https://bobostory.wordpress.com List

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    3 hours ago
  • Greetings, from Home Sweet Hole ‘N the Rock - [image: Greetings, from Home Sweet Hole ‘N the Rock] We interrupt your life above ground for some unsolicited subterranean splendour. It’s just a quick pi...
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  • Video: The Rate and Mass of Growth - [event starts at 2:00] In this lecture, David Harvey offers a close reading of Volume III of Karl Marx’s Capital to distinguish the rate of growth versus ...
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    2 months ago
  • 畧說《承教小記》和《豐子愷漫畫選繹》的版本 - 《承教小記》版本 跟書友談起小思《承教小記》的版本,我見過三種,封面都不同: 明 … 繼續閱讀 →
    5 months ago
  • 畧說《承教小記》和《豐子愷漫畫選繹》的版本 - *《承教小記》版本* 跟書友談起小思《承教小記》的版本,我見過三種,封面都不同: 明川出版社1983年7月初版 華漢文化1986年2月增訂再版 華漢文化1990年3月第三版 書友覺得明川版最難找,但這個版本我倒不時見到,可能大家都識貨,覺得珍貴,沒有隨便棄掉,就仍有流傳。 現在坊間常見的,是華漢三版以後...
    5 months ago
  • 財富之城──威尼斯 - 剛讀完Roger Crowley(羅傑.克勞利)有關威尼斯共和國歷史的著作: City of Fortune: How Venice Won & Lost a Naval Empire (財富之城──威尼斯怎樣嬴取及失去其海上帝國)(台版:《財富之城──威尼斯共和國的海洋霸權》),作為我近年來閱讀地中海和威尼...
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  • Tarot (塔羅與靈修) - 古老的符號系統一般都有兩種用途:占卜與靈修 。在功利的社會裏,占卜必然成為大部分人學習它們的主因。然而,若你能用靈修的系統去默觀它們,你可能會發現更偉大的真理。 舉例,在每天的星座運程底下,埋藏著一個人的成長過程:從天真的嬰孩白羊、勤勉的學生金牛、闖蕩的青年雙子、成家的母性巨蟹、領導的父性獅子、思考的智者處女、...
    9 months ago
  • 杭寧遊記 - 我的藏書裡有二部古籍和西湖相關,一是《御覽西湖志纂》,一是《西湖志》。
    1 year ago
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  • 釐清香港議員取消資格案的法律概念:又名「跳出跳入打我呀笨蛋」然後被打 - 好多人真的不懂法律又要講法律。又有好多人以為只有香港才會有「人大釋法」。任何一個 … 繼續閱讀 →
    2 years ago
  • 照顧與創作 - 月前為谷淑美的攝影詩文集《流光.時黑》做了中文部分的編輯工作,實在因為是一種唇亡齒寒感。谷淑美的書,是關於她照顧年老患病的母親,過程中進而對母親生命、自己生命的發掘,轉化為攝影與文字創作。自己進入中年,身體開始變差,也進一步想到將來要照顧家人的責任,暗暗畏懼其龐大。於是,也就想通過進入谷淑美的歷程,讓自己學...
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  • - 暗夜小巴像搖骰,我們每個橫切面都刻了字,不知我們在終站會變成甚麼。或者是上帝,或者是狗。或者倒轉的日歷。紙張一天一天倒著依附,雨中有人望過來問:為甚麼不可以?聽到問題的人,心裡又虛又慌,因為撇除了時日的制裁,也沒有多麼費力。耗費也是不足夠的。如果真的有努力過的話,根本不會站在這裡。喂,他其實一早...
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  • 《別字》試刊號第二期出版﹗ - 立即下載:《別字》試刊號第二期 《字花》的網上純創作誌《別字》登場了! 「別字」一名,既有別冊之意,更寄望透過網上平台,另闢傳播門徑,開拓閱讀體驗。 暫定三個欄目,「透光」的作品從自由投稿中特別挑選,「有時」配合《字花》徵稿或另設新題,「極限」則專載萬字長篇。 試刊號第二期,以PDF形式呈現,供各位下載...
    2 years ago
  • 酒足飯飽。酣然入夢——江戶子的老派追求 - 東京適合散步。出了名的散步文士,堪稱達人者有二:二次大戰前,搞不定老婆,不想吵,遂攜著一把蝙蝠傘,四處趴趴走的永井荷風;戰後,老婆、老母擺得一平二穩,隨身帶著幾張江戶古地圖,這邊那邊亂亂踅的池波正太郎。 *正港的江戶子* 池波是正港的「江戶子」,淺草出身,愛玩愛熱鬧愛美食。父母親很早離異,跟著...
    3 years ago
  • 乌托邦遗迹 - [image: uploads/201510/18_114414_s1.1973peterderret.jpg] [水瓶节,宁宾,1973年。摄影:Peter Derret] 乌托邦遗迹 欧宁 宁宾(Nimbin)是澳大利亚新南威尔士东北部山区的一个小镇,因1973年举办水瓶节(Aquarius Fes...
    4 years ago
  • 「馬拉松 看世界」專頁 向世界馬拉松出發 - 如無意外,本周日我應該身在三藩巿,跑今年第五個外國比賽,也是人生第三十個馬拉松比賽(廿九個在香港以外)。雖然Blog有好一段日子沒有update,但跑步仍是繼續下去,這兩年尤其多,也去了俄羅斯、澳洲這些新國家、新大陸跑,是另一個飛躍期。 這些年的跑馬路上,有幸認識一些志同道合、見識廣博、洞察力強、對比賽有要...
    4 years ago
  • 自由路艱:再思肖友懷事件 - 文:野莩遣返或特赦肖友懷,無絕對之可不可行,但決定時當先考慮法理依據,而非道德情懷。我曾就此事詢問一位在入境處工作的朋友,她的答覆非常簡單:「1. 依法當遣返事主;2. 父母非港人,事主不能申請單程證;3. 除了酌情,事主無其他留港途徑。」那麼酌情先例會為制度開漏洞嗎?「Personally speaking...
    4 years ago
  • 烏蘭巴托的夜 - 《烏蘭巴托的夜》是首蒙古歌曲。蒙古的作曲家寫的,賈樟柯重新填了詞,左小祖咒改編,電影《世界》插曲(湖南台的字幕打錯了)。左小原版的就好聽,他少有的比較「正經」地演唱。譚版也不錯,大氣,聲情並茂。 左小改編演唱的《烏蘭巴托的夜》 賈樟柯電影片斷(趙濤演唱) 蒙古族樂隊杭蓋的版本 烏蘭巴托的夜 作詞:賈樟...
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  • 莉娜骑士在盘子上 - 1874年12月25日,一个女孩诞生在罗马北部小城维泰博的贫民窟,迷信说,这一天诞生的人有特别的命运,父母为她取名“娜塔莉娜”(Natalina ),因为“natale”是意大利语里的“圣诞节”。12 岁开始,她当过卖花姑娘、包装女工,生活虽然贫寒,好在她天赋歌喉,每天从早唱到晚。邻居一个音乐教师给她上...
    4 years ago
  • 欲望的事故 - 欲望的事故 顾文豪 特里林在《知性乃道德职责》一书中引述亚里士多德关于悲剧的定义,认为悲剧的主人公具有某种程度的、可进行自由选择的可能性,他“必须通过自己的道德状况来为自己的命运进行辩解”,而其道德状况并非十全十... *博客大巴,你的个人传媒早班车*
    5 years ago
  • 給《明報》 - 一口答應寫一篇給《明報》,箇中心情,猶如「償還」。 明明我沒有欠這報甚麼,稿債沒有,瓜葛沒有。 都是人情吧。多老套。 這些年來,跟《明報》的這些年來,救命,怎麼細數。 第一次認真寫稿刊登,已是2003年的事了。正是馬家輝博士邀請,給世紀版寫一篇關於「網上飄流的香港家書」。(私人回憶:先生有份跟我寫的。)一年過...
    5 years ago
  • 那一身華美的曲線 - [image: 那一身華美的曲線] 她就站在落地窗邊,回眸對我笑了笑。我沒說話,什麼話都不想說。能說什麼呢?在她的笑容裏早就透露了對我些微的輕視:你總歸只能沈默吧!她似乎視我的沈默為一種必然的結果,像是看透我的一切。其實,我想了想,和她也不過就一面之緣。甚至在之後的好長一段時間再見到她,她根本就不記得我。自然,要...
    6 years ago
  • 召喚 新春秋 - 召喚 新春秋 諸劍仙現身, 草草一刀 頓首
    6 years ago
  • 偶然的發現 - 很久沒在facebook上看到湯正川的post,早上偶然看到他與另一DJ的對談,發現這首歌,先放上來,待電腦回復正常,再仔細欣賞。
    6 years ago
  • 汪曾祺佚文:黑罂粟花——李贺歌诗编读后 - *黑罂粟花——李贺歌诗编读后* *汪曾祺* * 下午六点钟,有些人心里是黄昏,有些人眼前是夕阳。金霞,紫霭,珠灰色淹没远山近水,夜当真来了,夜是黑的。 有唐一代,是中国历史上最豪华的日子,每个人都年轻,充满生命力量,境遇又多优裕,所以他们做的事几乎全是从前此后人所不能做的,从政府机构、社会秩...
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  • - *Chapeau...!*Cock your hat - angles are attitudes (Sinatra) By Heinz Decker Hats seem to stimulate the imagination; maybe because they are a prolongatio...
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  • 閱讀讓我質疑制度 - [本訪問稿乃〈不可能所有的真實都出現在你的攝影機前──賈樟柯、杜海濱訪談〉的第一部份。訪問稿全文網上版見以下網頁: http://leftfilm.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/jiaduinterview1/ http://leftfilm.wordpress.com/2012/07/17...
    7 years ago
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    7 years ago
  • 當世界留下二行詩 宣傳BV - 當世界留下二行詩瓦歷斯.諾幹Walis.Nokan本書以極簡的形式,現代詩行的排列,挑戰詩藝和語境的實驗風格觀察視角從台灣的土地與家園,擴及到族群、社會乃至世界的關懷。動情至深,引發共鳴,為作者近年來最新創意力作!短短的二行詩,宛如「芥子納須彌」激起無限想像空間,是一本趣意盎然、值得珍藏的現代詩集。向陽、李...
    7 years ago
  • 【读品】2011年第六期(总110辑) - 编辑手记 十六日成为我每一个月的终结与开始,这会产生一种错觉,好像每一期【读品】的诞生都在遥远且神秘地呼应着月亮与潮汐的关系。久而久之,时间不再是均质的,也不机械,而是紧密依附于自然的节奏,循环往复。我有时浑然不知星期中每天的意义,只知每月时间节点迫近,因为生物钟已早于理智做出判断:让所有...
    8 years ago
  • V城系列明信片 - 圖:by 智海 and 楊智恆
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  • 诗歌是飞行术,散文是步兵 - *诗歌是飞行术,散文是步兵顾文豪* *刊于《南方都市报——阅读周刊》2009年10月11日* 在众多优秀诗人看来,散文不是适合他们展露才思表陈感情的文体,偶然为之,亦不过如布罗茨基所说的是一种“以其他方式延续的诗歌”。他还有另一个比喻———诗歌是飞行术,散文则是步兵。 是的,诗人兴许能在...
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  • 《般若波罗蜜多心经》印存 - 《般若波罗蜜多心经》印存 般若波罗蜜多心经 35*35*138mm 薄意山水巴林红丝冻石 观自在菩萨 26*35*80mm 貔貅钮巴林黄冻石 行深般若波罗蜜多时 30*38*90mm 貔貅钮巴林冻石 照见五蕴皆空 33*33*114mm 螭钮巴林黄彩石 度一切苦厄 25*2...
    11 years ago

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

拍西西
6
2015 年 03 月 28 日作者: 吳世寧
西西連在鏡頭前朗讀自己的文字也不大願意。陳果便決定「製造事情」…把當中兩隻小熊化為「真人」,讓其中一隻在渡輪上與西西「相遇」,西西好不驚訝,好奇的伸手撫摸這個忽然變大、由自己親手創造的熊公仔…
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在陳果拍攝西西的紀錄片《我城》裏,在一班學者作家的訪問片段之外——是戴着一頂紅色帽子的西西,有時談天說地,有時只是腼腆的笑;這個曾以充滿靈氣和期盼的文字影響無數文人的作家,已年逾七十,行走在喧鬧老區或陳舊小店之中,似乎不知如何自處,帶點不合時宜的困窘。本來只讀過一本西西小說的陳果,應台灣「在島嶼寫作」系列之邀拍攝西西,愈拍愈有感發現新大陸﹕「我真的對西西佩服得五體投地。」他又意外發現兩人原來有着不少共同處,比如說對我城的情感。
不過陳果執意把「我城」拉闊,把主題改成「我們的城」﹕「因為這除了是西西的城,也是我的城。」他說。

上年採訪過陳果談紅Van,還記得他滿懷自信的侃侃而談;今次他踏入不算熟悉的文學疆域,為台灣「他們在島嶼寫作」的系列拍攝香港作家西西,大導氣勢頓減——似乎在紀錄片拍攝的主體面前,不得不謙卑。紀錄片《我城》以西西的代表作《我城》切入,借一眾學者作家之口表現西西作品的時代意義;又以西西的日常生活影像,以及童話般的魔幻場景淡出淡入,陳果希望交出的,是一部香港我城的近代史。拍攝緣由是這樣的——台灣的「他們在島嶼寫作」打算開拍第二輯,便邀請陳果拍攝西西。陳果看過第一輯的「他們在島嶼寫作」後很喜歡,於是便忙不迭的答應。「我以前只看過西西的一本小說。因為這個機緣我便重看她的作品,看過後有發現新大陸的感覺!香港竟然有這樣的一個作家,默默耕耘,一直寫嚴肅文學。從她的作品中,我們也能看到香港由七十年代到現在的發展,讀到香港切身的變化。」陳果說。
 西西的沉靜與冷笑話
西西的《我城》以童趣筆觸寫出百業待興的七十年代,年輕人的樂觀活力;但《像我這樣的一個女子》裏任職遺體化妝師的女子灰沉絕望,對愛情不言憧憬。陳果接觸過西西本人後,也發現兩者的並存﹕「西西好沉靜,是孤獨的,不太跟人講話。但她有時幾活潑幽默,講很多冷笑話。」訪問過西西幾次,她對着鏡頭說的話也就愈來愈少,不願再談自己的作品。陳果無奈的笑道﹕「這點我都明白。有時有人問我我是怎樣拍電影的,我也不知如何回答。有時創作未必是出自本來的構思,而是當時一下的感覺,一時的衝動。」創作人拍攝創作人,自然有心神領會的地方。有趣的是,陳果與西西看似風馬牛不相及,但陳果在拍攝過程中發現不少共通處——他們皆從內地移民到港;西西年輕時曾幫龍剛導演寫劇本,而陳果還是文藝青年時,也曾「差一點」被拉到邵氏當編劇;還有,他們都對此城有着一份深厚之情。《我城》還加入了西西年輕時把新聞片段剪輯、配上音樂的《新聞系》實驗片片段,見證西西曾經的電影狂熱。
 「跣佢一鑊」 見西西童心
西西素來行事低調,所以面對鏡頭時愈來愈寡言,也不算教人意外。但陳果慌了﹕「紀錄片就是要有嘢發生才好看。偏偏我們無嘢發生……」後來,西西連在鏡頭前朗讀自己的文字也不大願意。陳果便決定「製造事情」,拍攝西西自然流露的反應。西西患病後,為訓練雙手而縫製布偶小熊。她珍愛每一隻小熊,並為他們創造性格及故事,寫成《縫熊志》一書。陳果的攝製隊便把當中兩隻小熊化為「真人」,讓其中一隻在渡輪上與西西「相遇」,西西好不驚訝,好奇的伸手撫摸這個忽然變大、由自己親手創造的熊公仔。作家雖年逾七十,但真璞童心在此刻表露無遺。「我們特意『跣佢一鑊』的……西西的反應和感情好真,所以我們重看這一幕時也很感動。」陳果說。電影中的魔幻場景不止於此——兩隻熊公仔還會帶大家逛土瓜灣,以精細模型表現舊香港城景等。有人告訴他,紀錄片不應這樣拍的,但陳果聳聳肩,笑說﹕「你就當我不知者不罪吧。但是西西好活潑,像個頑童。我覺得要有不一樣的拍法,才可表現她這一點。」

 重遊土瓜灣 到老照相館留影
陳果在訪問說了好幾遍,「為什麼一定是『我城』,不可以是『我們的城』?」他發現,就如西西的作品從我城到浮城,由肥土鎮移至美麗大廈,所書寫的都是她所愛的香港;所以當他拍攝西西時,他不應只講西西的文學,也應拍攝這座城市的變遷以至變異,以及他自己對香港的情感。就如陳果一向的電影,「地方」在《我城》裏何等重要——許迪鏘和鄭樹森分別在果欄和牛棚裏談西西;陳果也帶西西到老舊照相館內拍照,回到居住多年的土瓜灣美利大廈,並走到陽光燦爛的南生圍。「我希望大家能通過我的鏡頭去感受我的香港。其實我拍這些地方,是因為我希望通過影像去保留它們,留下記憶。」但是邪門的是,陳果拍完照相館,照相館就閉門了;拍攝結幕一場的一家餐廳不久也轉了手。讓人心痛的是,西西住了大半生的社區,也成了內地客購物和集合上船觀光的地方,新開了珠寶店及朱古力禮品店。想到低調愛靜的西西每次回去居所,都得從穿越熙攘的人群和高舉着旗子的臂膀,就感到心痛。猶記得西西的《我城》裏,香港人紛紛走到山頭接濟偷渡來港的內地人,今天香港就頓變成天天上演資源爭奪及文化矛盾的戰場。「台灣那邊看了粗剪,說分不清哪些是陸客,哪些是香港人。所以我就補拍許多領隊高舉着旗子的畫面,哈哈……其實真的好慘,好騷擾,這也是香港人當下面對的問題。」陳果無奈的說。

陳果請來模型達人砌出舊香港城景,又置西西figure於其中,豐富影片內容。(相片由香港國際電影節提供
西西不肯多談自己作品,陳果花心思哄她﹕「起碼這一場你一定要講點什麼,因為我們把你小說的世界都帶入來了。」這幕如何演繹,在此暫不劇透。但他們就選擇問了西西一條關於愛情的問題。在這裏,我們發現,原來《像我這樣的一個女子》 真有其人,是西西確實認識的人;又知道,西西認為「對於愛情,是否喜歡了那事物、那個人,就不會改變?」鏡頭隨而淡出,西西變得愈來愈小,外面的城區景物也就愈來愈豐富;到底這是從西西身上所看到的投射,或是這是被城市景象所包圍的西西,也就說不清了。
編輯/蔡曉彤
美術/SIUKI
文:吳世寧
圖﹕陳淑安、香港國際電影節
原文載於明報副刊

新亞書店──舊書業傳承 2015/3/30


新亞書店
新亞書店
一個黃昏,收到新亞書店蘇賡哲先生的電話,說是看見之前的來信邀約訪問,非常樂意受訪,語調溫和愉悅。聲音裏滲透著滿滿一股暖流,就像跟熟悉又親切的長輩聊天。
這年頭,每每與陌生人聊天,心裏總戰戰競競。比方說邀約訪問,剛欲說明來意,對方總板起臉回覆,所有事情節奏必須明快簡潔,而我慢性子、話語冗長,渴望對方臉上能綻開小小一朵微笑。街上亦往往缺少那麼一點親和力,逛街,見路人攜重物需要幫助,經過者無一幫忙,我寧願停下來先伸出援手,何樂而不為?
蘇先生的親切,為我帶來久違的感動。說來愧疚,頭一回踏足新亞書店,竟是訪問之時。吾生也晚,對於香港的舊書業只略聞一二,從小看的華文書亦甚少,鮮有動機踏進古書店。新亞書店,1968 年開業,原址旺角洗衣街,從地下搬遷至高層單位多次,愈搬愈高,後遷到現址旺角好望角大廈,該樓宇為香港教育專業人員協會會址,經常有教師出入(至於是否常客,則不得而之)。
舊書店是甚麼?
六十年代蘇先生入行時,香港有很多舊書店,當時舊書店分兩種,一為門市,另為閉門營業,只做舊書外銷生意的,大大小小合共超過二百間。七十年代,中國發生文化大革命,將內地的書籍全面禁制,沒有再出版、外銷,民間許多書籍亦銷毀,全世界研究中國問題的學者,要買中國書,便要來香港或台灣 ,所以當時舊書業非常蓬勃。後來革命過了,中國學術界繼續印刷新書,舊書貨源愈來愈少,「到現在幾乎只剩下我們一家。」蘇先生說。
我問了個很愚蠢的問題:「那麼八十年代呢?當時大學閱讀風氣茂盛,讀書會、風氣自由、學術研究遍地開花,看舊書的人多嗎?」
蘇先生稍頓,嘴角微微揚起,笑道:「假若追溯三十年代,會買書的人多數是買舊書,魯迅也偏看古人寫的書啊。舊書店與新書店不同,售賣由盤古開天地到現在都會出現的書,品種比新書店更多,是兩種不同的行業。」
殊不知,古書業繁榮,街道書店櫛次鄰比,並不代表閱讀風氣旺盛。「很多舊書店客人並非有目的地找書,而是有廣泛興趣,當然他們有指定範圍,例如想買古典文學書,來到書店,見到合適的便買。」
「逛舊書店,跟女性去百貨公司買時裝的心理一樣,作為生活中的節目,並非刻意要買某件衣服。總之走著、找著、試著,便是娛樂,買下那件衣服,用途是甚麼並不重要。很多女性買了整屋子的衣衫,往往只穿其中幾件,就是這種心理。很多來舊書店的人都一樣,買了整屋子的書,其實都沒看過,一百本入面只看一本,我們再去買他的書,連膠袋也沒有拆開。」
「那買書只為裝飾家居麼?」
「裝飾他的心理吧,自己擁有很多書,其實最大樂趣並非家裏放那麼多書,而是逛書店的感覺,到付錢買書的時候,這場戲便完結。」
舊書好比古董,是故淘書的人,都稱為收藏家,而非讀書。古書的價值在於金錢上,與文字所承載之價值概成對比。「舊書價值往往與內容的價值無直接關係,只是一種心頭好、心癮吧。」
「是投機心態嗎?」
「絕對是。有些書升值好快,例如董橋在 2003 年出版的《小風景》,初版外形呈四四方方,當時應該價值一百元一本,事隔十多年,該批初版書現在要千多元一本,而且陸續有新版印刷,內容一模一樣,只是裝訂、封面等不同。」
「不過,初版書對真正愛心閱讀的讀者來說未必好,再版往往有增訂、內容補充,但對書籍收藏家來說便最好。例如金庸小說,以前薄薄一本的,當然最值錢,後來明河社於 1978 年出版的首版金庸小說,價值便比後來印刷的高出幾十倍。」
新亞書店蘇先生
新亞書店蘇先生
你喜歡看書嗎?
蘇先生一生與文字結緣,於珠海書院文學歷史系畢業後便開了書店,一段日子後,再度回歸珠海書院研究所,留在學校教書。1992 年到加拿大生活,同時亦寫報紙專欄、擔任電台播音員。
「你喜歡看書嗎?」
沒有得到預料中的熱切書癡回覆,蘇先生是淡淡然的回覆:「因工作需要,實際上要看很多書。教書是有關隋唐以後文學史,也看時事、人文科學、社會性的,為加拿大的報紙寫專欄,每日寫,三十多年了。」
我驚訝慨嘆,想起自己小時決心每天寫日記,結果不了了之。「你也非常有恆心啊!」
「其實是種責任感,好多人沒有機會發聲,自己有機會,為甚麼不發聲?」
泰然自若的對話,閱讀恍若生命中內化了的一部分,是最自然不過的事。
他說當然享受看書,因為自己的好奇心很重,而書本蘊含無窮無盡的知識與想法。「我可能是全世界看最多書的人吧,甚麼時候都看書,甚至一邊刷牙一邊看書。」語畢一片歡聲笑語,他性格中的幽默,即使初次見面,言辭間非常輕鬆愉快,令我放下心頭。
為甚麼開書店?
讀書時候,蘇先生已接觸閱讀不少書本,熟悉行業行情。當時於寫字樓打工,薪資很少,躍躍欲試開書店。有老行尊(註:行業中有多年經驗的老前輩)經過,見他坐著賣書,便搖頭嘆息說道:「這麼年青在賣舊書,多浪費啊, 年青人應該有其他作為。」
他說,若以老一輩營運書店的方-每日開鋪,等待別人拿書來賣,有人要賣書,便放上架;有人要買便買,這當然非常簡單。然而大材怎能小用?他自覺可有一套做法,當時只有一個人顧店,但他每天均會全港九逛一遍,主動尋找貨源。他亦認識崇基學院前院長沈宣仁博士,通過他找到美國的基金會,向書購買書,轉送給中國大陸,那筆營業額巨大。當時文革結束,中國大陸較開放,需要書本流入,卻缺乏金錢,故接受外界送書。
除此之外,他於台北擺過書攤,於加拿大多倫多也開辦懷鄉書房,並在新亞書店辦拍賣會,業務多樣化。「任何行業,可以墨守成規,別人怎麼做便照做,也可以自己想辦法。」
譬如他曾經與已故政治家司徒華先生合辦新書店,於 1976 年買下旺角西洋菜南街銀城廣場單位,1980 年書店關門、物業轉手。二百萬買下的空間,四百萬賣出,現在價值二億六千萬,見證著此區樓價經年來的暴漲。
「買賣物業也是種方式,不是坐在這裏,死固固等人拿書來,總之要想辦法,讓書店經營下去。」
談起旺角單位的租金與商鋪面貌變遷,我好奇問道:「那麼從前的旺角街道多是甚麼店鋪?」
蘇先生沒直接回答,反而從洗衣街說起。新亞書店原址為洗衣街地下鋪位,賣出時值二百多萬,到書店搬來現址時,市建局買下該單位,價格已接近一億。
然而「五十年代初期,樓下單位平過樓上,你知道為甚麼嗎?」
我與同行朋友胡亂想出幾個原因,都不對。「當時全棟樓宇單位都是住宅。地下單位有很多缺點,諸如潮濕、雨天水浸、嘈雜,故人們寧可住樓上,地下單位租金相對便宜。」
竟然如此。現在旺角街鋪可昂貴了,也變成連鎖企業的兵家必爭之地。
「有人打電話來找我,不知道怎麼來,說自己站在周大福金行門口,我回答,你別說周大福吧,整條街數十間周大福,怎知道你在哪一間?那人又說,我見到百老匯電器店,我說也不行啊,太多了,你找間(規模)較細的店鋪名字,豈料也找不到。以前這裏有家銀龍餐廳,現在也搬到樓上了。我說,那不如你講樓上的店鋪名字,一味講連鎖店也沒用啊。」
新亞書店內部
新亞書店內部
經營書店有何樂趣?
聽過一些傳承百年祖業的前輩,他們也到外地升學、居住。那六十年代海外留學風行嗎?「當時去外國是很艱難的,主要是沒錢,當時的人普遍收入微薄,我還記得,1976 年書店聘請店員,月薪不過六百元。當時很多人嚮往開書店,大勢所趨,但你知道,賣書這行,沒甚麼前途,甚至有很多人想法浪漫,打算畢業後開家書店,有茶、咖啡喝,有點心吃,聚集大班文人聊天,其實不切實際。」
話雖這麼說,對蘇先生而言,「經營書店有它的樂趣,每天醒來,不知道會收到甚麼書,有未知數,比較沒那麼規律。」
城市與書店關係
有人說過,一個城市的文明程度,不是看硬件建築,而是看有沒有舊書店。城市內,假若很多人喜歡買舊書,文化氣息較濃厚,像日本東京神田區,古書店遍佈整區。「從前於香港,中上環、半山區這類早期發展的地方,有很多舊書店,並非那裏的人較富有,而是那邊的文化累積較深厚,你在新興的工業區
便找不到。」
據他所述,上環最後一間舊書店,是在電影《胭脂扣》出現的康記舊書,後來出現的書攤書店,都只賣仿古董,即大陸工藝品。
客源
來新亞書店的人大多熟客。「就算搬到地下單位,幾十萬租金,也只有這班客人。那些在街上逛的人,不會買這些書,別說付錢買了,即使你捧一疊書,每人送一本,他們經過垃圾桶都隨手丟掉。」
為甚麼?
「有個藏書家,寫了本書關於一系列書評,叫做《書話冊》,移民時家裏還有五十本,打電話叫書店行家來拿走。行家走到半路,覺得書太重,丟了一半在路上,豈料後來賣千多元一本。書籍的價值,很多人都不知道。」他說,舊書業面對的最大問題並非人客多少,反而是貨源,大部分二手買賣行業也有個問題。
--
新亞書店
地址:旺角西洋菜街南5號好望角大廈1606室
電話:(852) 2395-1022
營業時間:(週一至日)12:00 - 20:00
主要經營:古籍善本 | 二手中文書籍 | 珍本拍賣
開業年份:1968 年

Monday, March 30, 2015

Download 422 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art


You could pay $118 on Amazon for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s catalog The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. Or you could pay $0 to download it at MetPublications, the site offering “five decades of Met Museum publications on art history available to read, download, and/or search for free.” If that strikes you as an obvious choice, prepare to spend some serious time browsing MetPublications’ collection of free art books and catalogs.
You may remember that we featured the site a few years ago, back when it offered 397 whole books free for the reading, including American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885–1915; Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomical Drawings from the Royal Library; and Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of ArtBut the Met has kept adding to their digital trove since then, and, as a result, you can now find there no fewer than 422 art catalogs and other books besides. Those sit alongside the400,000 free art images the museum put online last year.
So have a look at MetPublications’ current collection and you’ll find you now have unlimited access to such lush as well as artistically, culturally, and historically varied volumes as African IvoriesChess: East and West, Past and PresentModern Design in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1890–1990; Vincent Van Gogh: The DrawingsFrench Art Deco; or even a guide to the museum itself (vintage 1972).
Since I haven’t yet turned to art collection — I suppose you need money for that — these books don’t necessarily make me covet the vast sweep of artworks they depict and contextualize. But they do make me wish for something even less probable: a time machine so I could go back and see all these exhibits firsthand.
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700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Umberto Eco’s How To Write a Thesis: A Witty, Irreverent & Highly Practical Guide Now Out in English

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Image by Università Reggio Calabria, released under a C BY-SA 3.0 license.
In general, the how-to book—whether on beekeeping, piano-playing, or wilderness survival—is a dubious object, always running the risk of boring readers into despairing apathy or hopelessly perplexing them with complexity. Instructional books abound, but few succeed in their mission of imparting theoretical wisdom or keen, practical skill. The best few I’ve encountered in my various roles have mostly done the former. In my days as an educator, I found abstract, discursive books like Robert Scholes’ Textual Power or poet and teacher Marie Ponsot’s lyrical Beat Not the Poor Deskinfinitely more salutary than more down-to-earth books on the art of teaching. As a sometime writer of fiction, I’ve found Milan Kundera’s idiosyncratic The Art of the Novel—a book that might have been titled The Art of Kundera—a great deal more inspiring than any number of other well-meaning MFA-lite publications. And as a self-taught audio engineer, I’ve found a book called Zen and the Art of Mixing—a classic of the genre, even shorter on technical specifications than its namesake is on motorcycle maintenance—better than any other dense, diagram-filled manual.
How I wish, then, that as a onetime (longtime) grad student, I had had access to the English translation, just published this month, of Umberto Eco’s How to Write a Thesis, a guide to the production of scholarly work worth the name by the highly celebrated Italian novelist and intellectual. Written originally in Italian in 1977, before Eco’s name was well-known for such works of fiction as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum,How to Write Thesis is appropriately described by MIT Press as reading: “like a novel”: “opinionated… frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious.” For example, in the second part of his introduction, after a rather dry definition of the academic “thesis,” Eco dissuades a certain type of possible reader from his book, those students “who areforced to write a thesis so that they may graduate quickly and obtain the career advancement that originally motivated their university enrollment.” These students, he writes, some of whom “may be as old as 40” (gasp), “will ask for instructions on how to write a thesis in a month.” To them, he recommends two pieces of advice, in full knowledge that both are clearly “illegal”:
(a) Invest a reasonable amount of money in having a thesis written by a second party. (b) Copy a thesis that was written a few years prior for another institution. (It is better not to copy a book currently in print, even if it was written in a foreign language. If the professor is even minimally informed on the topic, he will be aware of the book’s existence.
Eco goes on to say that “even plagiarizing a thesis requires an intelligent research effort,” a caveat, I suppose, for those too thoughtless or lazy even to put the required effort into academic dishonesty.
Instead, he writes for “students who want to do rigorous work” and “want to write a thesis that will provide a certain intellectual satisfaction.” Eco doesn’t allow for the fact that these groups may not be mutually exclusive, but no matter. His style is loose and conversational, and the unseriousness of his dogmatic assertions belies the liberating tenor of his advice. For all of the fun Eco has discussing the whys and wherefores of academic writing, he also dispenses a wealth of practical hows, making his book a rarity among the small pool of readable How-tos. For example, Eco offers us “Four Obvious Rules for Choosing a Thesis Topic,” the very bedrock of a doctoral (or masters) project, on which said project truly stands or falls:
1. The topic should reflect your previous studies and experience. It should be related to your completed courses; your other research; and your political, cultural, or religious experience.
2. The necessary sources should be materially accessible. You should be near enough to the sources for convenient access, and you should have the permission you need to access them.
3. The necessary sources should be manageable. In other words, you should have the ability, experience, and background knowledge needed to understand the sources.
4. You should have some experience with the methodological framework that you will use in the thesis. For example, if your thesis topic requires you to analyze a Bach violin sonata, you should be versed in music theory and analysis.
Having suffered the throes of proposing, then actually writing, an academic thesis, I can say without reservation that, unlike Eco’s encouragement to plagiarism, these four rules are not only helpful, but necessary, and not nearly as obvious as they appear. Eco goes on in the following chapter, “Choosing the Topic,” to present many examples, general and specific, of how this is so.
Much of the remainder of Eco’s book—though written in as lively a style and shot through with witticisms and profundity—is gravely outdated in its minute descriptions of research methods and formatting and style guides. This is pre-internet, and technology has—sadly in many cases—made redundant much of the footwork he discusses. That said, his startling takes on such topics as “Must You Read Books?,” “Academic Humility,” “The Audience,” and “How to Write” again offer indispensable ways of thinking about scholarly work that one generally arrives at only, if at all, at the completion of a long, painful, and mostly bewildering course of writing and research.
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

馬國明:幫襯獨立書店,香港人份內事

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曙光書店創辦人 馬國明
曙光書店創辦人 馬國明
這陣子,走進三大中資書局(三聯、商務、中華),總不期然地心頭一顫。
一本又一本的「反佔中」書籍,被擺在舖面最當眼的地方,讀者自然湊近去,低頭翻揭。同一時間,在別的書店熱賣的傘運書籍,卻被藏於不起眼的角落,而且只有區區數本。
難怪不少人瞠目結舌,(第一萬次)明知故問:「香港言論自由是否要死了?」
「一早都是這樣啦!」
在書店行業打滾多年的馬國明說。
談起中資書店的意識形態,他想起的,反而是一件發生於一九七四年的事。
當年,三聯書店位於中環的總店剛剛開業。那時剛入大學的馬國明,慕名到訪。踏進舖面,眼前畫面令他「大開眼界」。
整間三聯書店賣的,清一色,都是共產黨的文件。
咁都得?
馬國明先點點頭。「所以你話意識形態呢……」後換上一張嚴肅的臉。「一早都是這樣啦!我們不要太 naive,要認清楚共產黨的面目。」
「千祈不要被它呃到!」

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香港獨立書店地圖

2015/3/11 — 13:12

「這種手法,小書店怎能學?」
談書店,馬國明是最適合人選。
一九八四年,他在灣仔開了「曙光圖書中心」。此後廿年,書店的大小事務,無論是選書、訂書、買書,還是搬書,他都親力親為,全部一腳踢。有別於其他書店,曙光專賣英文學術書籍,書架上是「後殖民理論」、「性別研究」、「後結構理論」等分類標示。多年來馬老闆的悉心經營,造就曙光成為香港知識分子的啟蒙基地(梁文道語)。
直至二零零六年,他的身體和書店都熬不住,曙光一去,頓成黃昏。
曙光結業,原因有很多。除了馬國明的健康問題,公認的原因,還有「時移世易」。互聯網興起後,大家要買外國學術書,毋需再捱兩層樓梯,甚至不用出門 — 只要按幾下滑鼠,簇新的包裹自會抵達府上。
伴隨時代而來的,還有大書店的擴張。馬國明記得,灣仔的三聯開張前,曙光和隔鄰的青文書屋,每天中午,都有二三十個客人上來。但大書店開業後,他們就開始門庭冷落。馬老闆深入「敵陣」觀察,卻為店員把暢銷書堆成小山的舉動而驚訝。
「這種手法小書店怎能學?」
當然,獨立書店的困境,不止於此。跟連鎖式經營的大書店相比,他們欠缺的,不單是堆疊書山的空間,又或是貼近地面的舖位。更重要的,是「牙力」。
跟出版社討價還價的牙力。
香港的書店向出版社入貨,成本通常是書價的六五折。大書店有財有勢,自然可以壓價,用更低的價錢入貨,譬如是「六五九扣」,「即是六五折外再加九折啦。」至於賣不出的,大書店又會退回出版社,「如果你不收,我咪以後不入你的書囉。你實要屈服的。」做法,在業內運行已久。
只是對小書店來說,這些既是常規,又是劣勢。跟大書局相比,它們沒甚牙力(只得付足批發價),而且面積小,顧客少,選書、入貨,都要格外謹慎。為了減低風險,不用囤積賣不出去的書,小書店會採用「寄賣」的方式入貨,成本較高(通常為訂價七折),但起碼可以全數退回。
問題好像解決了,對不?
馬國明耍手擰頭。「但你要將它打包封起,然後叫人來收書,人家又不會立刻來。你可以想像,如果所有書都要咁做,嘩,你有做多幾多嘢?」過程極其繁瑣。「就算包好哂,啲書可以擺哪裡呢?你間書局有幾大啫!」每間小書店,每天都面對類似的煩惱。
而當煩惱逐日膨脹,就會形成惡性循環。「資金全落在賣不去的書上面,資金周轉就有問題。你找不到數,人家就不會將書供應給你,你就無新書啦。細書局來來去去都是那班客人之嘛,咁你無新書,就連客都會無埋。」馬國明慨嘆,這麼多年來,獨立書店的死因,其實來來去去,都差不多。
他的心血結晶也是。早在曙光結業前幾年,馬老闆開始察覺到,書店的新面孔都不見了,就只剩下一班老主顧,以及慢慢原封不動的書,「已經意識到我這間書局已經玩完。」
所以對於小書店,馬國明的結論是:「如果你當是一門生意來做,絕對不划算。只是你自己的興趣,自己的志願呀,先至會開書局。」
一言蔽之,就是艱苦經營。
身兼《讀書好》總編輯鄺頴萱早前接受《南華早報》訪問,談香港中小企出版商的困境。(資料圖片:讀書好Facebook專頁)
身兼《讀書好》總編輯鄺頴萱早前接受《南華早報》訪問,談香港中小企出版商的困境。(資料圖片:讀書好Facebook專頁)
「這種壟斷先犀利」
不過,大書局壟斷市場,小書店艱苦經營,這恐怕已是老生常談。於在商言商的香港,這場「大小之爭」,既不能逆轉,亦無可辯駁。大書局有財團撐腰,有錢有位有牙力,佔據上風,根本順理成章,又有什麼可投訴呢?難不成所有連鎖店都要關門大吉以維持生態平衡嗎?
在香港地,這種質疑,很普遍。
馬國明不同意這種說法。在他眼中,像聯合出版集體旗下的大書店,除了壟斷市場(佔有率約為七成),還主宰了整條書本的生產線。「總之關於書的出版、發行、零售,他們都有做。乜都佢做哂,這種壟斷先犀利。」譬如說,由於三、中、商各有自己的出版,其門市必首先推銷自己的書,以及集團其他成員的書,至於其他出版社的,則排在隊尾。
出版社可以另闢蹊徑嗎?又不能忽視這些中資書店佔據七成市場的事實,只得在商言商。終於,垂直式的集團壟斷,既主導了書籍的市場,又干擾了知識的生產。
甚至是讀者腦袋的意識形態。
佔領運動結束後,大批相關書籍如雨後春筍,陸續出版。當中有的打正旗號,於封面印刷雨傘,一起的撐,也有的閃爍其詞,用「透視」、「啟示」等中性字眼,包裝對佔領運動的一句句狠辣批評。
三聯、中華、商務這三家聯合出版集團旗下的書店,把「反佔中」書本放在最當眼的位置,封面有雨傘的,就被丟到角落、上架,甚至被退回。顯然,這些中資書店在放大某種意識形態。
許多香港人為此驚訝。但馬國明,卻絲毫不感意外。
「你知共產黨一向最重視意識形態架啦。這些東西,他睇得好緊。」
將聯合旗下的書店跟共產黨扯上關係,絕非含血噴人。事實上,集團的創辦人、剛於去年離世的藍真,就是根正苗紅的左派。連《人民日報》的報道也一早寫明,藍真加入了中國共產黨,「把共產黨員的信仰追求、『力謀改造社會』的理想抱負與手中的出版工作緊緊聯繫起來。」集團的政治立場,一早昭然若揭。
早在一九七四、七五年,當時剛入大學的馬國明,已有深刻體會。當時文革未結束,四人幫未倒台。馬國明慕名到訪開業不久的三聯中環總店,一踏進舖面,立即「打咗個突」。「你知中環間舖幾大吓啦,它成間舖頭,清一色只是賣共產黨他們的文件!」馬國明語畢,大笑了足足幾秒。
還要是可以被公開的文件。「如果是秘密文件就正啦!你預咩人買啫?他們就是不計成本囉,純粹做意識形態的宣傳。」現在回想,仍然有如親歷其境。「那次我真的大開眼界呀,竟有這樣的書店!」
四十年前已是這樣,那今日力銷「反佔中」書,其實也不算什麼創舉了吧。
《「佔中」透視》被放置在書店進門第一張「豬肉枱」正中央
《「佔中」透視》被放置在書店進門第一張「豬肉枱」正中央
「沒了三中商,情況也一樣」
但原來中間有過轉折。
前三聯總編輯李昕於藍真悼文集憶述,一九七九年,時任國務院港澳辦主任廖承志請藍真到家裡作客,期間談到中資書店的路向,提出「立足香港,依靠大陸,面向世界,溝通台灣。」於是八十年代,聯合旗下的書店放棄了單純的意識形態路線,改為商業主導,「盡量當是一盤生意來做,這個可能也是配合國內的政策啦。」當時,共產黨正在搞改革開放。
商業主導下,中資書店開始賣各類型書籍,香港的,台灣的。
今天回看,這絕對是聰明之舉。「因為香港的生意佬呢,無人對書這盤咁冷門的生意有興趣,有錢佬一是搞地產,一是搞金融。書,眼尾也不會瞥一眼啦。」因此,三中商經過八、九十年代的商業化運作後,變得財雄勢大,領導市場。
這段時期的中資書店重商業,輕意識,但這不代表書店就此放棄審查。「譬如《許家屯回憶錄》,他們不賣架嘛,這個不是秘密啦!」
至九七回歸後,中資書店的零售業務急速擴張。回歸時,三中商合共只有十七間門市,十七年後,這數字,變成了五十一間。「特別是商務,好多分店都是九七之後開。」這種擴張的趨勢,可以說是「服務各區讀者」,又可以是「另有政治任務」,見仁見智。
馬國明沒否認中資書店的貢獻,「為讀者來說,沒了它們呢,的確是損失。」畢竟,遍地開花的書店,確實令普羅百姓更容易接觸書本。
在共產黨明確開動意識機器的當下,他甚至認為,沒有三中商,情況可能沒大分別。「就算香港的商人有興趣做書,九七之後他們的做法可能同三中商沒甚分別。」就像傳媒,也是逐步被收編。「有誰會跟它撼啫?就像誠品,都打算返大陸開咯,咁……它同三中商無分別架咋。」
所以說到底,還是幕後黑手的問題。
「我們不要太 naive,要明白、認清楚共產黨的面目,別以為大陸跟以前很不同。」馬國明喝了半口水,然後義正詞嚴。「一句講哂就是,你千祈不要被它呃到!大陸給你的,無好嘢。就像現在講政改之嘛,人大決議落三閘,你仲話袋住先?大佬,唔該你啦! 你認清楚共產黨的面目啦!」
為何到回歸十多年,中資書店的機器才真正發動引掣?馬國明想了幾秒,分析道:「唔知啦,可能他們當了這個是敵我矛盾囉。」尤其當佔領運動反映人民思潮。「從共產黨立場來說,真的驚架喎,他們不嬲最重視的,就是意識形態。所以現在咪搞咁多嘢囉。」
「都是那句,共產黨始終就是共產黨囉。」
四十年前馬國明踏足三聯中環店如是。四十年後我們走入中資書店,也如是。
***
馬國明說,在龐大的國家機器下,情況已經不可逆轉。那麼,在瞠目結舌以外,我們還有何選擇?
馬老闆怪我明知故問。
「咁你唔幫襯三中商,幫襯獨立書店,梗係要咁做啦,一早應該啦!這個是你份內可以做到的嘛!」
曙光一去,化成黃昏。但長夜過後,曙光也許重現 — 只要我們不再明知故問。
或曰明知故犯。

文/亞裹

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

THE INHUMAN ANTHROPOCENE


Recently, a study appeared in the journal Nature proposing a previously unsuggested start date for the Anthropocene: 1610 CE. It may seem, at first, a strange year to choose. It doesn’t have any obvious connection to the events we usually think of as tied to climate change, nor to the “great acceleration” that began in the mid-20th century. Still, 1610 has a lot to recommend it. As Simon L. Lewis and Mark A Maslin, the climate scientists who authored the proposal, comprehend it, it holds the potential to reorient the way we think about the Anthropocene, to help reconcile the quest for dramatic change in environmental policy with ongoing movements for social justice.
Most people reading this will, I think, have heard of the Anthropocene by now; indeed, given the extensive reporting on the concept, the Anthropocene may have greater name recognition than the Holocene, the geological epoch in which we officially still live. But in case you’ve missed it, “Anthropocene” is the proposed stratigraphic name for a new slice of geological time, an epoch made distinct by significant, measurable human impact on the earth and its climate.
ChronostratChart2012
2012 Chronostratigraphic Chart
Stratigraphy organizes the vast geological timescale according to significant and demonstrable changes to the planetary system, so the Anthropocene proposal—formally tendered in 2008—is no casual matter: if it happens, it will be a new recognition that humans have changed not only the earth’s climate, but the earth itself. The International Committee on Stratigraphy, the group that oversees the divisions recognized in the International Geologic Time Scale, has formed a committee to consider the question, and hopes to decide the issue by next year.
“Holocene,” the name for the epoch in which we officially still live, was adopted in 1885, a half-century after Charles Lyell’s demarcation of the “Recent” epoch by the end of the last Ice Age, some 11,500 years ago. Holocene means “wholly recent,” so the decision to bring this epoch to an end would mark the present as a peculiar time, after the recent, a time out of time in more than one sense. The move to recognize the Anthropocene is, in effect, a move to double the present, to see it from the perspective of another moment as well as our own. But what we can see from that doubled place depends on where we locate that other moment.
There are numerous contestants for the Anthropocene’s “Golden Spike,” or Global Boundary Stratosphere Section and Point (GSSP), the site that marks a recognized division in the geological timescale by pinpointing the planetary material that justifies the divide. The earliest would place the start date between six and eleven thousand years ago, based on the adoption and spread of agriculture, since the land-clearing it required necessarily altered the earth’s atmosphere.
But this would be tantamount to saying that the Anthropocene is equivalent to human life as we know it; by linking climate change to something we cannot imagine undoing—very few people are advocating a return to hunter-gatherer status—it would effectively remove any political energy the term might have. And the Anthropocene is, at base, a political strategy, notwithstanding its scientific verifiability; its intent is not simply to carve humanity’s name upon the stratigraphic map (humans, after all, invented the map in the first place), but to raise awareness of the negative planetary impact of certain human activities, with the intent of altering or mitigating them.
Plastic Rocks
Plastic Rocks
Other proposed GSSP sites include Holocene ice cores that reveal rises in methane and carbon dioxide around the late eighteenth century, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when fossil fuels began to be widely used, with increasingly devastating effects on atmospheric carbon; highly-leaded soils affected by mining and the use of leaded gasoline; the apparent creation of a new form of rock out of plastic, which marks the mid-to-late 20th century as a moment when human garbage took on a geological life of its own; and radio-isotopes detectable in the planetary rock record which record the detonation of nuclear bombs.
1610, the date proposed by Lewis and Maslin, who hold positions in Climatology and Global Change Science in the Geography Department at University College of London, works a little differently. It was chosen because it was the lowest point in a decades-long decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide, measurable by traces found in Artic ice cores. The change in the atmosphere, Lewis and Maslin deduced, was caused by the death of over 50 million indigenous residents of the Americas in the first century after European contact, the result of “exposure to diseases carried by Europeans, plus war, enslavement and famine” (Nature175).
The destruction of the indigenous population (leaving only an estimated 6 million survivors on both northern and southern American continents by the mid-17th century) meant a significant decline in farming, fire-burning and other human activities affecting atmospheric carbon levels. Lewis and Maslin point to other geologically significant aspects of Euro-American contact as well, including the transfer of plant and animal species between Europe and the Americas, leading to a significant loss of biodiversity and acceleration of species extinction rates. From this view, the Anthropocene develops alongside the global pathways of modernity. Lewis and Maslin term this proposal the “Orbis hypothesis,” from the Latin for “globe.”
Lewis and Maslin’s proposal is compelling because it is, as far as I know, the first proposal for an Anthropocene “golden spike” to recognize genocide as part of the cause of epochal division. Geologists have long known that European settlement was accompanied by a dramatic upsurge in extinction rates. Charles Lyell, in the second volume of his foundationalPrinciples of Geology (1832), justified this as simply in the natural order of things:
“[T]he annihilation of a multitude of species has already been effected, and will continue to go on hereafter….as the colonies of highly-civilized nations spread themselves over unoccupied [] lands…Yet, if we wield the sword of extermination as we advance, we have no reason to repine at the havoc committed, nor to fancy with the Scotch poet that we ‘violate the social union of nature’….We have only to reflect, that in thus obtaining possession of the earth by conquest, and defending our acquisitions by force, we exercise no exclusive prerogative. Every species which has spread itself from a small point over a wide area must, in like manner, have marked its progress by the dimunition or the entire extirpation of some other…”
Lyell’s depiction of the devastating consequences of European conquest as just another natural cycle is belied by contemporary climate scientists’ recognition of its lasting effects as an ongoing unnatural disaster.
Lewis and Maslin identify the two factors most often cited in Anthropocene discussions—the anthropogenic change in atmospheric carbon levels and the homogenization of planetary biota—as an apres-coup to the event we know as “1492.” Numerous cosmologies hold that the Earth will remember acts of intra-human violence, that the planet itself will testify to the brutality humans have inflicted upon members of their own species. With the Orbis hypothesis, climate science may be counted among them.
For some, the Anthropocene debates seem irrelevant: does it matter where in the past geologists decide to place a golden spike, when such urgent questions remain about our future? But the liveliness of the discussion reflects the explanatory promise of the Anthropocene concept: it is a debate over what kind of story can and should be told about human impact on the planet. The claim is often made that climate change is simply too big to see—that it is what eco-critic Timothy Morton terms a hyperobject, something that cannot be realized in any specific instance. The Anthropocene offers climate change not just periodicity but narrativity. And like any well-told story, it relies upon conscious plotting and the manipulation of feeling.
Some insist that we are naming this story incorrectly—that “Anthropocene” obscures vital social and historical facts that must be addressed in any proposed solution. “Humans” as a whole are not responsible for causing the mess we are currently in, nor are they perpetuating it at equal rates. Naming the crisis after the species, they argue, hides the social, not geological, histories of exploitation (of humans and “nature” alike) at the root of the problem. It’s unlikely that we will find a single word that can accurately convey these histories (Jason Moore’s “Capitalocene” falls short on aesthetic grounds, though Jussi Parikka’s “Anthrobscene,” indexing the profound wastefulness of contemporary capitalism, may come closer.) Still, the Anthropocene story needs to find ways of communicating them, of refusing to generalize or naturalize the consequences of the past few centuries.
Photo Credit: Sea Change Radio
Photo Credit: Sea Change Radio
The Orbis hypothesis, in this respect, succeeds better than others, though it remains limited by standards of scientific verifiability. (What kind of geological trace, for instance, might inscribe the concurrent history of the Atlantic slave trade, also central to the dynamics and the devastation of “contact”?) And indeed, the desire to make the Anthropocene’s start date conform to established stratigraphic convention seems to be pushing the ICS’s Anthropocene Working Group toward the mid-20th century, based on the dawn of the nuclear age, which, according to the group’s chair, Jan Zalasiewicz, left the first truly global and indelible marks in the planetary rock record. Lewis and Maslin’s report names the mid-20th century as a second option, though as they point out, the two origins have different implications: 1610 is broader, pointing to “colonialism, global trade and coal,” while the nuclear-age Anthropocene highlights an “elite-driven technological development” capable of laying waste to the planet almost instantaneously (Nature 177).
In both cases, the Anthropocene story takes as its origin not simply human indifference to nature, but human disregard for other human lives. But the latter frame is too narrow, pointing toward abstractions like “elites” and “technology” instead of the histories of global striation that follow 1492. Sylvia Wynter, in a brilliant account of the 1492 event, identifies it as the start date for a cognitive process that parallels, in some ways, the homogenizing effect on planetary life that Lewis and Maslin note. It is, she contends, the beginning of the global dissemination of a specifically Western idea of humanism that posits itself as universal but endlessly defers the truly universal distribution of the benefits it confers, one that legitimates and covers over the violence, racial, colonial and otherwise, done in its name.
The aftermath of 1492, Wynter shows, is the spread of a humanism that has failed much of humanity, a failure to which even the Artic ice cores can bear witness, and that in doing so has deeply damaged the planet as well: an inhuman humanism. The contradiction that some have seen in the name of the proposed epoch—that the “Anthropocene” was not brought about by all members of the species it names—is precisely the problem it is now up to us to solve.

Dana Luciano: Rocks and Ghosts

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Books Samuel Beckett Read and Really Liked (1941-1956)

becket list 1
Samuel Beckett, Pic, 1″ by Roger Pic. Via Wikimedia Commons
Clad in a black turtleneck and with a shock of white hair, Samuel Beckett was a gaunt, gloomy high priest of modernism. After the 1955 premiere of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot (watch him stage a performance here), Kenneth Tynan quipped, ”It has no plot, no climax, no denouement; no beginning, no middle and no end.” From there, Beckett’s work only got more austere, bleak and despairing. His 1969 play Breath, for instance, runs just a minute long and features just the sound of breathing.
An intensely private man, he managed to mesmerize the public even as he turned away from the limelight. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1969, his wife Suzanne, fearing the onslaught of fame that the award would bring, decried it as a “catastrophe.”
A recently published collection of his letters from 1941-1956, the period leading up to his international success with his play Waiting for Godot, casts some light on at least one corner of the man’s private life – what books were piling up on his bed stand. Below is an annotated list of what he was reading during that time. Not surprisingly, he really dug Albert Camus’s The Stranger. “Try and read it,” he writes. “I think it is important.” He dismisses Agatha Christie’s Crooked House as “very tired Christie” but praises Around the World in 80 Days, “It is lively stuff.” But the book he reserves the most praise for is J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. “I liked it very much indeed, more than anything for a long time.”
You can see the full list below. It was originally published online byCambridge University Press in 2011. Books with an asterisk next to the title can be found in our collection of 700 Free eBooks.
Andromaque* by Jean Racine: “I read Andromaque again with greater admiration than ever and I think more understanding, at least more understanding of the chances of the theatre today.”
Around the World in 80 Days* by Jules Verne: “It is lively stuff.”
The Castle by Franz Kafka: “I felt at home, too much so – perhaps that is what stopped me from reading on. Case closed there and then.”
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: “I liked it very much indeed, more than anything for a long time.”
Crooked House by Agatha Christie: “very tired Christie”
Effi Briest* by Theodor Fontane: “I read it for the fourth time the other day with the same old tears in the same old places.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame* by Victor Hugo
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Lautreamont and Sade by Maurice Blanchot: “Some excellent ideas, or rather starting-points for ideas, and a fair bit of verbiage, to be read quickly, not as a translator does. What emerges from it though is a truly gigantic Sade, jealous of Satan and of his eternal torments, and confronting nature more than with humankind.”
Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux
Mosquitoes by William Faulkner: “with a preface by Queneau that would make an ostrich puke”
The Stranger by Albert Camus: “Try and read it, I think it is important.”
The Temptation to Exist by Emil Cioran: “Great stuff here and there. Must reread his first.”
La 628-E8* by Octave Mirbeau: “Damned good piece of work.”
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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.