fresh food in Havana were street markets where urban farmers sold whatever they’d cultivated on roofs or in window boxes, sidewalk gardens, and yards. I wandered around in one of these markets, located in a large, airy warehouse where a couple of dozen people had set out their goods in baskets and on blankets. One woman was selling four eggs, a few eggplants, and a cellophane bag of spices. Another sat back on her heels behind a blanket heaped with greens. Street markets occupied a precarious legal position under communism because they encouraged private enterprise. But instead of cracking down, the Cuban government was paying agricultural engineers to study the most productive methods of urban farming. The need to prevent starvation overrode ideological concerns. The Eden Project in Cornwall is an experiment with environmentally sustainable architecture; each dome contains its own ecosystem. In the future, cities might grow food or energy sources in such domes, or they might serve as water- and air-filtration devices for eco-buildings. (illustration credit ill.15) In this example of eco-architecture, a hotel’s living walls are fed by a rooftop water source. The photograph was taken by Robinson Esparza, in the Huilo Huilo preservation area in Chile. (illustration credit ill.16) Though that ad-hoc urban farmer’s market in Havana felt like a medieval oasis in the middle of a bustling, cosmopolitan city, it was actually a good demonstration of how people might grow and buy their food in the cities of tomorrow. They’ll do it by slowly converting cities into farms. At the time I was in Cuba, Raquel Pinderhughes, an urban planning professor at San Francisco State, wrote that there were over 8,000 farms in Havana, covering about 30 percent of the region’s available land. If you rode into the countryside on a bus that picked you up on Havana’s busy Malecón, a promenade along the seawall, you’d find that the high-density city quickly shaded into suburban residential areas peppered with farmland. Land planners sometimes call this system periurban agriculture. It transforms suburban consumer sprawl into a rich source of food production. In the hot, dry valleys of Pomona, California, a nonprofit group called Uncommon Good has helped set up an urban farm where unemployed immigrants with farming experience grow organic food to sell in local markets. This Pomona farm, like many others, uses the “ small-plot intensive farming” (SPIN) model, designed by urban farmers in Canada to maximize crop yields in areas of less than an acre. The idea behind SPIN is both agricultural and economic. Farmers vary their crops and use sustainable fertilizers to keep their small plots of soil fecund, and they sell by direct marketing in their local areas. This maximizes food production and minimizes the resources that the farmers need to transport that food to buyers. It’s easy to imagine many cities transformed by a SPIN model over the next 50 years, where people grow their own food to eat and sell to neighbors—who in turn sell different food, so that local diets can remain varied. But will cities transform farming as much as urban farmers hope their methods will transform cities? In his book The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, Columbia University environmental-health professor Dickson Despommier argues that cities of the future might feed themselves by creating farms inside enormous, glass-walled skyscrapers where every floor is a solar-powered greenhouse. All water in these skyscraper farms would be recycled, and the structures themselves would be designed to be carbon neutral. While critics question whether it would be possible to heat, power, light, and tend skyscraper farms without wasting a lot of energy, Despommier’s thought experiment is a good one. We are going to need ways to produce enormous amounts of food in cities, often indoors, and trying to figure out how we’d do that in a skyscraper—or an underground cavern, for that matter—is a step in the right direction. Our future buildings may be sprouting gardens on the outside, too. A popular way to transform cities in Germany is by building green roofs, which are basically special systems designed to convert rooftops into gardens. This isn’t just a matter of heaping some dirt up and throwing seeds on it. Green roofs are a complex system of layers designed to protect the roof, absorb water, and hold soil in place. Though they are unlikely to be useful for farming, some studies have shown that green roofs help cut energy costs by keeping buildings cooler in the summer months. They also reduce storm-water runoff, which is a huge issue in cities. Because most cities are covered in nonporous, nonabsorbent surfaces, all the grime, toxins, and trash in the city are washed out by rainwater during storms—and carried into nearby waterways, farms, and oceans. Having a roof that can absorb rainwater does a tremendous amount of good for the local environment and cuts costs related to water purification and treatment. Bringing natural environments into cities isn’t just about feeding ourselves. It’s also about figuring out how to manage our energy consumption using tricks borrowed from nature. Growing shade plants on our roofs can help cut energy costs in summer, just as designing photosynthetic antennae like the ones mentioned in chapter 11 can help us power computers without burning coal. Natural ecosystems conserve energy remarkably well. As we learn to imitate that, our cities might become highly advanced technological entities that look strangely like the postapocalyptic jungle version of New York City in The World Without Us. Managing the Land MIT’s environmental-policy professor Judith Layzer offered me a vivid picture of what life might be like in such a city. She believes that, ideally, most future human communities would be based in cities, leaving enormous stretches of land free for farms and wildlife. “We need to re-regionalize,” she told me. “A global economy doesn’t make sense environmentally. So your ecosystem would become your bioregion.” She described a world where communities would be organized around bioregions like the dense forests and rocky coasts of the mid-Atlantic states or the prairie grasslands of North America’s Great Basin. “Most of your food should come from your region,” she said, and farm labor would be done by people rather than machines. But, she asserted, “nobody would be working as hard as they are now” because life would have a much slower pace. “You’d have goats mowing lawns,” she said, her face quirking into a grin. “It would be less efficient in the contemporary sense. Long-distance travel would be more of a hassle. You’d bike everywhere.” In her ideal city, where food was local and energy carbon neutral, “you’d do everything with natural systems.” And the population of a city would never rise above a few million. This kind of regionalism might be good for our ecosystems, but it probably couldn’t be as “natural” as Layzer imagines. Obviously, if people are depending on their bioregion for food, they’ll be more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of climate and seasonal drought. We’ll need cutting-edge technology to help these bioregional cities weather periods when the local ecosystem can’t support the population. One possible way we’ll do this is by looking to outer space. At UC Santa Barbara, an international group of climate scientists, geographers, and geologists use satellite data to predict where drought will strike next. They call themselves the Climate Hazards Group, and their success at predicting drought is almost uncanny. Currently, they focus most of their efforts on Africa. Amy McNally, a geography researcher with the group, said she and her colleagues helped predict the summer 2011 drought in Somalia by correlating data drawn from satellite images of rainfall in the region with rain gauges on the ground. “They predicted the drought and the resulting famine a year in advance,” she said. Unfortunately, “even with that much forewarning, response didn’t make it in time for it to not get to a famine-level crisis.” But the group had gained more evidence about what signs indicated droughts to come. One of the key indicators comes from satellite observations of greenery on the ground. Just as green roofs keep buildings cooler, a green ground cover keeps the soil cooler, wetter, and more likely to yield a good crop. When plants die back too much, drought may be on its way in the next season. McNally said the satellite she uses measures the wavelengths of light reflected back from the West African region she studies. Plants reflect green light back into space, where the satellites measure percentages of green light versus other wavelengths. As a result, McNally can get an extremely precise picture of how much green is required on the ground to guarantee a good growing season. The big issue in Africa is that most regions don’t use extensive irrigation, so farmers are dependent on rainfall for a successful crop. A dry season can mean death. But it doesn’t have to. Knowing we’ve got an impending drought might mean shoring up water supplies for irrigation that could keep a valuable plant cover protecting the soil. As our cities become more closely tied to their bioregions, science teams like the Climate Hazards Group could become crucial to urban planning. With the technology and data we have now, McNally said, “we can make predictions like ‘In the next twenty years, you’ll have five droughts, which is two more than usual.’ ” This kind of information could prove invaluable to farmers planning their water usage, or governments trying to set up trade arrangements with areas that won’t be affected by the drought. As we gather more data on how droughts happen, we may be able to make more accurate predictions about when famine is likely to strike—and stop it before it starts. Satellite imagery and technology are not a panacea for food-security problems. In fact, as we discussed earlier, famine is usually caused by political and social upheaval. Fixing that will require more than good science. You could say the same thing about our energy problems. But it’s possible that our political priorities will change along with our changing urban environments. The Biological City As we move further into the future, our cities won’t just be swaddled in gardens and farms. They might also become biological entities, walls hung with curtains of algae that glow at night while sequestering carbon, and floors made from tweaked cellular material that strengthens like bones as we walk on it. New York architect David Benjamin is part of a new generation of urban designers who collaborate with biologists to create building materials of the future. I met him in Studio-X, a branch of Columbia University’s school of architecture located in a bare-bones whitewashed work space south of Greenwich Village. Students focused on monitors full of three-dimensional renderings of buildings, or sketched at drafting tables between concrete columns. It looked like the kind of place that could, in 50 years, be sprouting a layer of grass from its walls—or something much stranger than that. Benjamin described the shift to biological cities using quick, precise gestures that reminded me of someone penciling lines on a blueprint. “It might look the way it looks now,” he said. “The city could be made with bioplastics instead of petroleum plastics, but it would look very similar. A machine for making genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would exist in factories the way they do today for making medicine and biofuels.” So the plastic fittings around windows would be manufactured from modified bacteria rather than fossil fuels, but as a city dweller you’d notice little difference. Benjamin and a group of other architects and biologists have worked with Autodesk, the company that makes the popular AutoCAD software many architects use to design buildings, to create a mock?up of AutoCAD for biological designs, called BioCAD. Pulling out his laptop, Benjamin showed me a demonstration of the biological-design-software interface. The designer can choose between biological materials with different properties, like flexibility or strength. Having chosen those, the designer directs the program to create structures that look like marble cake, a multicolored swirl of substances combined into a single structure that gives in the right places and holds steady in others. Over time, these living cities would start to look different. They’d be transformed by synthetic biology, a young field of engineering that crafts building materials from DNA and cells rather than more traditional biological materials like trees. Benjamin described a recently created synthetic-biology product called BacillaFilla, designed by a group of college students in England. The students engineered a common strain of bacteria to extrude a combination of glue and calcium when put into contact with concrete. They applied the bacterial goo to cracks in concrete, and over time it filled the cracks completely and then died, leaving behind a strong, fibrous substance that has the same strength as concrete. The students described BacillaFilla as the first step toward “self-healing concrete,” and their efforts are just one among many designed to create biological substances that could heal ship hulls, metal girders, and more. Extrapolating from this development in synthetic biology, Benjamin mused, “Maybe you could program a seed to grow into a house. Or maybe cities would be so in tune with ecosystems that they would grow over time, and then decay over time, too.” Synthetic biology might also help solve one of the biggest problems with new buildings, which is water leakage. Architects could design a building that is semi-permeable, with membranes that allow the circulation of air and water at various times. It’s easy to imagine a future architect fashioning just such a thing with BioCAD, with patches of permeable materials built right into the fabric of the walls. The water could be purified and used, and the air would become part of a natural cooling or heating system. This building might also use computer networks to monitor its community of local buildings to figure out when to gather solar energy and send it to the grid to share, and when to lower louvers to keep residents cool. “I sometimes imagine urban landscapes that are integrated into their ecosystems with a combination of vegetation and constructed materials,” Benjamin said. “They look almost like ruins in the jungle but they’re actually fully functional, occupied cities.” Benjamin’s visions of the future end where his fellow synthetic-biology designer Rachel Armstrong’s begin. Armstrong, who is based in London, is an outspoken advocate for what she calls “the living city,” or urban structures that she told me we’d create in the same way we cook or garden. We met in a café in the heart of London, overlooking the busy Tottenham Court Road, and almost immediately Armstrong was imagining how she’d rebuild the city around us. “We’d have biofuel-generated façades, or technology based on algae,” she said, pointing at the windows. “You’d have surfaces creeping down buildings like icing. Strange, colored panels would glow through windows at night, and you’d have bioluminescent streetlights. Bridges will light up when we step on them.” She paused, but continued staring outside, deep in thought. “We’d keep the bones of buildings steel and concrete, but rewrap those spaces with increasingly more biological façades. Some will be porous and attract water; others will process human waste. Mold won’t be something you clean off a surface but will be something you garden.” Armstrong is fascinated by bacteria and mold, which she and other synthetic-biology designers view as the building blocks of future cities. “We are full of microbes,” she asserted firmly. “Maybe instead of using environmental poisons to create healthier environments inside, we should be using probiotics.” Glowing bacteria could live in our ceilings, lighting up as the sun goes down. Other bacteria might purify the air, scrubbing out carbon. Every future urban home would be equipped with algae bioreactors for both fuel and food. Her vision isn’t just science fiction. Recently, Armstrong worked with a group of biologists and designers who hope to use experimental proto-cells—basically, a few chemicals wrapped in a membrane—in a project that could prevent Venice from sinking into the water. Proto-cells are semi-biological, and can be designed to carry out very simple chemical processes. In Venice, engineers would release proto-cells into the water. Designed to prefer darkness, the proto-cells would quickly head for the rotting pilings beneath the city’s dwellings. Once attached to the wood, the cells would slowly undergo a chemical transformation in which their flexible membranes transformed into calcium shells. These calcium shells would form the core of a new, artificial reef. As wildlife discovered the calcium deposits, a natural reef would form. Over time, the city’s shaky foundations would become a stable reef ecosystem. Already, Armstrong and her group have had some success creating small-scale versions of the proto-cell reef in the lab, and they’re moving on to experiments in controlled natural areas. If our cities do evolve to be more like biological organisms and ecosystems, it could change the way communities form within their walls. “We might start to experience the city as something we have to take care of the way we take care of our bodies,” Armstrong suggested. In a biological city, using toxic chemicals in your kitchen might cause your algae lights to die. “We’ll take more care of the city because we feel its injuries more deeply,” Armstrong said. It’s possible that this would generate a sense of collective responsibility for our buildings and avenues. Neighbors would tend their buildings together, trading recipes for making fuel the way people today trade recipes for holiday cakes. Armstrong’s hyper-technological biometropolis shares something in common with Judith Layzer’s vision of small, slow cities devoted to farming. Both of them arise from the belief that city dwellers will become producers rather than consumers. With home bioreactors, Armstrong said, “our spaces will become a place where we can generate wealth.” This idea is central to the SPIN model of urban farming, too. “It’s about decentralizing energy and food production, basically,” Armstrong concluded. Of course, it’s impossible to predict what the consequences would be for people in cities whose buildings were half-alive. Armstrong is willing to admit her ideas are utopian, and that’s the point. “You need something to aim at,” she said with a smile. As we look further to the future in the next part, we’ll be taking aim at something even more speculative than self-healing cities that of thousands of years of evolution, especially in space? It’s possible that our progeny will be as unlike us as we are from Australopithecus—and yet they will still be as human as our distant hominin ancestors were.

Loc. 3350-53: Among the scientists who study impacts, that one would have been classed as a 10 out of 10 on the Torino scale, a kind of Richter scale used to quantify impact hazards. Such disasters, where the entire planet is affected, are likely to strike once every 100,000 years or so (though not necessarily with the destructiveness of the K-T impact). That means we are long overdue for another one.

Loc. 3395: look up following words NEOs, NEOWISE, PHO, NEOCam, Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies.

Loc. 3454-56: If we’re facing an impact that’s a 10 on the Torino scale—that is, from an asteroid comparable to the one that hit at the K-T—we are certainly facing a mass extinction. The world would be wrapped in fires, and cities would be shaken by quakes, broiled by volcanic eruptions, and flooded by tsunami waters.

Loc. 3457: (insufficient space for seven billion people. Cities better off than rural) Initially, our survival would depend on retreating to the kinds of underground cities we discussed in chapter 17

Loc. 3462-83: Alan Robock, the atmospheric scientist who warned against solar-management geoengineering with particles in the stratosphere, was among the first scientists to suggest that supermassive explosions would result in planetary cooling. And the cold would likely intensify for several years. In an early paper about nuclear winter, Robock outlines a scenario that sounds like a mild icehouse. The first year after the explosion—in this case, an asteroid strike—we’d see a global buildup of ice and snow and lowering of temperatures by about two degrees. But as the cold deepened, the planet’s snowy surface would reflect even more light—creating a runaway effect that would cool us down possibly as much as 15 or 16 degrees in the following several years. Without sunlight, agriculture would grind to a halt and wild plants would die back. Herbivores would die, and then the carnivores who fed on them would die out, too. Creatures who dwelled near the surface of the water would suffer in the immediate effects of the hit. Then, over time, runoff from the decimated land would fill the oceans with carbon and create deadly pockets of anoxic waters. Humans would have to rely on greenhouses for food, as well as whatever we could cultivate with little sunlight. Mushrooms, fungus, and insects would play a much bigger role in our diets than they do today. There is also the distinct possibility that enough people would be killed in the strike that it would be impossible to maintain our civilization at its current level of development and energy needs. Megacities and high-tech societies require many people with specialized knowledge to make them function, and if only a few million people are left alive on the planet, it’s unlikely that we’ll have the right combination of skills to resurrect New York or Tokyo. What would we do if we had to rebuild human civilization from scratch? This is the kind of question that dogs apocalyptic science fiction, but preoccupies people in the real world, too. Alex Weir, a software developer based in Zimbabwe, is part of a small group that maintains the CD3WD database, a relatively small set of computer files that contain as much human knowledge as possible about what amounts to a pre-technological civilization. There are sections devoted to basic medicine, agriculture, town building, and power generation. At 13 gigabytes, it’s easily stored on a few DVDs, or (ideally) printed out as a thick sheaf of papers and stored in a three-ring binder. The idea is to keep the CD3WD database in your survival kit, a backup copy of everything history has taught us about creating an early industrial society. It is one of the simplest and most profound examples of how survival requires us to remember what has come before. If people need guidance with rebuilding the world after the icehouse is over, CD3WD and similar projects can help us restart civilization as quickly as possible.

Loc. 3765-68: humanity survives, he believes, it’s inevitable that we will pass through an “intelligence explosion” during the next century or two in which we will invent machines with greater-than-human intelligence. Other thinkers have called this event the “Singularity.” These machines will either wipe us out or help us create a future so unlike the present that we can hardly imagine it.

Loc. 3811-13: “having a biological body in space is stupid in many ways.” He suggested we might become more like cyborgs, mechanical creatures controlled by uploaded human brains. This would protect us from radiation damage, the need for food, and many other tribulations of space travel and colonization. “Uploading is just a more flexible way of living”

20140907: Histoire de ma vie, G. Casanova, Tome 1 (Bouquins; nouvelle édition, remaniée en profondeur par Igalens et Leborgne, de l’Histoire de ma vie est entièrement fondée sur le manuscrit acquis par la BnF en 2010).

Loc. 183-84: Dire la vérité est une stratégie fondée sur la connaissance des valeurs et des attentes du public. Le terme d’« artifice » n’est pas retenu au hasard : la véracité est une mise en scène du narrateur, œuvre de l’art, technique, manipulation.

casanovaLoc. 194-99: L’invention d’un pseudonyme a aussi cette fonction : elle constitue un acte de liberté qui ouvre le champ du possible. « L’Alphabet est public, et chacun est le maître de s’en servir pour créer une parole, et la faire devenir son propre nom », écrit Casanova au cours d’une réflexion cruciale sur le nom propre (voir ici ).Il use de cette liberté lorsqu’il « signe » l’Histoire de ma vie de son nom associé à son pseudonyme favori : « Jacques Casanova de Seingalt ». Ce nom inventé a un rôle anoblissant évident, mais sa présence en tête des Mémoires, ou de l’autobiographie, signifie aussi un acte d’invention de soi à la portée morale et littéraire plus large.

Loc. 963-70: La préface de 1797 mène une charge sans complaisance envers les puristes : leur influence est le principal grief de Casanova envers la langue française. Toutes les langues vivantes, écrit-il, s’enrichissent en empruntant des mots et des « manières » aux autres. Seul le français, sous l’influence conservatrice du purisme, s’interdit cette ressource. Il est donc condamné à la pauvreté, mais cela ne rebute pas ses censeurs qui jugent leur langue parvenue au dernier degré de perfection. Désormais, « le moindre trait étranger l’enlaidirait » (voir ici ). Pour Casanova, « cette sentence peut avoir été prononcée par la prévention » (ibid.), c’est-à-dire le préjugé : la querelle musicale des lullistes et des ramistes rappelle que la volonté de conserver le style français dans toute sa pureté n’est pas un gage de qualité esthétique, mais un choix idéologique.

Loc. 1833-36: L’homme qui oublie une injure ne l’a pas pardonnée ; il l’a oubliée ; car le pardon part d’un sentiment héroïque d’un cœur noble, et d’un esprit généreux, tandis que l’oubli vient d’une faiblesse de mémoire, ou d’une douce nonchalance amie d’une âme pacifique, et souvent d’un besoin de calme, et de paix ; car la haine, à la longue, tue le malheureux qui se plaît à la nourrir.

Loc. 1911-12: J’ai écrit en français, et non pas en italien parce que la langue française est plus répandue que la mienne.

20140713: Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber, 2012
(Never finished the book. I’ll go back some day)

Loc. 873-77: Credit Theorists insisted that money is not a commodity but an accounting tool. In other words, it is not a “thing” at all. You can no more touch a dollar or a deutschmark than you can touch an hour or a cubic centimeter. Units of currency are merely abstract units of measurement, and as the credit theorists correctly noted, historically, such abstract systems of accounting emerged long before the use of any particular token of exchange. 8 The obvious next question is: If money is a just a yardstick, what then does it measure? The answer was simple: debt.

Loc. 898-99: In this sense, the value of a unit of currency is not the measure of the value of an object, but the measure of one’s trust in other human beings.

debt_6617037Loc. 924-31: According to Knapp, whether or not the actual, physical money stuff in circulation corresponds to this “imaginary money” is not particularly important. It makes no real difference whether it’s pure silver, debased silver, leather tokens, or dried cod—provided the state is willing to accept it in payment of taxes. Because whatever the state was willing to accept, for that reason, became currency. One of the most important forms of currency in England in Henry’s time were notched “tally sticks” used to record debts. Tally sticks were quite explicitly IOUs: both parties to a transaction would take a hazelwood twig, notch it to indicate the amount owed, and then split it in half. The creditor would keep one half, called “the stock” (hence the origin of the term “stock holder”) and the debtor kept the other, called “the stub” (hence the origin of the term “ticket stub.”)

Loc. 1144-57: The “primordial debt,” writes British sociologist Geoffrey Ingham, “is that owed by the living to the continuity and durability of the society that secures their individual existence.” 39 In this sense it is not just criminals who owe a “debt to society”—we are all, in a certain sense, guilty, even criminals. For instance, Ingham notes that, while there is no actual proof that money emerged in this way, “there is considerable indirect etymological evidence”: In all Indo-European languages, words for “debt” are synonymous with those for “sin” or “guilt”, illustrating the links between religion, payment and the mediation of the sacred and profane realms by “money.” For example, there is a connection between money (German Geld), indemnity or sacrifice (Old English Geild), tax (Gothic Gild) and, of course, guilt. 40 Or, to take another curious connection: Why were cattle so often used as money? The German historian Bernard Laum long ago pointed out that in Homer, when people measure the value of a ship or suit of armor, they always measure it in oxen—even though when they actually exchange things, they never pay for anything in oxen. It is hard to escape the conclusion that this was because an ox was what one offered the gods in sacrifice. Hence they represented absolute value. From Sumer to Classical Greece, silver and gold were dedicated as offerings in temples. Everywhere, money seems to have emerged from the thing most appropriate for giving to the gods.

Loc. 1884-85: it’s impossible to lie to someone who does not assume you would ordinarily tell the truth.

20140701: Faut-il renoncer à la liberté pour être heureux ? Roland Gori, 2014

Un très bon livre, profond et lisible; beaucoup d’idées neuves (pour moi).

Loc. 433-46: Le conformisme d’un sujet, comme d’une civilisation, est un produit de la haine et une incitation à la haine. Qu’on se le dise : ce n’est pas en mettant des policiers derrière chaque soignant, des radars sur toutes les routes, dans les crèches et les maisons de retraite, des détecteurs de métaux et d’anomalies comportementales, de lignes jaunes et de lignes rouges, etc., que l’on réglera le problème aujourd’hui insupportable de la sécurité, et encore moins celui du « sentiment d’insécurité ». Je ne dis pas que l’on doit se priver de ces dispositifs faute de mieux, mais que leur inflation n’est que le symptôme de notre impuissance politique, de la dégénérescence de notre lien social et de l’affiliation à une Cité républicaine. Le remède risque d’entretenir le mal. Il procède de l’essence de la technique, qui a une bonne part dans l’émergence de cette insécurité et des sentiments sociaux qu’elle produit. La technique participe à l’extrême solitude des humains et à leur sentiment d’insécurité. Trouver des moyens techniques pour pallier cet état des choses est à double tranchant : cela atténue les symptômes sans traiter le mal. Le mal est plus profond. Car, exigeant le renoncement à la subjectivité, la passion conformiste, poussée parfois jusqu’au « terrorisme », génère des formes réifiées, une logique instrumentale et un ordre des choses comme de nous-mêmes toujours plus déshumanisé. Nous avons lâché la proie de la « substance éthique », politique et subjective pour l’ombre d’un individu toujours plus isolé de lui-même et des autres. Dans cette douce « barbarie » culturelle, la haine creuse le lit d’une crise éthique qui fait symptôme dans le lien social.

2014_gori_CaptureLoc. 1032-37: Hannah Arendt, encore, à la suite de Tocqueville 119 , l’avait magistralement anticipé dans son analyse des lobbies à l’âge démocratique : « Les opinions se forgent à travers un processus de discussion libre et de débat public, et là où les opinions n’ont aucune occasion de se former, il peut y avoir des humeurs – humeurs de masses et humeurs individuelles, celles-ci n’étant pas moins versatiles et incertaines que celles-là –, mais non une opinion

Loc. 2297-2313: On ne saurait comprendre la soumission des humains à l’autorité si l’on ignore ce besoin d’un Autre qui soutient les étoiles. Il n’y a pas que les illusions du profit et de l’intérêt qui conduisent la multitude à se soumettre aux « tyranneaux 238 » ; il y a aussi l’angoisse. Angoisse devant cette béance du réel sur lequel l’autorité jette son voile, autorité qui manque cruellement aujourd’hui pour affronter l’avenir. Autorité qui peut aussi, dans le compagnonnage, la fameuse « amitié » chère à La Boétie pour faire obstacle à la servitude volontaire, trouver sa voie de sublimation. La liberté est inséparable de ce désir de l’Autre dont Lacan reconnaît, à la fin du séminaire sur l’éthique, qu’il « n’est rien d’autre que le désir de désirer 239 ». Mais si, en lieu et place de l’Autorité, une culture installe le pouvoir des machines, alors se crée une société blanche et sèche comme un instrument, n’ayant d’activités que techniques, qui ressemble plus que jamais à cette «termitière » dont Freud annonçait la venue dans Malaise dans la civilisation, au moment même où la gesticulation nazie en traçait l’esquisse : « Il ne paraît pas qu’on puisse amener l’homme par quelque moyen que ce soit à troquer sa nature contre celle d’un termite ; il sera toujours enclin à défendre son droit à la liberté individuelle contre la volonté de la masse. Un bon nombre de luttes au sein de l’humanité se livrent et se concentrent autour d’une tâche unique : trouver un équilibre approprié, donc de nature à assurer le bonheur de tous, entre ces revendications de l’individu et les exigences culturelles de la collectivité. Et c’est l’un des problèmes dont dépend le destin de l’humanité que de savoir si cet équilibre est réalisable au moyen d’une certaine forme de civilisation, ou bien si au contraire ce conflit est insoluble.

Loc. 2521-29: La démocratie est une liberté qui oblige. Cela peut paraître paradoxal, à la limite de l’oxymore, mais c’est la clé de voûte de la démocratie : à partir du moment où les lois ne proviennent pas du pouvoir transcendantal de la religion, de la puissance du souverain, la démocratie doit inventer et chaque citoyen doit participer à son invention. Dans les sociétés démocratiques, la vérité doit se situer en aval du débat et non pas en amont. L’avenir est ouvert, et avec cette ouverture émergent l’angoisse de liberté, l’angoisse de devoir décider, la responsabilité citoyenne. Être responsable, étymologiquement, cela veut dire devoir répondre de sa parole. Un citoyen responsable, c’est un citoyen qui s’engage par sa parole ; elle le tient autant qu’il la tient. La crise du politique aujourd’hui n’est pas sans rapport avec cette crise de la parole et de son crédit 254

Loc. 2609-35: Les cérémonials et les fêtes révolutionnaires procèdent à la réinscription des hommes dans l’espace de l’égalité pour construire l’« harmonie ». L’Autorité retrouve dans les rituels républicains le caractère sacré dont la sécularisation et la laïcisation des pouvoirs l’avaient dépouillé. Nous sommes évidemment bien loin aujourd’hui de ce type de cérémonies patriotiques qui visaient à fabriquer la fraternité entre les citoyens et à les attacher à la Constitution républicaine. Cette dramaturgie des fêtes et des débats a dégénéré, comme on le sait, dans le rituel des élections, qui ne conservent du passé que le caractère formel d’uniformiser les voix au moment du vote. La politique s’est dégradée en techniques et en stratégies, technique de dépouillement des bulletins de vote et stratégie de communication. Le rituel de la démocratie a été obscurci par l’ombre portée de la société de la marchandise et du spectacle. Aujourd’hui, c’est par le biais de la norme que l’on soumet « librement » les individus et les populations pour obtenir leur adhésion et les comportements économiques qu’on souhaite leur voir adopter. La crise « économique » et l’« affaiblissement » de l’autorité politique construisent ensemble une légitimité des discours de résignation, résignation à l’inévitable globalisation marchande et financière du village planétaire. On parvient ainsi à transformer un rapport de forces politiques en fatalité économique et sociale, et à donner aux normes de comportement qu’impose cette civilisation l’apparence de la nature, de l’évidence et de la technique. C’est « au nom de la norme », comme on disait naguère « au nom de la loi », que l’on calibre les cbausenomportements des individus comme on calibre les tomates, suçant la chair des unes pour mieux écarter les autres, les rejeter dans le lot des précaires souvent, des surnuméraires parfois et des « étrangers dans la puissance humaine 265 » presque toujours. Cette régression sans précédent du concept de démocratie transforme son ambition politique en dispositif de conformisme social, en techniques et stratégies normatives. L’évaluation généralisée et normative devient le bras armé de cette Finance que François Hollande, pendant la campagne présidentielle de 2012, désignait comme son principal adversaire. Ce « monde de la finance qui ne sera pas élu mais qui gouverne », comme il disait alors, trouve dans l’évaluation normative le moyen de piloter par les chiffres, les statistiques et les critères formels. Depuis les agences de notation financière jusqu’aux évaluations des bébés à risque, en passant par l’évaluation généralisée des pratiques professionnelles, la « force normative 266 », pour reprendre l’expression de Catherine Thibierge, impose sa loi, et ce de manière antidémocratique, puisqu’elle court-circuite le débat citoyen. Cette société de contrôle social et de normalisation dévalue le langage et la parole en faveur d’un traitement purement technique de toutes les questions humaines. C’est l’autorité de la Démocratie qui est en crise, au profit d’un pouvoir purement technocratique, post-démocratique, à même de conjuguer les exigences des Marchés et les humeurs de l’opinion.

Loc. 332-48: Ce cri de révolte, singulier, s’oppose en tout point à une soumission aux normes et à leur automatisme. Il n’est pas seulement la reconnaissance qu’un acte a transgressé les règles de la communauté et menacé l’ordre social, mais se révèle comme l’assomption pleine et entière d’un sujet qui veut répondre de sa parole et de ses actes, qui se déclare responsable. Étymologiquement, « responsable » vient du latin respondere, qui signifie « répondre ». C’est donc un sujet qui exige sa reconnaissance par autrui. Cette parole montre ce qu’elle dit, elle est performative 37 du sujet qui l’énonce. C’est cette reconnaissance par autrui, un autre qui est un égal, un semblable, qui m’est apparue comme inséparable d’une certaine conception de la liberté. L’ordre, tel que la technique le garantit, et le « naturalisme », qui le légitime sans en interroger la finalité ni la pertinence, sont du côté de l’automatisme de répétition qui économise d’avoir à penser. Freud écrit : « L’ordre est une sorte de “contrainte à la répétition” qui, en vertu d’une organisation établie une fois pour toutes, décide ensuite quand, où et comment telle chose doit être faite ; si bien qu’en toutes circonstances semblables on s’épargnera hésitations et tâtonnements. L’ordre, dont les bienfaits sont absolument indéniables, permet à l’homme d’utiliser au mieux l’espace et le temps et ménage du même coup ses forces psychiques 38 . » Cette économie d’avoir à penser et à décider libère des « forces » psychiques et sociales qui, dans la modernité, seront mises au service de la volonté de puissance, de la jouissance à détruire tout ce qui l’entoure, humains et nature. C’est peut-être cela, l’hubris de notre modernité obsédée par l’ordre et le « contrôle » normatif.
Loc. 2699-2707: Cette révolution suppose un nouveau « commencement », un commencement qui remettrait la technique et l’économie à leur place. S’il nous est possible de concevoir que l’« invention de la démocratie » ne s’est pas accomplie sans soubresauts sociaux, politiques et même linguistiques 275 , il me faut souligner que c’est par un geste politique seul qu’elle peut se fonder. À Athènes, c’est dans le contexte des luttes et des révoltes contre la mise en esclavage des individus et de leurs familles pour incapacité à rembourser leurs dettes que la Démocratie a été instituée. La solution à ce problème n’a pas été technique, mais pleinement politique. Le corps politique qui s’est alors emparé du pouvoir pour créer une société des égaux ne prônait pas l’échelonnement des remboursements des dettes ou l’aide compassionnelle aux nouveaux esclaves ; il les a affranchis ! La Démocratie est née de cet affranchissement.

Loc. 2707-13: Comme le remarque David Graeber 276 , le mot « liberté » dans la Bible signifie avant tout « libération des effets de la dette ». L’affranchissement de la servitude est l’acte initial, paradigmatique, accompli par Dieu pour permettre au peuple juif de quitter l’Égypte. L’effacement des dettes accompagne les révoltes, tout comme les révolutions historiques dont elles furent souvent l’occasion. Quel rapport intime la dette entretient-elle avec la liberté et la naissance du lien social ? Quel traitement spécifique de la dette permet à sa manière la démocratie ? Quels enjeux psychiques se trouvent mobilisés dans le rapport des sujets à la dette – un mot dont je rappellerai qu’il signifie aussi dans plusieurs langues « faute » ?

Loc. 2877-84: Schuld en allemand désigne la « faute » autant que la « dette ». Il en va de même de guilty en anglais, et, comme l’écrit Ingham, « dans toutes les langues indo-européennes les mots qui signifient “dette” sont des synonymes de ceux qui veulent dire “péché” ou “culpabilité”, ce qui illustre les liens entre la religion, le paiement et la médiation entre les sphères du sacré et du profane par la “monnaie”. Par exemple, il existe un lien entre la monnaie (allemand Geld), l’indemnité ou le sacrifice (vieil anglais Geild), l’impôt (gothique Gild) et, bien sûr, la culpabilité (anglais Guilt) ».

Loc. 3066-69: Le maître a perdu son visage humain : le tyran a été remplacé par les idéologies de la stratégie et des techniques, et les «tyranneaux » se nomment « experts ». Cette soumission est dépossession de soi, aliénation, d’autant plus vive qu’elle est insidieuse, invisible, et prend souvent le masque de la « sécurité », portion congrue du « bonheur » dans la postmodernité.

Loc. 3076-78: La liberté existe-t-elle sans l’amitié ? David Graeber remarque : « Le mot anglais free, par exemple, vient d’une racine germanique qui signifie “ami”, puisque être libre voulait dire pouvoir se faire des amis, tenir ses promesses, vivre au sein d’une communauté d’égaux

Loc. 3372-79: David Graeber, dans son histoire de la dette, souligne « l’aptitude de la monnaie à faire de la morale une question d’arithmétique impersonnelle – et, ce faisant, à justifier des choses qui sans cela paraîtraient odieuses ou monstrueuses ». Il montre que la violence et la quantification sont intimement liées et « que les origines réelles de la monnaie sont à chercher dans le crime et le dédommagement, la guerre et l’esclavage, l’honneur, la dette et le rachat ». A contrario du dogme classique chez les économistes, qui fait commencer l’histoire de la monnaie par le troc, auquel viendraient se substituer l’argent et, enfin, la dette.

Loc. 3395-96: Le mot « payer », rappelle Graeber, vient d’un terme qui signifie « pacifier, apaiser », c’est-à-dire que le don, en particulier d’objets ou de monnaie, viendrait en compensation d’un dommage causé à autrui.

Loc. 3451-52: « croire », c’est-à-dire « faire crédit ».

Loc. 3539-43: il nous faut comprendre la portée anthropologique des dispositifs sociaux qui, au nom de l’efficacité technique ou de l’aide compassionnelle, insèrent les individus et les populations dans des protocoles et des procédures qui les rendent commensurables et abstraits. Là est la véritable puissance des dispositifs de contrôle et de normalisation aujourd’hui : les protocoles divers et variés qui captent et modèlent les individus sont des dérivés et des résidus de la technique d’extraction du temps de travail des salariés et des esclaves.

Loc. 3548-52: Le mot « engager » est « formé de “gage” avec le préfixe en- ; on relève en latin médiéval les formations analogues se ingnadiare, “s’engager (à fournir des preuves)” et invadiare, “mettre en gage” 343 ». En français, le verbe reprend cette idée de contrainte, d’obligation et de dette pour désigner l’action de « mettre en gage », c’est-à-dire de donner « en garantie » ou en caution […] À partir du XVIe siècle, le terme « engager » prend le sens figuré de « faire pénétrer dans (qqch. qui ne laisse pas libre) . L’engagement prend valeur de privation de liberté, d’entraînement dans un processus ou un chemin qui contraint à en suivre le cours.

Loc. 3570-71: pour finir, on « liquide » ou on laisse mourir.

Loc. 3630: « racheter » ses fautes.

Loc. 3648-56: Aujourd’hui, un des symptômes de l’incapacité des dispositifs à offrir aux citoyens le moyen de reconnaître leurs dettes et de s’en acquitter se traduit par le développement des pratiques de plagiat. Que les plagiaires reconnus puissent encore publier est tout de même le signe d’une drôle de décadence morale de notre civilisation. On l’a vu, la culture numérique, par l’usage du « copier-coller » qu’elle facilite, par l’anonymat qu’elle rend possible, par l’hypertexte que cette écriture affectionne, induit une perte des sources et du nom des auteurs des textes, ce qui favorise le plagiat. Mais, au-delà de l’impact de la technique, c’est tout un rapport à la culpabilité et à la liberté qui se manifeste dans ce symptôme. Les cas de fraude, d’imposture, de tricheries diverses et variées 354 attestent un déclin de l’éthique et du respect du travail de l’autre, déclin d’une exigence morale de reconnaissance de l’autre et du fruit de son travail.

Loc. 3668-69: La culpabilité dont je parle résulte du sacrifice que chacun a dû accomplir pour s’inscrire dans le champ social

20140629 The Book Case (Kindle Single) by Nelson DeMille (2012)

I short but very enjoyable detective story!

Loc. 162-63: Most accidents, I’m convinced, are God’s way of getting rid of stupid people. Or if you believe in 2012_bookcase_CaptureDarwinism, you wonder why there are any stupid people left in the world. Well, I guess they can reproduce before they remove themselves from the gene pool.

Loc. 173: I was about to rule this a dumbicide […]

Loc. 316-17: Typical of his generation, if I may be judgmental here. A little fuzzy in his thinking, his brain probably half-baked on controlled substances, educated far beyond his ambitions.

Loc. 450-52: Well, Mr. Lawrence was sitting in the bookstore with Officer Rourke keeping him company, Scott was in the stockroom with Officer Simmons, writing his bestseller, and Otis Parker was alone in his office, reaching room temperature by now. Time for breakfast.

Loc. 517-19: “Oh…” She sobbed, “Oh, if only he’d listened to me.” Right. If men listened to their wives, they’d live longer and better lives. But married men, I think, have a death wish. That’s why they die before their wives. They want to.

Loc. 673-75: I’ve heard every justification possible for spousal murder, and most of them are amazingly trivial. Like, “My wife thought cooking and fucking were two cities in China.” Or, “My husband watched sports all weekend, drank beer, and farted.” Sometimes I think being a cop is less dangerous than being married.

Loc. 783-84: “Never have sex with a woman who has more problems than you do.”

20140622: New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe, Michael O’Meara (2013)

An interesting , intelligent and well documented book written by a highly educated person with a penchant for philosophy. I enjoyed much of it but gradually started getting the feeling that the book was nor “about the New Right” but a pamphlet “for the New Right”. It shows, for instance, when you read (Loc. 1703-6) this: Against the anti-traditional, anti-biological that recognizes and validates both the innate and culturally encoded character of sexual polarity. In support of this view, they refer to the great biologist Alexis Carrel insofar as the good enhances life, propagates the species, and elevates the human spirit.

There’s no-one left in biology or medecine who still considers Carrel a great scientist. His “eternal cells”, for instance,  were a fraud and his views about improving mankind came directly from nazism.

And what about this sentence, which could have been taken directly from the European racist extreme right: In the last four decades, since 1962, when Africa breached Europe’s southern frontier (Algeria), the Continent, and especially France, has been inundated by successive waves of Third World immigrants. [276] The amplitude of this inundation, involving masses and not individuals, is such that not a few demographers describe it as a “colonization.” [277] If not soon halted, non-Europeans will come to comprise a majority of the Continent’s population. French cities and towns will then resemble the bazaars of North Africa and its social life that of the occupied West Bank, while the Europid population which has occupied Eurasia’s western extremities for the last 30,000 years will become a minority and those who previously failed to militarily conquer Europe will be allowed to take possession of its mutilated destiny, without a shot being fired.

Interesting also are O’Meara’s views about Charlemagne, Clovis and Russia: France and Germany naturally belong together, and Russia too; Russia may well be Europe’s ultimate liberator (see below from Loc 4029 or so).

—————-  Here come some more balanced (i.e. politically neutral) excerpts from the early chapters…

Loc. 109 et sq.: What, then, is the Left? […] it stands for those rationalist ideological tendencies favoring the political impulses of a “modernity” opposed to “the divine order of creation.” Inspired by the spirit of Protestant individualism, Newtonian science, and a latent Gnosticism, it believes in “the infinite progress of knowledge and the infinite advance which undergirds its s possibility, its individualistic faith in reason, its penchant for models, plans, and reforms, and its opposition to the heritage of past generations.Loc. 160-61: Yet, it was only with the Protestant Reformation (harbinger of that the embryonic Left assumed an openly insurrectional stance. worldly salvation religion. For example, Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Jacques du Perron, La Gauche vue de Droite (Puiseaux: Pardès, 1993); Jules Monnerot, 50: […] in their struggles for popular sovereignty and solidarity, socialists took their stand against the alienating forces of liberal which is arguably what is greatest in their history. […] the Left project, would come in the eighteenth century, when Europeans began applying the abstract, mathematical, and individualistic principles of scientific rationality to political and social institutions. If liberation from traditional strictures had brought about a greater mastery of the material world, then reason, it seemed, might do the modern order based on tradition and religion, it was hoped that a scientific one might take its place to the benefit of all. This would give modernity a decidedly optimistic slant, for it was assumed that reason had the capacity to remake reality in ways that the existing heritage did not. The philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment, ideologically legitimizing these modernizing forces, Positing that the lived world was governed by a priori, homogeneous, and quantitative properties whose law-like principles were accessible to the Christopher Dawson) sought to disenchant the cosmos, s reign. [19] As it did, every form of tradition was challenged, every idea of familial or communal obligation rejected, all historic authorities undermined.  
Loc. 127 et sq: The Right as such emerges in defense of ancestral legacies and of the larger spiritual order sustaining these a dismal catalogue of absurdities and crimes against but the backdrop to the way the present is to be apprehended and the future worked out. It likewise believes this and of the larger possibilities latent of which there have been few historical examples) prefers, thus, to reason in terms of the specific geographic, cultural, racial, religious, and historical realities situating and defining it […] it was in opposition to monarchical-bourgeois innovations threatening the feudal foundations of state and society that the Right first emerged as a political force opposed to modernist, anti-feudal subversions. (From this perspective, one might argue s progressive decline.)

2013_new-rightLoc. 660-61: A postmodern world of absolute differences is hence a world in which difference ceases to be significant, as the toleration of multiple tribal codes is generalized into a global principle of arbitrary caprice.

Loc. 954-59: Following the end of the First European Civil War, in a period of extreme crisis, Italy was convulsed by violent worker unrest, peasant land seizures, and institutional breakdown. These troubles reached their peak in September 1920, when trade unionists occupied Northern Italy’s metal industry, the most advanced sector of the economy, and attempted to resume production under worker control. For a moment, it seemed as if Italy would follow Russia in making a revolutionary transition to a Soviet-style government. But this was not to be. The strikes soon subsided, the Left parties fractured, and within two years Mussolini’s Fascists controlled the helm of state.

Loc. 1022-23 (“What is culture?”): Gehlen singles out man’s culture-making capacity as his defining characteristic. [155] This capacity, he claims, developed as a consequence of man’s “instinctual deficiencies.” Although humans possess certain basic drives (such as self-preservation, aggression, territoriality, defense of the young, et cetera), these are few in number, limited in effect, and non-specific. If man had had only his few instincts on which to rely, he would not have long survived in nature — 30,000 years ago when he lived under the open sky. To compensate for his instinctual deficiencies, he was compelled to draw on other faculties. For the evolutionary process that left him instinctually non-specific also imbued him with intelligence, self-consciousness, and an adaptable nature. By drawing on these faculties to cope with the natural exigencies of existence — exigencies resolved in animals by their “instinctual programming” — man “learned” to negotiate the environmental challenges of his world. In contrast, though, to animal instinct, this learning left him “world-open” (Weltoffen), for his responses to external stimuli were not automatically programmed by earlier responses, but based on reflection and hence open to change and revision. Biological laws might influence him, but only negatively, as a “framework and base.” [156] In choosing, then, how to respond to nature’s challenges, man had no alternative but to treat the world with care and foresight, to gain an overview of what had gone before and what was likely to happen in the future, to develop symbolic systems to communicate this knowledge, and, not least of all, to establish those institutions that would socially perpetuate the lessons of earlier responses. The complex of habits, judgements, and techniques arising from man’s world-open responses to his environment is, according to Gehlen, the fundament of his culture, insofar as this complex informs, disciplines, and stylizes all his subsequent responses to the world […] A truly neutral reason without inherent cultural “bias” (as liberal modernity posits) would require a cultureless world — that is, a world without real human beings.

—————– End of “reasonably balanced” views: the pro-extreme right bias becomes openly apparent. I skipped most of it and directly went to Loc.5759)

Loc. 1780-85: There are presently 1,400 zones de non-droit in France (including eleven towns) and in nearly a hundred of these, republican jurisdiction has been supplanted by sharia (Islamic law). [281] Unlike the Little Italys and Germantowns of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century urban America, these zones have not the slightest intention of assimilating into the dar-al-Harb (the “impious” non-Islamic world, which Muslims view as the “world of war”) and frequently, in small and increasingly not so small ways, assert their autonomy vis-à-vis it. [282]

Loc. 5759-68 (From the notes) [281] . Jeremy Rennher, “L’Occident ligoté par l’imposture antiraciste,” Écrits de Paris 640 (February 2002). Even the politically correct editor of Violence en France (Paris: Seuil, 1999), Michel Wieviorka, acknowledges that the explosion of violence and criminality since 1990 is an outgrowth of Islamic power. Because the French government keeps most data on immigrant crime and racial terror securely under wraps, the little that is known has been surreptitiously leaked by frustrated officials. The publication with the best access to these leaks is the monthly J’ai tout compris! Lettre de désintoxication, edited by Guillaume Faye. [282] . Jean-Raphaël de Sourel, La fin de l’Europe et sa civilisation humaniste (Paris: Éds. des Écrivains, 1999), 161–68. [283] . André Gandillon, Les fondements du XXIe siècle (Paris: Éds. Roudil, 1992), 1:367.

Loc. 4029-32: [De Gaulle] continued to promote Franco-German cooperation, though Germany’s US-controlled leadership repeatedly stymied him. [789] Unlike many subsequent Gaullists, the General did not fear a unified Germany, for he believed it was essential to European unity and that unity around a “Carolingian pole” was crucial to any reassertion of French grandeur in the world. (Note [790], Loc. 7506-12: Mourreau, “De Gaulle, visionnaire de l’Europe.” De Gaulle’s legacy remains much in dispute. At various times, nationalists have criticized him for being a Jacobin, an enemy of the nation, a lackey of the Anglo-Saxons, the Communists, the Rothschilds, or the Masons. See, for example, Philippe Ploncard d’Assac, Le nationalisme français: Origines, doctrine et solutions (Paris: Duquesne Diffusion, 2000), 29–31; Pierre Monnier, Quand grossissent les têtes molles: Essai sur la têtemollité (Paris: Éds. Déterna, 2000), 25–26, 100–1; Henri-Christian Giraud, De Gaulle et les communistes, 2 vols. (Paris: Albin Michel, 1988–89); Alain Pascal, La trahison des initiés: La Franc-Maçonnerie du combat politique à la guerre de religion (Paris: L’Æncre, 1998), 120–22.

Loc. 4037-60: Clovis, the reputed founder of the nation, was actually the ruler of a Franco-Germanic empire that lasted until the late tenth century, when Hugh Capet abandoned the Roman idea of empire and embarked on a process of monarchical centralization — a process that laid the foundations for the modern nation-state. In consolidating their dynastic ambitions, subsequent Capetians were obliged to amalgamate the various peoples comprising the “hexagon,” creating, in effect, the French nation out of a disparate assortment of Bretons, Alsatians, Flamands, Gascons, Occitans, Basques, Normans, and others. As such, the languages, institutions, and identities of these peoples were supplanted by those of Paris and the Île-de-France.As an “anti-empire,” then, the French state arose on the ruins of her ancient provincial institutions and communities. In this sense, France is an “artificial” nation, created by the state. After 1789, revolutionary liberals continued the Capetian project, completing the nation-making process of centralization, homogenization, and assimilation. [792] The republican tradition spawned by the Revolution would thus adhere to a highly standardized definition of national identity — for this alone conformed with its uniform model of citizenship. [793] Germans, by contrast, have rarely confused nationality and citizenship. The Holy Roman Empire (founded by Otto I in 962) politically united them with other central European peoples in a federated imperium, whose political divisions were dynastic rather than national. As a consequence, it was not through the state that medieval Germans came to identify themselves as a people, for the “nation” was always divided by political borders. This sometimes left them apolitical, but it also enabled them to define themselves in broader terms. Before nineteenth-century liberals took up the national idea, the Vaterland was mainly a cultural, linguistic concept. Germans thus rarely felt the urge to express themselves politically and instead treated their national identity as a “world-open” cultural construct. In contrast to the French national tradition (which transmitted a canonized culture as part of the process of political socialization), the German cultural tradition was always in the process of elaboration, as the Germans themselves grew and expanded as a people. [794] It was only late in the nineteenth century that they achieved any political unity and then only partially. In truth, there has never been a German nation-state (not even at the height of the Hitler regime — for Swiss, Austro-Hungarian, Baltic, and various Eastern European Germans remained outside it). Historically, Deutschland was simply all the lands settled by people of German speech and blood. Even today, the imperial idea, with its federal political forms, remains strong in German politics. The Bundesrepublik, in this respect, contrasts sharply with De Gaulle’s highly centralized Fifth Republic.

Loc. 4123-27: Relatedly, the murderous NATO air war against Serbia, as Alexandre Del Valle and others have demonstrated, aimed not merely at securing US control of the strategically situated Balkans, but at preventing a possible rapprochement between Europe and the Orthodox Slavic world. [812] As Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard and Wolfowitz in the Pentagon documents argue, US interests demand Russia’s dismemberment and its marginalization in world affairs.

Loc. 4128-34: Russia is simultaneously threatened from the south and east by potentially aggressive Third World peoples, mainly Muslims and Chinese, who covet its land and resources. Throughout the 1990s, when its indigenous liberals served as “the errand boys of the West” (Iver Neumann), the Russian Federation remained relatively helpless in face of these threats — to such an extent that the country’s very existence hung in the balance. With Putin’s ascent, it seems to have recovered from the alcoholic torpor of the Yeltsin years, as it resumes the “power politics” befitting a great nation. Its bloody war with Islam in Chechnya (whose Muslim insurgents were supported by the petrol monarchies and, via Pakistan’s security apparatus, the US) marks the sole European effort to date to defend the Continent’s biocultural integrity from the anti-European south.

20140619: China 3.0 (ECFR policy report), A collection of essays Edited by Mark Leonard, 2012

China version 3.0 is Hu Jintao’s China (Lider maximo at the time of publication, although the cover has Xi Jinping!), 2.0 is Deng Xiaping’s and 1.0 is Mao’s!

Loc. 217-20: […] is that China now has to protect the interests and safety of its citizens around the world. If you add the 50 million Chinese citizens living abroad to the 80 million overseas Chinese, you get 130 million citizens. If they were a single country, they would be the tenth-biggest country in the world, with a larger population than Japan’s.

The Chinanet and smart censorship Michael Anti (pen name of Zhao Jing)

Loc. 1366-69: While the global internet is censored in China, the parallel Chinanet has boomed. The Chinese government has blocked every Web 2.0 site and at China3_2102_the same time allowed the creation of a series of simulacrum websites: instead of Google we have Baidu; instead of Twitter we have Sina Weibo; instead of Facebook we have Renren; instead of YouTube we have Youku. The Chinese approach to the internet is simple: “block and clone”.

Loc. 1370-71: when people can’t go online they go out into the street.

“Creative involvement”: a new direction in Chinese diplomacy,  Wang Yizhou

Loc. 1429-30: China has become the world’s fourth-largest crude oil producer.

Loc. 1433-34: more than 70 million Chinese people leave the country every year, most of whom are not dignitaries but ordinary people, including students, migrant workers, tourists, and businessmen.

Loc. 1459-61: Chinese leaders and academics are much concerned with how to prevent the recurrence of the tragic logic of history, which says that a rising power must seek hegemony and throw the world into chaos.

Loc. 1474-76: “Creative involvement” is a new kind of thinking in China’s foreign policy. It is neither a systematic ideological doctrine nor a logical assumption nor a traditional theory of international relations or diplomacy. Instead, it is a guiding thread somewhere between a metaphysical theory and an exemplified interpretation of policy.

Loc. 1459: In the future, China could also have interests in the polar regions, outer space, and other distant frontiers.

Loc. 1499-1502: Public goods are the products, projects, or conventions earmarked for collective action by the international community, often given to international organisations and institutions with international credibility, such as the UN. These public goods include contributions to peacekeeping forces and to the construction of training bases; the Chinese Communist Youth League’s China Young Volunteers Serving Overseas Plan; UN membership dues; and various initiatives to protect the high seas and the polar regions.

Loc. 1509-15: Without the participation of one fifth of the global population, without the endorsement of the world’s second-largest economy, without the political will and security guarantee of this emerging power, international institutions and norms will be irrelevant and the legitimacy and credibility of their resolutions and arrangements will fall short of promise. Over the medium and long term, in the absence of full-scale confrontation between major powers, no external force or emergency can derail China’s greater international involvement, as long as China’s domestic reform, development, and stability continue to be sustainable. By leading change and increasing its role in world politics and economy, society and culture, and environmental protection and military security, China will become one of the driving forces of major international organisations.

The weakening of the unipolar configuration, Yan Xuetong (professor at Tsinghua University)

Loc. 1530-32: The power disparity between China and the US is narrowing. In 2011, China’s GDP was around half of the US’s GDP. If China’s GDP continues to grow at 8.5 percent and US GDP grows at less than 3.8 percent, the current disparity between the two powers will level out within the coming decade.

1538-42: the US has improved its strategic relations with France, Germany, India, and Japan in the last four years. Since 2010, US “smart diplomacy” has outmanoeuvred China’s policy of non-alignment. It is obvious that China and Russia do not have enough strategic partners to challenge the unipolar configuration at this moment. Although China may able to change the major power structure in the next ten years, it will be unable to shift the world from unipolarity to bipolarity unless it forms a formal alliance with Russia.

Loc. 1559-60: The ability of international organisations to steer world affairs is waning.

Loc. 1564-65: As the global power structure shifts towards a bipolar configuration, these international organisations will become less effective in dealing with international conflicts.

Loc. 1577-79: The principles of fairness and freedom are in direct competition. After the Cold War, liberalism became the mainstream school of political thought internationally. Recently, however, liberalism’s dominant position has been challenged by the principle of fairness.

China’s grim international environment, Wang Jisi (Wang Jisi is known as President Hu Jintao’s “chief brains truster” for foreign policy and was a classmate of the president at university.)

Loc. 1641-43: The gap between rich and poor continues to widen as a result of globalisation. The global ecological environment keeps deteriorating. With the help of new technologies and in particular online media, individuals and small groups are challenging states and international society.

Loc. 1671-73: In order to develop a more skilful foreign policy, China must develop better inter-agency co-ordination, improve efficiency and transparency in government, establish a better accountability system, punish corruption, and enhance citizens’ cultural quality, but these things do not produce instant results in the way that a boost to economic growth does.

What will China 3.0 mean for Europe? François Godement and Jonas Parello-Plesner

Loc. 1710-11: Since the provinces – many of which are the size of European countries – are in the front line of delivering change, they will make or break China 3.0.

20140608: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History), Eric H. Cline, 2014

Somewhat confused in the early chapters describing the context from the 15th century onwards. The only chapter worth reading is the last but one, which actually starts with a good summary! The book also has a marked tendency to mention all US and British archaeologists by name, genealogy, affiliation, while the Germans are just “German” and usually responsible for messy excavations (e.g. two first quotes below). Also to be noted: the underlying assumption (mentioned at the beginning and end) is that our current geopolitical situation is not unlike the late bronze age just before the collapse.

Loc. 795: clay tablets, that had been found by German archaeologists excavating at Hattusa earlier in the century.

Loc. 1037-38: German archaeologists originally excavated the statue base, and its companions, in the 1960s, but sometime in the 1970s it was accidentally destroyed.

cline_1177_year-civilization-collapsed_2014SUMMARY (taken from the end of the book!) Loc. 3298-99: 1. We have a number of separate civilizations that were flourishing during the fifteenth to thirteenth centuries BC in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean […] These were independent but consistently interacted with each other, especially through international trade routes. Loc. 3302-5: 2. It is clear that many cities were destroyed and that the Late Bronze Age civilizations and life as the inhabitants knew it in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, and the Near East came to an end ca. 1177 BC or soon thereafter. 3. No unequivocal proof has been offered as to who or what caused this disaster, which resulted in the collapse of these civilizations and the end of the Late Bronze Age.

Loc. 955-60: Scholars are now agreed that even within Homer’s Iliad there are accounts of warriors and events from the centuries predating the traditional setting of the Trojan War in 1250 BC. These include the tower shield of the warrior Ajax, a shield type that had been replaced long before the thirteenth century BC. There are also the “silver-studded” swords (phasganon arguwelon or xiphos arguroelon) of various heroes, an expensive type of weapon that had gone out of use long before the Trojan War. And there is the story of Bellerophon, recounted in book 6 of the Iliad (lines 178–240), who is a Greek hero almost certainly of pre–Trojan War date.

Loc. 981-83: we should probably understand that the trade between the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East during the Bronze Age took place on a scale many times larger than the picture that we currently see through the lens of archaeological excavation.

Loc. 2799-2802: we need to admit that there is currently no scholarly consensus as to the cause or causes of the collapse of these multiple interconnected societies just over three thousand years ago; culprits recently blamed by scholars include “attacks by foreign enemies, social uprising, natural catastrophes, systems collapse, and changes in warfare.”

EARTHQUAKES Loc. 2839-40: although these earthquakes undoubtedly caused severe damage, it is unlikely that they alone were sufficient to cause a complete collapse of society, especially since some of the sites were clearly reoccupied and at least partially rebuilt afterward.

DROUGHT Loc. 2907: […] not to forget manmade drought caused by deforestation and overgrazing […] it “is difficult to directly identify a point in time when the climate grew more arid,” the change most likely occurred before 1250–1197 BC, 37 which is precisely the time period under discussion here. Loc. 2954-58: Nevertheless, exciting as these findings are, at this point we must also acknowledge that droughts have been frequent in this region throughout history, and that they have not always caused civilizations to collapse. Again it would seem that, on their own, climate change, drought, and famines, even if they “influenced social tensions, and eventually led to competition for limited resources,” are not enough to have caused the end of the Late Bronze Age without other mitigating factors having been involved, as Drake is careful to point out. 

FAMINE 1177 B.C.: what factor, or combinations of factors, may have caused the famine(s) in the Eastern Mediterranean during these decades remains

Late Bronze Age map of eastern Mediterranean (from the book!)
Late Bronze Age map of eastern Mediterranean (from the book!)

uncertain. Elements that might be considered include war and plagues of insects, but climate change accompanied by drought is more likely to have turned a once-verdant land into an arid semi-desert. However, until recently, the Ugaritic and other Eastern Mediterranean textual documents containing reports of famine provided the only potential evidence for climate change or drought, and even that was indirect. As a result, the issue has been debated on and off by scholars for decades. 29 The topic has recently been given new impetus, though, as a result of findings published by an international team of scholars, including David Kaniewski and Elise Van Campo of the Université de Toulouse in France and Harvey Weiss of Yale University, who suggest that they may have direct scientific evidence for climate change and drought in the Mediterranean region at the end of the thirteenth and into the beginning of the twelfth century BC.

INTERNAL REBELLION Loc. 2960-61: Some scholars have suggested that internal rebellions may have contributed to the turmoil at the end of the Late Bronze Age.

SHORTAGE OF TIN, A BASIC INGREDIENT OF BRONZE Loc. 2981-84: Among events that could have led to an internal rebellion, we have just glimpsed the specter of outside invaders cutting the international trade routes and upsetting fragile economies that might have been overly dependent upon foreign raw materials. Carol Bell’s comparison of the strategic importance of tin in the Bronze Age to that of crude oil in today’s world might be particularly apt in this hypothetical situation. Loc. 3004-6: […] scholars have recently pointed out that many of the city-states in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Ugarit in particular, may have been hard-hit by the collapse of the international trade routes, which would have been vulnerable to depredations by maritime marauders.

CAPITALISM AND GLOBALISATION Loc. 3010-12: […] suggests that dependence, or perhaps overdependence, on capitalist enterprise, and specifically long-distance trade, may have contributed to the economic instability seen at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Loc. 3049-52: In fact, what jumps out from the materials in the Rapanu and Urtenu archives is the tremendous amount of international interconnection that apparently still existed in the Eastern Mediterranean even at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Moreover, it is clear from the few texts published from the Urtenu archive that these international connections continued right up until almost the last moment before Ugarit’s destruction.

SYSTEMS COLLAPSE Loc. 3058-61: In an article published in 1998, Susan Sherratt, now at the University of Sheffield, concluded that the Sea Peoples represent the final step in the replacement of the old centralized politico-economic systems present in the Bronze Age with the new decentralized economic systems of the Iron Age—that is, the change from kingdoms and empires that controlled the international trade to smaller city-states and individual entrepreneurs who were in business for themselves. Loc. 3066-68: she ultimately concludes that it does not really matter where the Sea Peoples came from, or even who they were or what they did. Far more important is the sociopolitical and economic change that they represent, from a predominantly palatial-controlled economy to one in which private merchants and smaller entities had considerably more economic freedom. Loc. 3091-92: Instead of accepting the idea that private merchants and their enterprises undermined the Bronze Age economy, perhaps we should consider the alternative suggestion that they simply emerged out of the chaos of the collapse […]

OUTSIDE INVADERS, THE SEA PEOPLES Loc. 3099-3100: We come, finally, to a consideration of the Sea Peoples, who remain as enigmatic and elusive as ever. Loc. 3102-3: […] questions remain as to whether the enemy ships mentioned in the Ugaritic texts belonged to the Sea Peoples or to renegade members of their own kingdom […] Loc. 3172 et sq: Israel Finkelstein […] argues that the migration of the Sea Peoples was not a single event but a long process involving several phases, with the first phase starting in the early years of Ramses III, ca. 1177 BC, and the last phase ending during the time of Ramses VI, ca. 1130 BC. Loc. 3190-92: […] they were “an entire population of families on the move to a new home.” In any event, he believes that these migrants were not the cause of the collapse of the Late Bronze Age civilizations in this area but were instead “opportunists” who took advantage of the collapse to find themselves new homes.

SYSTEMS COLLAPSE Loc. 3219-21: […] “catastrophes punctuate human history but they are generally survived without too much loss. They are often followed by a much greater effort leading to greater success.” […] Colin Renfrew […, Loc. 3229-30] “the failure of a minor element started a chain reaction that reverberated on a greater and greater scale, until finally the whole structure was brought to collapse.” Loc. 3235-38: (1) the collapse of the central administrative organization; (2) the disappearance of the traditional elite class; (3) a collapse of the centralized economy; and (4) a settlement shift and population decline. It might take as much as a century for all aspects of the collapse to be completed, he said, and noted that there is no single, obvious cause for the collapse. Loc. 3239-43: Not only does this fit the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean region ca. 1200 BC, but, as he pointed out, it also describes the collapse of the Maya, Old Kingdom Egypt, and the Indus Valley civilization at various points in time. As mentioned, such topics and discussions of “collapses” throughout history, and of the possibly cyclical rise and fall of empires, have subsequently been taken up by other scholars, most popularly and recently by Jared Diamond. Loc. 3266 et sq: Christopher Monroe […] suggested that the economy of the Late Bronze Age became unstable because of its increasing dependency on bronze and other prestige goods. Specifically, he saw “capitalist enterprise”—in which he included long-distance trade, and which dominated the palatial system present in the Late Bronze Age—as having transformed traditional Bronze Age modes of exchange, production, and consumption to such an extent that when external invasions and natural catastrophes combined in a “multiplier effect,” the system was unable to survive. Loc. 3276: Monroe further notes […] that “generally the rulers of the core power or powers treat the symptoms rather than the causes of instability,” and concludes that the “violent destruction of the Late Bronze palatial civilization, as attested in the textual and archaeological record, was, like many collapses, the inevitable result of limited foresight.” Loc. 3381-82: […] “the more complex a system is, the more liable it is to collapse.”

20140508: La violence des riches, Monique Pinçon-Charlot & Michel Pinçon, 2013

Je ne sais pas ce que j’ai, ces temps-ci. Je ne tombe que sur des livres ennuyeux, répétitifs…

Loc. 488-89: Chaque poste supprimé chez un constructeur automobile entraîne la suppression de 3 ou 4 emplois dans la sous-traitance.

Loc. 495-98: dans le calcul du prix d’une voiture, la main-d’œuvre de production ne rentre que pour 1/20e du prix final du véhicule… Les prix relatifs de la main-d’œuvre n’expliquent donc pas pourquoi, en dix ans, la production automobile a chuté de 37 % en France et a augmenté de 11 % outre-Rhin. »

Loc. 595: Les salariés ne sont plus qu’une variable d’ajustement.

Loc. 603-7: Les représentants de l’État font en général les mêmes choix que les administrateurs indépendants, car l’État a besoin d’argent. En tant qu’actionnaire, il perçoit les rémunérations de ses représentants au conseil d’administration, tout en acceptant les suppressions d’emplois. La financiarisation de ressources naturelles comme le gaz se fait donc dans la connivence entre ceux qui défendent leurs intérêts et ceux qui sont censés représenter l’intérêt général.

violencedesriches_2013Loc. 615…: Dans le salon Opéra du Grand Hôtel Intercontinental de Paris, rue de Castiglione dans le VIIIe arrondissement, le 11 octobre 2010, Christine Lagarde, alors ministre de l’Économie et des Finances, assiste à un symposium organisé par Nyse Euronext […] L’entrepreneur Thomas Peterffy, auteur d’algorithmes très élaborés, c’est-à-dire de programmes informatiques permettant de procéder à des achats, des ventes et des paris sur les marchés financiers à la vitesse de l’éclair, prononce le discours d’ouverture : « Les vingt dernières années ont connu l’émergence des ordinateurs, des communications électroniques, des marchés électroniques, des dark pools, des flash orders, des marchés multiples, des systèmes de négociation alternatifs… le trading à haute fréquence, MIFID en Europe, Reg NMS aux États-Unis… et ce que nous avons aujourd’hui est un vrai bordel. » Un silence effroyable envahit le beau salon Opéra. Mais il poursuit : « Pour le grand public, les marchés financiers ressemblent de plus en plus à un casino, sauf qu’un casino est plus transparent et plus simple à comprendre. […] Si le public en vient à penser que les marchés financiers sont une escroquerie, alors les entreprises et les entrepreneurs n’obtiendront plus les fonds dont ils ont besoin pour développer notre économie, créer des emplois et améliorer le niveau de vieo. » C’est la fin du discours. Le silence continue à plomber l’atmosphère.[…] Le gratin de la finance mondiale reprend son souffle. Puis des applaudissements nourris retentissent. L’orateur n’a fait que dire tout haut ce que tout le monde sait et pense tout bas.

Loc. 929-34: « La délinquance contre laquelle on lutte dans les Hauts-de-Seine, c’est essentiellement les stupéfiants. Mais la grande délinquance n’est pas celle-là, elle est à La Défense ou dans l’aménagement des berges de la Seine. La délinquance financière ne se voit pas, on a l’impression qu’elle n’existe pas, alors qu’elle a un impact sur l’économie globale bien plus fort qu’un petit dealer. » Selon un rapport de l’OCDE de 2012, il n’y aurait eu depuis l’an 2000 que trois condamnations prononcées par des juges français concernant les entreprises françaises et la corruption de fonctionnaires pour leur faciliter l’obtention d’investissements dans des pays étrangers.

20140502: How To Disappear Completely, David Bowick, 2009

Hardly “literature”, but the story is built on coincidences, which is rather interesting!howtodisappear_2009

Loc. 177-79: Eventually our boss had to give the lady a bunch of free drink coupons to get her to shut up and leave. It’s amazing what you can get in life if you’re evil and cause enough trouble. People will just reward your indecencies to try and keep the peace. All the regular people just going along should be rewarded for being regular.

Loc. 1465-66: “How can you be jealous of her going out on a date when you are too?” “I don’t know how feelings work. I just feel them.”

20140425: Tod und Teufel, Frank Schätzing, 2003

todundteufel_2003Sooooooo langweilig. Jemand ist vom Gerüst gestossen worden, und jemand hat’s gesehen. Und jetzt ist man dem Zeugen auf den Fersen… Könnte man auch in weniger als 65 Seiten sagen. Immerhin, ich mache mir um den Zeugen wenig Sorgen, und lese lieber in einem anderen Buch weiter.

Page 18 | Loc. 173-76:  »Ich dachte, die Minoriten seien nach dem Willen des barmherzigen Gottes arm und mittellos.« »Ja, und darum gehört alles auf ihrem Grund und Boden einzig dem Herrn. Aber solange der’s nicht abholt, muss es ja verwaltet werden.« »Oder gegessen?« »Und getrunken.«

Page 23 | Loc. 259-61: Als der Mann nämlich knöchern weiterschlurfte, baumelte eine der Würste keck heraus. Jacop sah sie mit aufgerissenen Augen an. Sie sah zurück.

Page 65 | Loc. 979-80: Viele Bettler führten ja durchaus ein ehrliches, gottesfürchtiges und dementsprechend kurzes Leben, weshalb es keinen Grund gab, sie nicht der Gnade kölnischer Braukunst teilhaftig werden zu lassen.

20140420: The Origin of Indo-European Languages, Franco Rendich, 2013

Loc. 341-44:
“Who truly knows? Who can say when there was creation? And what was the cause of it? The gods came after its emanation. Who can say, then, where its origin lay?”

Loc. 344-47:
“He who creation came from, may have decided on it himself. Or else not. He who watches from high heaven might know its origin. And perhaps not”. As can beoriginindoeuropeanlanguages_2013 seen, this hymn ends with some questions and with a clear uncertainty as to the origin of Creation and the role performed by the Creator. These questions and this doubt will open the way to Indo-European metaphysics by stirring the conflict between science and faith. They still exist even today, from the depth of Vedic myth, and they transmit to us their message of sensitivity and intelligence.

Loc. 562-71: So, it is easy to recognize the nexus between the Sanskrit verb root pat, “to govern”, and the Latin potis, “that which has authority”, and to also read in the Latin nepos, “he who has authority over the waters”. If we recognize, then, in ptu 113 a derivative of the root pat, we can also reconstruct the Indo-European compound naptu 114 “superintendent of the waters”, that, with the addition of the suffix nus (of dominus, tribunus, etc.), will give us the Latin name Neptunus, “Neptune”, the god of the sea. I believe that it is precisely because of the derivation of the principle of authority from the celebration of purifying rites in honor of the gods and dead forefathers that Indo-European grammarians chose the consonant p of the root p?, “to purify”, and of the root pit?, “father”, the purifier par excellence, to express the concept of “power”, apparent in the Sanskrit term pati, “lord”, and in the Latin potestas, “authority”.

Loc. 1094-97: At the conclusion of these chapters, I am now able to posit the etymology of the ancient Indo-European word ven? dh?: “set [dh?] down [dh?] in an intertwining [ve] of flowing waters [n?].” From this came the Latin word Venetia, which later became “ Venezia” in Italian and “ Venice” in English.

Loc. 1118-25 (N=water): The two oceans invented the gods and gave them names to make manifest to mankind the divine prerogatives of the waters. The theological project of the cosmic waters is now clear on all points. It had been the waters that had conceived Varu?a, Indra and the N?satyas, created in their image and likeness, by inserting their symbol in their names—the consonant n [na]. The crowning proof of what I have heretofore stated is found within the Sanskrit term “n?man”, which “nomen” comes from in Latin and nome in Italian, which means “thought [man] of the waters [n?]”.

Loc. 1129-32 (V=wind): In Indo-European, V?c meant “it spreads, it blows [v?] all around [ac]”. The root v? of V?c, indeed, is the same as that of v?yu and v?ta, “wind”. Indeed, the Word and the wind spread in all directions according to one of the semantic values of the consonant v, “spread”.

Loc. 1136-40: The Vedic portrait of the goddess V?c is by now complete. Being daughter of the waters that pervade cosmic space, she knows all things created in the universe and the mystery of life. She grants voice [v?c] and word [v?c] to the gods so that they can express the thought [man] of the waters [n?] contained within their names [n?man]. By blowing as the wind does, she divulges, beyond the confines of worlds, the greatness of her divine knowledge.

My note to agni, angulus, ignis (Loc. 2920) ag=zigzag z ig z ag

20140412: Dictionnaire érotique moderne, Alfred Delvau, 1864

dictionnaireerotiquemoderne_1864Un classique du genre, publié et republié, vieilli et ennuyeux, sauf les introduction, notes, arrière-propos et autres (comme pour presque tous les livres sur l’érotisme)

Loc. 95-96: La langue française étant, de l’avis de Voltaire, « une gueuse fière à qui il faut faire l’aumône malgré elle »

Loc. 104: les livres dangereux sont les livres mal faits.

Loc. 510-14: AIGUILLE. Le membre viril, avec lequel on pique les femmes – qui en enflent pendant neuf mois.
Mariette est femme très honnête,
Et si ce n’est un jour de fête,
Elle a toujours l’aiguille en main. (THÉOPHILE)

Loc. 1102-3: AVOIR LA VACHE ET LE VEAU. Épouser une fille enceinte des œuvres d’un autre.

Loc. 2899-2900: COCU. Mari trompé par sa femme, comme Ménélas, comme Sganarelle et Dandin, comme vous et moi, comme des millions d’autres.

2014030: The Book of Assassins, George Fetherling, 2001

Loc. 63-64: Then there are people who, through political longevity and a lack of inhibitions about making dangerous enemies, are assassination prone.

Loc. 71-72: The concept of assassination is not deeply rooted in English-speaking countries.

Loc. 182-84: Professional peace-time intelligence agents ordered to kill a foreign leader do so because they draw salaries for their jobs as a whole, positions for which a rudimentary sense of patriotic duty is required.

Loc. 192-94: Consider the case of Oscar Collazo, who attempted to kill US president Harry Truman and who American authorities desperately tried to show was insane while so many genuinely insane American assassins were tried as criminals.

Loc. 296-98: After metabolizing hundreds of books about assassinations in various languages, my research associate and I suggest that the chances of an alleged assassin being acquitted in court are about five per cent. The best defence against conviction is to have been French and a woman before 1930.

Loc. 1956-58 (An interesting character!): CONRADI, Maurice (1896–1947), assassinated Vatslav Vorovsky (1871–1923), a Soviet diplomat, on May 10, 1923, while the victim was dining at the Cecil Hotel in Lausanne.

Loc. 2135-36: Damiens was the last French prisoner to be eviscerated and quartered. (DAMIENS, François (1715–1757), attempted to assassinate Louis XV of France)

Loc. 2151-53: Although there were many eyewitnesses, including the chauffeur who survived the shooting, a physical description of the assassin was not bookassassins_2001-2008obtainable. De Brem wore bright red gloves during the shooting and witnesses could remember little beyond this fact,

Loc. 2612-14: Thomas à Becket was canonized in 1173 as St. Thomas of Canterbury, though his persecution by the Crown was not finished. In 1538, his bones were brought before the court of Star Chamber by order of Henry VIII and put on trial on a charge of treason and usurping papal authority. His remains were found guilty and burned.

Loc. 3017-21: During the First World War, Goldman and Berkman agitated for free speech and against conscription. Each was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. In the post-war “red scare” they were among those deported to Russia even though they were American citizens: an important episode in the early career of J. Edgar Hoover, the future FBI director. (When Frick died, Berkman is said to have quipped that the capitalist had been “deported by God.”)

Loc. 4114-16: As he left his car, Berg picked up a can of dog food he had bought for his Airedale, Fred, and lit the last cigarette of the hundred he smoked every day. Thereupon he was shot thirteen times with a .45-calibre MAC-10 machine pistol that had been converted from semi-automatic to fully automatic fire. He died instantly.

Loc. 4120: […] he became a Mormon, because he approved of the Mormons’ conservative lifestyle and short haircuts.

Loc. 4257-60: While at the airport, accompanied by Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, the pope was approached by a man dressed as a priest and carrying a cross. As the man drew near, he withdrew a thirty-centimetre knife and attempted to stab the pope in the neck. Mendoza was quickly grabbed by the bishop of Singapore, Anthony Galvin, a former rugby player from Yorkshire, who held him until police took him away.

Loc. 4746-47: The theme of loyalty superseding the rule of law has been the justification offered by almost all of Japan’s assassins and has contributed importantly to the way assassination is perceived in Japan.

Loc. 4785-86: During their marriage, Catherine produced three children, probably by Grigorii Orlov. They were accepted as legitimate heirs in spite of Peter’s declaration that he had “no idea how my wife becomes pregnant.”

Loc. 4794 (Propaganda?): In 1769, Aleksei became commander of naval operations in the Mediterranean. Despite having no naval experience, he was responsible for a remarkable victory against the Turks in which all but one of thirteen Turkish ships-of-the-line were destroyed. Loc. 4794-95: The Turks suffered nine thousand casualties to only thirty Russian casualties.

Loc. 5425-29: RAMÌREZ, Illich (a.k.a. Carlos, a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal, a.k.a. Cenon Clark, a.k.a. Glenn H. Gebhard, a.k.a. Andres Martinez Torres, a.k.a. Ahmed Ali Fawaz, a.k.a. Michel Khouri, a.k.a. Michel Assaf, a.k.a. Nagi Abubaker Ahmed, a.k.a. Abdurabo Ali Mohamed, a.k.a. Abdallah Barakhat) (b. 1950), attempted to assassinate Joseph Edward Seiff (1905–1982), chief executive of the British retailer Marks and Spencer and president of Joint Israel Appeal, at his London home, on December 30, 1973.

Loc. 5434-35: The gunman was Illich Ramìrez, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on one of his first missions, having only recently been given the code name “Carlos.”

Loc. 5750: In 1926, grave robbers stole Villa’s head. Those responsible, as well as the head itself, were never found.

Loc. 6052-55: Stauffenberg, as chief-of-staff to the commander of the Nazis’ reserve army, arrived for a meeting at Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia. He carried with him a briefcase containing a time bomb. Stauffenberg was an excellent choice to deliver the package. He had lost his left eye, his right hand, two fingers of his left hand and part of one leg as the result of a landmine in Tunisia on April 7, 1943;

Loc. 6065-66: After Kristallnacht, Stauffenberg became convinced that the Nazis were not a joke but a menace.

Loc. 6072-74: Hitler and the Prussian military elite were never on close terms. A rumour, which never disappeared, held that as soon as the war was over Hitler would begin a purge of the Prussian military aristocracy.

Loc. 6633-35: Asanuma, known to his supporters as “the human locomotive” on account of his boundless energy and physical stature (he weighed about a hundred kilos), and to his opponents as “the man whose body is too large for his brain”

20140329: Language and Vocabulary in Science Fiction, Gwyneth Jones, 2013

language-science-fiction_2013Loc. 270-77: Science is more than technology, and fiction is more than a collection of good yarns. The first word signifies all organized human knowledge, the current sum of every attempt to reach the “reality” outside ourselves. The second signifies, perhaps, humanity’s attempts to map the inner world of subjective experience. Bringing these two areas together used to be a scissors-and-paste job. But even in the changeless continuum of “life, the universe, and everything” there are sometimes illusions of change. It is certain that mainstream writers are at this time increasingly interested in SF motifs. Perhaps they see meaning suddenly grouping to the surface out of the swamps of Venus. Uncanny coincidences between the science of fiction and the science of physics hint at a grand unification theory. The structures of fiction itself seem more and more closely linked to those equally unreal structures of the subatomic zoo.