Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the news....

In response to my last post which was complaining about the Guardian's lack of concern for the people of Afghanistan, well they actually in the same day's paper did have an article on the people in the Taliban areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan being run out of their villages because of fighting between the Taliban, the Pakistan militia, and Nato/ American bombings. These people have fled to a town in Pakistan, but NGO's warn that this town cannot possibly sustain all of the people fleeing there. Anyways the article was kind of a relief to me, showing me that the paper wasn't completely focuses on the presidential race (which in my mind will not make any sort of difference in the lives of Afghan people)....

There's been a lot of articles in various papers here recently about London squatters. Apparently they have taken over a number of empty mansions in areas like Belgravia, and Leicester Square. The squatters tend to be artists, homeless people, etc-people who feel that the number of mansions in London that sit empty is shameful and that they are making political statements showing that it is wrong for there to be homeless people in the city while these mansions sit empty. I guess a long time ago I would have thought that the squatters were just lazy and didn't want to get jobs and pay rent/ mortage like everyone else but after my social enlightenment over the past year, I now feel that they have a point. Why are there so many abandoned or empty buildings, mansions, flats, etc and homelessness at the same time? Every human deserves a good quality of life. Until there are no restrictions on immigration and every person in the world's health and well-being is protected there will never be peace. And there will ALWAYS be violence, poverty, homelessness, starvation, destuction, etc. Until people of the world become more equal and recognize each other as equal (and not as competitors) and work together to protect humanity (and the environment) our species is stuck in this rut. Just ask any person who lost their homes, jobs, etc in the recession.... (sorry that was off in a tangent a bit).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Books I'm reading and the Afghan presidential election...

So I have no books to review at this point, but I am currently reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The World Since 1945 by T.E. Vadney. I guess I'm just in one of those moods when I'm really into knowing why everything happening right now in the world is actually happening (for example- corruption in Africa etc) so I chose to get into The World Since 1945 (I've previously read from it, but this time I'm going cover to cover)... it's definitely good for getting an overrall sense of background about a lot of issues that mass media tends to gloss over for the general public. I'm not sure that every person would find the book interesting but in my humble opinion I don't think it's the hardest to read history book ever written:)

On the note of things going on in the world, I'm so annoyed with the media's portrayal of the Afghan presidential elections. All they keep saying over and over is that a third of the votes are fraudulent. And they are focusing way too much on Karzai, when its other people in Afghanistan controlling him and his moves. He is just the frontman for a whole slew of warlords. Ugh.... it's as if the US government is completely controlling the media's reporting of the elections. They are ignoring the people- what the people want, need, etc. Who cares about stupid Karzai? What about the people? The people who are starving, being killed, begging in the streets? When do we ever hear from them? Even the Guardian- which I consider the most reputable news source in London- skirts over the issue and just lists stats regarding the election. Please, please world media- let people really know what's going on in the country- not just give stats!

Anyways enough ranting for now.... if there are any decent articles covering the Afghan elections I'll post:)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun is one I picked up at a small bookshop by the Old Street tube station- Camden Lock books. mostly because it cost 2.99, which was within my budget that week:) Also, it seemed interesting, as my favorite type of book to read is one which not only educates me but entertains me with a narrative.

I actually wanted to blog about this book several times (prior to finishing it) but didn't get a chance to as my computer is a piece of crap. This book definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things I had no idea about.

The book is a memoir of Peter Godwin, a white Zimbabwean who has written for Newsweek, National Geographic etc and done numerous documentaries on southern Africa. It tells the tale of his family- his relationship with his parents mainly- from the nineties until his dad's death in 2004. But the brilliant thing about the book is how he places the story of his family against the backdrop of everything that was happening in Zimbabwe at the time.

Before reading the book, I could count the things I knew about Zimbabwe on one hand. Let's see... Mugabe is an 'evil dictator'.... there was crazy inflation going on.... unrest in the country.... yeah that's about as detailed of info that I ever knew. This book gave me quite the education when it came to Zimbabwe and Mugabe of the nineties and 00's.

Things I learned: well, I learned about the civil war in which Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain and became Zimbabwe (from 'Rhodesia'), Mugabe came to power on the back the the civil war as a revolutionary and uniting leader, it was only after years that his true colors started to show, during the nineties and then into the 2000's he tried to radically socialize the country through his 'Land Reform' programme. The program actually did nothing but destroy business and agriculture in the country. It became a war against white farmers; Mugabe used propaganda to make black Zimbabweans feel that the white farmers had taken their land at their expense and we're getting rich off the land which was rightfully theirs (thus he was playing into old colonial mindsets etc). He got a group of civil war veterans (Wovits) to occupy white farmers farms in Zimbabwe and eventually drove them off the land, killing many, dislocating many others. The land was mostly then allocated to Mugabe henchmen who didn't know how to farm the land thus it went into ruin. And thus the country took a nosedive. To read more about the topic here's some websites....

Good book. But may not interest those who aren't interested in politics and world affairs. But if you do care what's going on in other parts of the world and want a view you won't get from American new stations, definitely a good read. 3.2/4 stars. A bit more difficult, a bit boring at parts, but worth it in the end.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Misery by Stephen King

So as I finished Life of Pi, I needed a new book to read. When I was in Robin Hood's Bay- a small English coastal village in N Yorkshire w Will, Pete, and Sue (Will's parents), we came upon a small book shop and as I am a definite Stephen King fan- I LOVED It- which I read last summer, I bought Misery for a few pounds. I finished it very quickly, as expected- because King makes it hard to put one of his books down when you're into it.

If you've seen the movie- which I refrained from until after finishing the book- it follows roughly the same story line. I read a blog about movie vs. book after I read and watched and apparently Misery fans are split fifty fifty. Many enjoyed the book, while others got into the movie a bit more. I prefer the book, mostly because King is an amazing story teller and knows how to completely gross someone out with just words, while the movie requires fake blood etc for the same effect.

Anyways, for King skeptics- I would say give it a go. He is completely entertaining. Does this count as part of my continuing education? I believe it was an exercise for my brain, as any novel is, so yes I believe it counts. The end for today. Misery receives 3.3/ 4 stars.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel was much different than I expected. It was a great book, but did take a while to get "into."

The first fifty pages or so are a bit slow moving, but stick with it- the book will definitely not disappoint. When the ship sinks, the real story begins. Also, the intermediate returns to the present day by the "author" are somewhat annoying.

That being said, I really loved the book by the end. The passages were beautiful and descriptive. Some parts were a bit gory, but all the interactions between Richard Parker and Pi were intriguing and kept me guessing and wanting more. I was somewhat sad when they found land.

The end is definitely one that will keep you guessing. I like to think the animal story was true:) I would give this 3.4/ 4 stars.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Second book finished post-thesis. An obvious choice when considering my thesis topic. As expected A Thousand Splendid Suns was beautifully written and a very easy read.

Hosseini tells the tales of the lives of two different women in Afghanistan- Mirium, born in a poor rural village and forced into marriage at a young age- to an older abusive husband. And Laila- born in Kabul a generation later, just as the Russians leave Afghanistan and civil war breaks out, leading her to make difficult and life-altering decisions. Very sad and tear-provoking.

One of the great things about Hosseini, is that he includes a lot of historical information within his fiction- even those with no background in Afghan history can easily pick up quick and easy Afghan info in his books.

This book is a good prequel to anyone wanting to research more into women's issues in Afghanistan- i.e.- I should have read it before beginning research for my thesis:) (3.1/ 4 stars)