Category Archives: Surly Joe

Midnight Sun (Blood on Snow #2) – Jo Nesbø GUEST POST REVIEW

GUEST POST – Surly Joe

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SYNOPSIS (From Goodreads) – Jon is on the run. He has betrayed Oslo’s biggest crime lord: The Fisherman.

Fleeing to an isolated corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far north that the sun never sets, Jon hopes to find sanctuary amongst a local religious sect.

Hiding out in a shepherd’s cabin in the wilderness, all that stands between him and his fate are Lea, a bereaved mother and her young son, Knut.

But while Lea provides him with a rifle and Knut brings essential supplies, the midnight sun is slowly driving Jon to insanity.

And then he discovers that The Fisherman’s men are getting closer…


REVIEW

Outside the cafe where I write, it’s gray. It’s cold, damp, dreary. The sun is a faint yellow bead. It’s trying to shine through the cloud, but it’s not being successful. Nothing about the day is particularly pleasing. It’s not ominous, only unsettling. Not comfortable.

Inside the pages of Midnight Sun, the new crime novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, the atmosphere is the same. Not comfortable. Short, stark, choppy sentences describe the bleak and cynical existence of Jon Hansen, a mid-level criminal and hit-man who has deceived his boss and is now running for his life, hiding out in a tiny hunting cabin in the “desolate, monotonous, rolling landscape” of Northern Norway. Isolation and paranoia eat at him, fueling his fatalism. He hopes to live. He expects to die.

This is the genre of Nordic Noir, and Jo Nesbo is a leader in the field. His writing is blunt, his plot is simple and, while not overly original, it is always engaging. His characters are not overly likable. But the mood is all-important and all-encompassing. It is reminiscent of the detective novels and films of the 1940s, only the shadow and grit of the city has been replaced by Norway’s barren sub-Arctic landscape. In Midnight Sun, Jon Hansen is, at best, an existential anti-hero who is tough to like. The locals that he meets while on the run don’t seem too trustworthy but he begrudgingly tries to trust them anyway, despite the fact that he is “more inclined to believe in a junkie’s love of drugs than in people’s love for one another”.

With solitude and the perception of approaching doom, Jon’s thoughts turn to religion and philosophy. He is bitter at life, bitter at God. “Even the very sharpest minds”, he says, “are prepared to believe in the stuff and nonsense of Christianity if they think it offers a chance to escape death”. And yet, “God. Salvation. Paradise. Eternal life. It was an appealing thought”. But existential musings won’t help him survive. His only hope is the assistance he is receiving from Lea, a young single mother, and her son Knut, both bearing scars from their own difficult lives.

In the final chapters, as Jon’s pursuers approach and the tension increases, the lightening and thunder strike and reflect the drama in an overly melodramatic and almost soap-opera way. And as I read, a new sensation starts to develop, a fear manifests. I don’t want to admit it but I can’t ignore the direction that this narrative is going. The “Noir” of Jo Nesbo’s Nordic Noir is disappearing and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, faint but recognizable. After almost two hundred pages of glorious cynicism, the darkness and somberness that I’ve loved, there’s going to be an optimistic ending.

I am disappointed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NesboJo Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). Their second album topped the charts in Norway, but he continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night.

When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading crime writers and his novels are published in over 50 languages.

WEBSITE


CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

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Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Hop-Frog) by Edgar Allan Poe GUEST POST

GUEST POST – Surly Joe

“As for myself, I am simply Hop-Frog, the jester and this is my last jest.” – Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination

FROM GOODREADS – Hop-Frog and his friend Trippetta have been captured by one of the king’s generals and brought back to the King as servants. Hop-Frog serves as jester to the king and Trippetta helps to plan and decorate for social events. She is also forced to dance for the king and his court. Both Hop-Frog and Trippetta are dwarves. The King and his ministers enjoy laughing at and abusing Hop-Frog. Even his name is the result of their making fun of the way he walks. When the abuse becomes unbearable, Hop-Frog devises and carries out an ingenious but horrific plan of revenge upon the King and his ministers.

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REVIEW

Edgar Allan Poe was a failure as a businessman, a failure as a husband, an outcast, an impoverished alcoholic. He died mysteriously, found delirious near a poll-booth in Baltimore. His life, by all accounts, was miserable. But in the 1830s and 40s, his literary genius shone and he created some of America’s greatest, most disturbing and most horrific poetry and prose.

His masterpieces are famous, the stories and poems that have been studied, reviewed, dissected for almost two centuries. The opening lines instill an immediate feeling of dread. “I am sick – sick unto death” begins The Pit and the Pendulum. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary” pulls the reader into The Raven. And perhaps his most famous, The Tell-Tale Heart introduces its murderous psychosis in capital letters with “TRUE! – NERVOUS – VERY, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”. These are his elite creations.

But lurking in the background are the obscure tales, mostly unknown except to ardent Poe fans. They deal with similar themes of madness, revenge, violence and victimization. They are disturbing and dark and wonderful. They are well-represented by Hop-Frog.

HOP FROGIn an unspecified location at an unspecified time, a king and his seven ministers, all “large, corpulent, oily men” were lovers of practical jokes. For their amusement, they retained a crippled dwarf nicknamed Hop-Frog. He was “a jester to laugh with, and a dwarf to laugh at”. Hop-Frog and his female companion Tripetta had been stolen from their home by the king’s generals and given to the king as gifts. They were treated poorly unless they were amusing him.

When the king and his ministers decide to host a grand masquerade, they demand that Hop-Frog and Tripetta come up with ideas for their costumes. To encourage Hop-Frog’s creativity, they embarrass him and force him to drink wine, even though it “excited the poor cripple almost to madness”. It was the final humiliation.

The night of the masquerade, having convinced the king and his entourage that it would be a hilarious prank to show up dressed as wild orangutans, chained together and acting wildly, Hop-Frog exacts his revenge. Grating his “fang-like teeth” and foaming at the mouth, he captures the “beasts” and burns them alive until they are nothing but a “blackened hideous and indistinguishable mass”. Hop-Frog and Tripetta vanish in the chaos and are never seen again.

In only a few short pages, Hop-Frog touches on themes that still resonate today – abuse of power, victimization, and the difficulties of the less-fortunate. Undoubtedly, Edgar Allan Poe shared these frustrations as his life struggled onward with no hope in sight. Unable to act out in real life, his characters, like Hop-Frog, became his outlet. After almost two centuries, his depictions of rage, violence and madness are as terrifying and disturbing as ever.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EAPThe name Poe brings to mind images of murderers and madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead. His works have been in print since 1827 and include such literary classics as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This versatile writer’s oeuvre includes short stories, poetry, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and hundreds of essays and book reviews. He is widely acknowledged as the inventor of the modern detective story and an innovator in the science fiction genre, but he made his living as America’s first great literary critic and theoretician. Poe’s reputation today rests primarily on his tales of terror as well as on his haunting lyric poetry.

Just as the bizarre characters in Poe’s stories have captured the public imagination so too has Poe himself. He is seen as a morbid, mysterious figure lurking in the shadows of moonlit cemeteries or crumbling castles. This is the Poe of legend. But much of what we know about Poe is wrong, the product of a biography written by one of his enemies in an attempt to defame the author’s name.

The real Poe was born to traveling actors in Boston on January 19, 1809. Edgar was the second of three children. His other brother William Henry Leonard Poe would also become a poet before his early death, and Poe’s sister Rosalie Poe would grow up to teach penmanship at a Richmond girls’ school. Within three years of Poe’s birth both of his parents had died, and he was taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and his wife Frances Valentine Allan in Richmond, Virginia while Poe’s siblings went to live with other families. Mr. Allan would rear Poe to be a businessman and a Virginia gentleman, but Poe had dreams of being a writer in emulation of his childhood hero the British poet Lord Byron. Early poetic verses found written in a young Poe’s handwriting on the backs of Allan’s ledger sheets reveal how little interest Poe had in the tobacco business.

WEBSITE


CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

And Then There Were Three – The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio GUEST POST

GUEST POST – SURLY JOE

“An unfinished book. left unattended, turns feral, and she would need all her focus, will and ruthless determination to tame it again.”
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

The Decameron

FROM GOODREADS – The Decameron (c.1351) is an entertaining series of one hundred stories written in the wake of the Black Death. The stories are told in a country villa outside the city of Florence by ten young noble men and women who are seeking to escape the ravages of the plague. Boccaccio’s skill as a dramatist is masterfully displayed in these vivid portraits of people from all stations in life, with plots that revel in a bewildering variety of human reactions.

REVIEW

For the sake of full disclosure and transparency, this is a review of two-thirds of a book. I humbly admit that I raised the white flag of surrender at page 379. The finish line, page 655, was beyond the bounds of my stamina. Only twice in my life have I not read a book completely from cover to cover. The first was The Idiot by Dostoevsky – I was too young and didn’t understand it. The second – Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Again, I was probably too young, although I found it boring and repetitive. Now there is a third entry on my list.

John-Williams-Waterhouse-ArtistbrThe-Decameron
Artist John Williams Waterhouse-Artist The Decameron

The Decameron, written in the fourteenth century by Italian literary master Giovanni Boccaccio, is a collection of one hundred stores, some comic, some tragic, some brutally violent, many sprinkled with eroticism, told over a ten-day period by a group of wealthy Florentines who have self-exiled in a castle to avoid the ravages of the plague. While the common people suffer and die, these aristocrats, along with their servants and maids, sing and dance, feast on the best food, drink the best wine, and amuse themselves with stories. It is a surreal environment and an early example of the noble one percent living lavishly while the ninety-nine percent struggle.

Perhaps “noble” is the wrong word – many of the stories the aristocrats tell and enjoy to the fullest seem depraved by today’s standards. Women are objects to be stolen and ravaged. Men are lusting brutes. In an extreme example, the seventh story on Day Two, a young, beautiful girl is abducted and sexually assaulted repeatedly by several different men. Yet, despite the initial pain and humiliation, she supposedly “became so happy that her beauty flourished”. By the story’s end, she had “lain with eight men maybe ten thousand times”.

Even children are not immune from the risk of barbarity. After two young unmarried lovers have a child, the families, claiming extreme humiliation, want to “take that little boy…and smash his head against a wall and throw him out for the dogs to eat”. The lovers were sentenced to death, “to be burnt alive , as they richly deserved”. Ultimately honour is restored before any of this can happen. The child and his parents are saved, the story ends happily, and the nobles celebrate with food and drink and dance once again.

Manuscript of the Decameron
Manuscript of the Decameron

Throughout Decameron, deception abounds. Husbands cheat on their wives, wives cheat on their husbands, and the potential ramifications of their behaviour don’t seem to matter. When an illicit liaison is successful, the story ends with “May God grant us the same enjoyment”. The belief is that “there is no shame or loss of honour unless the fault is evident”. Even the clergy are “almost all engaged in the sin of lust”. When the abbot of a monastery becomes aroused by a peasant girl, he tricks her into meeting with him so he can fulfill his desires. He “placed her on top of him and, for a long time he sported with her”. Once satisfied, he could go back to running hs church and praising his God.

Day six, story six. With my mind filled with more than enough debauchery, I closed Decameron for good. It may be considered a classic, it has definitely been influential for generations, but my life will not be any more enriched by trudging through four more days of twisted tales.

About this Author

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian author and poet, a friend and correspondent of Petrarch, and an important Renaissance humanist in his own right and author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular. Boccaccio is particularly notable for his dialogue, of which it has been said that it surpasses in verisimilitude that of just about all of his contemporaries, since they were medieval writers and often followed formulaic models for character and plot.


CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe – Bill Bryson

GUEST POST – SURLY JOE

“There is something about the momentum of travel that makes you want to just keep moving, to never stop.” ― Bill Bryson, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe      

NHNT

SYNOPSIS (From Goodreads) – Bill Bryson’s first travel book, The Lost Continent, was unanimously acclaimed as one of the funniest books in years. In Neither Here nor There he brings his unique brand of humour to bear on Europe as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet, and journeys from Hammerfest, the northernmost town on the continent, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. Fluent in, oh, at least one language, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before.

Whether braving the homicidal motorist of Paris, being robbed by gypsies in Florence, attempting not to order tripe and eyeballs in a German restaurant, window-shopping in the sex shops of the Reeperbahn or disputing his hotel bill in Copenhagen, Bryson takes in the sights, dissects the culture and illuminates each place and person with his hilariously caustic observations. He even goes to Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is a German-speaking, 25km-long principality between Austria and Switzerland. It’s known for its medieval castles, alpine chalets and villages linked by a network of trails. The capital, Vaduz, a cultural and economic center, is home to the Kunstmuseum, a sleek museum displaying modern and contemporary art.
Liechtenstein is a German-speaking, 25km-long principality between Austria and Switzerland. It’s known for its medieval castles, alpine chalets and villages linked by a network of trails. The capital, Vaduz, a cultural and economic center, is home to the Kunstmuseum, a sleek museum displaying modern and contemporary art.

REVIEW

I love Neither Here Nor There.  I loved it when I first read it twenty years ago when my experience of solo travel was in its infancy and I loved it when I re-read it two weeks ago, with my experience of solo travel now mostly relegated to dusty memories and buried journals.

In 1972, Bill Bryson did what millions of other freshly-graduated young adults did and still do – he stuffed clothes into a backpack and left home for Europe to wander around, see new sights, gain new knowledge and do some chemically-induced stupid things.  When he landed in Luxembourg and hitchhiked to Belgium, he was immediately “smitten”.  He was “at large in a perfect world”.   For four months, he traveled, “lost in a private astonishment”.

belgium-pin-map

Twenty years later, after living in England for over a decade, Bryson, now an author, decided to retrace his early steps and rediscover the continent he loved and the feelings of exhilaration and trepidation that solo travel brings.  Arriving first in northern Norway, Bryson slowly made his way south.  Over the next few months, he wandered through France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the rest of the continent, loving and occasionally hating the feeling of being “hopelessly unfamiliar with everything”.

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Italy, commanding a long Mediterranean coastline, has left a powerful mark on Western culture and cuisine. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance treasures such as Michelangelo’s “David” and its leather and paper artisans; Venice, the sinking city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.

Neither Here Nor There is the hilarious, sarcastic and very honest recollection of his tour.  He describes the “pleasantly pointless days wandering around”, the “necessarily aimless” evening strolls, and the “hermetic slobbiness” that can result from weeks of being a solo traveler.  He both praises and criticizes bluntly.  Bruges is “deeply endlessly gorgeous” but Cologne is “a dismal place” and Brussels is “seriously ugly” and “full of wet litter”.

Bruges, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium

But as I read, a new realization slowly began to simmer.  Not only is Neither Here Nor There a travelogue, it has also transformed into a historical document of the early 1990’s and a description of what now seems prehistoric.  Bryson’s journey is pre-GPS, without email, without Google, without Smartphones.  If he wanted directions to the next town, it meant unfolding a map the size of a tablecloth or reading Let’s Go or Fodor’s, the guidebooks of the times.  To buy dinner in France or Switzerland, he needed francs, in Italy, the currency was lira.  No such thing as Euros back then.  And Yugoslavia as a country doesn’t even exist anymore.

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Even the humour seems somewhat outdated in our ultra politically-correct present. I both laughed and cringed at his cultural generalizations.  Is it proper to say that “Germans are flummoxed by humour, the Swiss have no concept of fun” and are “desperately dull”?  Or that “Italians are entirely without any commitment to order”?  Statements made honestly at the time, perhaps, but still statements from another era.

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Neither Here Nor There is back on my shelf again, where it will probably stay unopened for another twenty years.  The humour, the currencies and the national boundaries may have changed, but my overriding thought when I closed the book was the same now as it was then.  Heading to the airport with a one-way ticket to anywhere seems like a really good idea.

“Traveling is more fun– hell, life is more fun–if you can treat it as a series of impulses.” ― Bill Bryson, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe      

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

billbryson_1724978cBill Bryson’s bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Neither Here Nor There and Notes from a Small Island, which in a national poll was voted the book that best represents Britain. His acclaimed book on the history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Royal Society’s Aventis Prize as well as the Descartes Prize, the European Union’s highest literary award.

Bryson has written books on language, on Shakespeare, and on his own childhood in the hilarious memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. His last critically lauded bestsellers were on history – At Home: a Short History of Private Life, and One Summer: America 1927.

A_Walk_in_the_Woods_PosterAnother travel book, A Walk in the Woods, has now become a major film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. Bryson’s new book, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island comes out in Autumn 2015.
Bill Bryson was born in the American Mid-West, and is now living back in the UK. A former Chancellor of Durham University, he was President of Campaign to Protect Rural England for five years, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.


 

CK

In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

 

 

 

A Night of Serious Drinking – René Daumal GUEST POST

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe


  • ANSDTitle: A Night of Serious Drinking
  • Author: René Daumal
  • ISBN: 0715632752 (ISBN13: 9780715632758)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: May 2004 by Gerald Duckworth & Company, Ltd. (first published 1938)
  • Genre/s: 20th Century Literature/Philosophy

SYNOPSIS – (From Goodreads) A Night of Serious Drinking is among Rene Daumal’s most important literary works. Like Daumal’s Mount Analogue it is a classic work of symbolic fiction. An unnamed narrator spends an evening getting drunk with a group of friends.; as the party becomes intoxicated and exuberant, the narrator embarks on a journey that ranges from seeming paradises to the depths of pure hell. The fantastic world depicted in A Night of Serious Drinking is actually the ordinary world turned upside down. The characters are called the Anthographers, Fabricators of useless objects, Scienters, Nibblists, Clarificators, and other absurd titles. Yet the inhabitants of these strange realms are only too familiar: scientists dissecting an animal in their laboratory, a wise man surrounded by his devotees, politicians, poets expounding their rhetoric. These characters perform hilarious antics and intellectual games, which they see as serious attempts to find meaning and freedom.

REVIEW

This is going to be easy, I thought.  It’s a short book, less than one hundred and twenty pages.  It’s got a great title – A Night of Serious Drinking.  Sounds amusing, probably a bit comical.  I’ll read it in a few days, think about it for a couple more, then pound out a review and maybe celebrate with a drink or two of my own.

Don’t be so quick to judge, the book said back.  Just because I’m a small book, don’t assume.  You have no idea what you’re in for.  First of all, my author, Rene Daumal, who wrote me in 1938, was completely anti-establishment, a poet, a philosopher and a bit drug-addled.  Probably on the thin edge between genius and lunacy.  So don’t expect anything linear or basic.  Second, despite my amusing title, I’m way more complicated than you realize.  Sure I appear to have on a superficial level, a tale of a twenty-four hour alcoholic binge, where a group of very drunk people discuss all kinds of topics in a very drunk way, where nothing makes sense but everyone thinks they’re spewing brilliance.  That’s the point of Part One, “A laboured dialogue on the power of words and the frailty of thought”.

But when I get into Part Two – “Delusions of paradise” – this is where the satire and the drunken hallucinations begin, the indecipherable scenarios and the made-up words, the strange guided tour to the top of a hill with a view of  “palaces in every style, stations, lighthouses, temples, factories, and miscellaneous monuments”.  This is where the Fidgeters and Fabricators and Clarificators live, through whom I critique modern society.  Sure we’re in an age of progress, but so much is meaningless.  We have all kinds of material goods that are loved by the masses, “who worship them without having any idea why”.  We have artists and cinema and dance.  It’s all “the art of making useless gestures”.   We have education, where kids learn everything they need to know through books without ever having to actually experience anything.  We have religion, with churches being nothing more than “holy water factories”, where, as you read, the people “were carrying out rites without understanding them, others were explaining rites without performing them”.  Do you see what I mean about the complications of this book?  It’s like looking at a painting by Dali.  If you stare long enough, the clock dripping off the table might just start to make sense.  But then it won’t.

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And then it’s over.  The epic binge is over.  After all the philosophizing, the dreaming, the hallucinations, real life commences.  As the narrator states, “There were many things to be done towards the business of living”.  Part Three is the final part.  It is the painful post-drunk emergence into “The cold light of day”.

1933-Rene-Magritte-The-Human-Condition
The Human Condition – Rene Magritte (1931)

Was I worth it?  The short hundred and twenty pages that you underestimated and assumed would be quick and simple and probably didn’t understand?  Read me again and find out.  Just like a surrealist painting, I’ll probably be totally different the second time around.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

RDRené Daumal was a French spiritual surrealist writer and poet. He was born in Boulzicourt, Ardennes, France.

In his late teens his avant-garde poetry was published in France’s leading journals, and in his early twenties, although courted by André Breton co-founded, as a counter to Surrealism and Dada, a literary journal, “Le Grand Jeu” with three friends, collectively known as the Simplists, including poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte . He is known best in the U.S. for two novels A Night of Serious Drinking and the allegorical novel Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing both based upon his friendship with Alexander de Salzmann, a pupil of G. I. Gurdjieff.

Daumal was self-taught in the Sanskrit language and translated some of the Tripitaka Buddhist canon into the French language, as well as translating the literature of the Japanese Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki into French.

He married Vera Milanova, the former wife of the poet Hendrik Kramer; after Daumal’s death, she married the landscape architect Russell Page.

Daumal’s sudden and premature death of tuberculosis on 21 May 1944 in Paris may have been hastened by youthful experiments with drugs and psychoactive chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride. He died leaving his novel Mount Analogue unfinished, having worked on it until the day of his death.


 

CK

In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

Death on the Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster of 1914 – Cassie Brown GUEST REVIEW

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe


DOTI

 

  • Title: Death on the Ice: the Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster of 1914
  • Author: Cassie Brown
  • ISBN: 0385685068 (ISBN13: 9780385685061)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: March 3rd 2015 by Anchor Canada (first published January 1st 1972)
  • Genre/s: Non-fiction/History

SYNOPSIS – (From Goodreads) Each year, for generations, poor, ill-clad Newfoundland fishermen sailed out “to the ice” to hunt seals in the hope of a few pennies in wages from the prosperous merchants of St. John’s. The year 1914 witnessed the worst in the long line of tragedies that were part of their harsh way of life.
For two long days and nights a party of seal hunters—132 men—were left stranded on an ice-field floating in the North Atlantic in winter. They were thinly dressed, with almost no food, and with no hope of shelter against the snow or the constant, bitter winds. To survive they had to keep moving, always moving. Those who lay down to rest died.
This is an incredible story of bungling and greed, of suffering and heroism. With the aid of compelling, contemporary photographs, the book paints an unforgettable portrait of the bloody
trade of seal hunting among the ice-fields when ships—and men—were expendable.

 REVIEW

In the cafe where I prefer to read and write, there are three possible problems that I can face. One – my coffee will be too cool. Two – the people sitting near me will be obnoxious or, at the least, too loud. Or three – the place will be full and I will have to skulk away dejectedly. Obviously these are the minimalist of trifles, but if I’m not careful, I can slide into my first-worldliness and be annoyed.

Death On The Ice, written in 1972 by Newfoundland author Cassie Brown, is the perfect slap-in-the-face reminder not to take our comparatively peaceful life for granted. In the 19th and early 20h century, the Newfoundland seal hunt was easily one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. Every winter, crews of usually poor, small-town men would sign up for the hunt and venture out into the icy sea. By 1850, in a season that only lasted a few weeks, half a million seals could be killed. The ship owners and pelt merchants made a fortune and became Newfoundland’s aristocracy. The sealers averaged $29. The risk was atrocious. Between 1863 and 1900, forty-one out of fifty wooden ships were lost at sea. Not until 1913 was a law passed that guaranteed the sealers “decent food, full-time cooks, and other crumbs of civilization”. Still, there was so little food that they had to eat melted snow and raw seal hearts to survive.

In the winter of 1914, the Newfoundland, a forty-two year-old wooden ship with a new young captain, joined the fleet and sailed out into the “constantly moving, splitting, wheeling, cracking, roaring, jagged mass of ice”. At the first sight of seals, the hunters left the ship. It was the beginning of the end. When a blizzard of “apocalyptic fury” hit, the men got lost on the ice. For two days and nights, they wandered blindly, trying to keep their minds occupied by singing, dancing, pretending to fish. Several times, they were close to rescue, with other ships less than a mile away, but the storm was so bad that they could not be seen and the ships sailed away obliviously. With hope shattered, some men gave up and walked purposefully into the sea to die. The majority of the one hundred and thirty-two man crew did not survive. It was the worst tragedy the industry had ever experienced. Disgustingly, even before the final body count was tallied, some ship owners were demanding that the hunt continue.

Injured Sealer, 4 April 1914
Injured Sealer, 4 April 1914

Based on court documents, archival newspaper articles, and witness testimony from the fifty-two survivors, Death On The Ice is a gripping re-telling of a largely unknown tragic episode outside of Newfoundland, where the book has actually been required reading in schools. But it is more than just a historical account and classic Canadiana. It is also another example of the haves versus the have-nots, where the poor are seen as expendable, and where the greed of the powerful few can snuff out the lives of the desperate many. The document is historical. The underlying themes are timeless.

Sealers-742x494
Home from the Sea – Sealers Memorial in Elliston

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

cassie-eileen-brownCassie Brown was born in Rose Blanche, but moved to St. John’s with her family in the 1930s. She began writing as a teenager and later worked as a freelance writer of scripts and educational broadcasts for CBC.

From 1959 to 1966, she was a reporter for The Daily News. During this time she also published and edited the magazine Newfoundland Women (1961- 1964). Cassie retired from The Daily News to work on her book Death on the Ice (1972), a gripping account of the 1914 sealing disaster and a work that established her as an author. Her other works include: A Winter’s Tale (1976) and Standing into Danger (1979).

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

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Future Crimes by Marc Goodman – GUEST POST REVIEW

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe


 Lud·dite

noun
a member of any of the bands of English workers who destroyed machinery, especially in cotton and woolen mills, that they believed was threatening their jobs (1811–16).
– a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology.
“a small-minded Luddite resisting progress”

  • futurecrimes_bookshot2Title: Future Crimes, Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It
  • Author: Marc Goodman
  • ISBN: 0385539002 (ISBN13: 9780385539005)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: Published February 24th 2015 by Doubleday
  • Genre/s: Non-fiction/Science Technology

SYNOPSIS – (From GoodreadsTechnological advances have benefited our world in immeasurable ways, but there is an ominous flip side. Criminals are often the earliest, and most innovative, adopters of technology, and modern times have led to modern crimes. Today’s criminals are stealing identities, draining online bank accounts, and erasing computer servers. It’s disturbingly easy to activate baby monitors to spy on families, to hack pacemakers to deliver a lethal jolt of electricity, and to analyze a person’s social media activity to determine the best time for a home invasion.

Meanwhile, 3D printers produce AK-47s, terrorists can download the recipe for the Ebola virus, and drug cartels are building drones. This is just the beginning of a tsunami of technological threats. In Future Crimes, Marc Goodman rips opens his database of hundreds of real cases to give readers front-row access to these impending perils. Reading like a sci-fi thriller, but based in startling fact, Future Crimes raises tough questions about the expanding role of technology in our lives. The book is a call to action for better security measures worldwide, but most importantly it will empower readers to protect themselves against looming technological threats before it’s too late.

REVIEW

“There is a gathering storm before us. The technological bedrock on which we are building the future of humanity is deeply unstable and like a house of cards can come crashing down at any moment. It’s time to build greater resiliency into our global information grid in order to avoid a colossal system crash. If we are to survive the progress offered by our technologies and enjoy their abundant bounty, we must first develop adaptive mechanisms of security that can match or exceed the exponential pace of the threats before us. There’s no time to lose.”
― Marc Goodman, Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It

If you are a Luddite, if you are a technophobe, then reading Future Crimes will further convince you that you’re right. Stay away from technology as much as possible – it will ultimately destroy you. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, Future Crimes will further convince you that you’re right too. Technology and its masters are watching and manipulating your every move, privacy is nonexistent, you cannot escape.

In just under four hundred well-researched, albeit somewhat repetitive pages, security expert and former FBI and Interpol official Marc Goodman explores his thesis: “currently in our world there is no such thing as trustworthy computing”. If it is connected, it is vulnerable. Despite the fact that he calls himself “irrationally optimistic”, he claims that “a horde of emerging threats…will be here much more quickly than anticipated”, coming from hackers, cyber-criminals and terrorists, and the examples he provides are staggering. Facebook has supposedly admitted that more than 600,000 of their accounts are compromised daily. McAfee claims that “82% of Android apps track your online activities”. A study by Verizon concluded that hackers are successful 75% of the time, usually within minutes. And it doesn’t seem to be too difficult. In 2013, personal data from 110 million Target customers was stolen, “apparently masterminded by a seventeen year-old Russian”.

Making the situation worse, according to Goodman, is that we are easy targets, oblivious to the threats around us. Facebook may be a victim of daily hacking, but, at the same time, they seem to also have their own dark side, evidenced by their Terms of Service which gives them the right “to turn on your mobile phone’s camera at any time without your consent”. The internet, with all its “free” services, is only free because every search we do, every website we visit, is tracked, saved, documented, and then the data is sold to brokers and marketers. And the internet we know isn’t the only internet. It’s just the public one. Deep in the digital underground is the “Dark Web”, only accessible through software that hides identity. It is supposedly “five-hundred times larger than the surface Web, unreachable by search engines like Google and Yahoo”. This is where terrorists and criminals go to source anything and everything illicit. Recently, a “dark” site called Silk Road was identified and shut down by the FBI. It was essentially an Amazon for criminality, peddling weapons, child pornography, hit-men and drugs and earning millions of dollars per year.

Only after 350 pages does Future Crimes begin to hint at Goodman’s “irrational optimism”. It’s not very encouraging. We can combat the potential impending doom. Be smart, change your passwords frequently, don’t open files you don’t recognize, encourage governments to spend more on cyber security, turn your devices off when you don’t need them. In other words, it appears it’s up to us to make the best of it. So when the machines take over and the energy and water grids are hacked and there’s no way to get money out of the ATM’s, I’m choosing to keep my pen and paper. I may be hungry and cold and poor, but at least I’ll be able to write about it.

About the Author

MG

Marc Goodman is a global strategist, author and consultant focused on the disruptive impact of advancing technologies on security, business andinternational affairs. Over the past twenty years, he has built his expertise in next generation security threats such as cyber crime, cyber terrorism and information warfare working with organizations such as Interpol, the United Nations, NATO, the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Government. Marc frequently advises industry leaders, security executives and global policy makers on transnational cyber risk and intelligence and has operated in nearly seventy countries around the world.

In addition, Marc founded the Future Crimes Institute to inspire and educate others on the security and risk implications of newly emerging technologies. Marc also serves as the Global Security Advisor and Chair for Policy and Law at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, a NASA and Google sponsored educational venture dedicated to using advanced science and technology to address humanity’s grand challenges. Marc’s current areas of research include the security implications of exponential technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, the social data revolution, synthetic biology, virtual worlds, genomics, ubiquitous computing and location-based services.

WEBSITE

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.