Jump to content


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About Jo498

  • Rank
    Council Member

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location

Previous Fields

  • Name

Recent Profile Visitors

6,451 profile views
  1. Abercrombie is more entertaining, Helliconia is stranger and "deeper" but probably not as immediately accessible and enjoyable.
  2. This was probably a joke, like actresses never getting older than 29... So he could have been around that age but also several years older.
  3. I found Sjöwall/Wahlöö interesting enough to read them all in order (not sure if I kept the order) but I am not sure I'll ever read them again. My favorite character is that somewhat snobbish assistant Larsson of Beck's and he does play a larger role in one or two of them (I think the one with the arson/fire). "The laughing policeman" is also good, I just looked up the plot and remembered it. (NB I don't think I have read any of the later Scandinavians like Wallander with the exception of the horrible "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" which I quit after the first book.)
  4. As a kid/teenager I must have read all Sherlock Holmes, a few Father Brown, most of Agatha Christie's and lots of Edgar Wallace. A few months ago I found a bunch of AC and first thought, I would not care for them anymore. I read a handful and was mostly pleasantly surprised. Several were actually new to me or I had completely forgotten them, so I didn't know the solution. (I remembered one main twist of the ABC murders, but not the whole thing). Sure, some things are conceited but overall they hold up well. I admit that I also like the glimpses into the rather different society of the 1930s-50s. Then I did not read much of the genre for years before I somehow got back around the age of 30 and read all of Sayers, quite few others "golden age" (without any completeness) Charlie Chan, Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Ngaio March, etc. Sayers are much more than mysteries, of course, sometimes a bit much. Also the 10 Sjöwall/Wahlöö (Martin Beck) which are a mixed bag and heavy-handed politically sometimes (both were dedicated Euro commies) but they are the founding series of the "Scandinavian mystery" and worth a try (cannot remember which one's are the best, certainly not the first one but maybe one has to start at the beginning). Another European classic that is worthwhile but mixed (I liked the first one that is somewhat untypical best) is the Grijpstra/De Gier series by Janwillem van de Weetering. I guess both Sjöwall/Wahlöö and van de Weetering are very "1970s" at their core which might spark more interest or repulse some people (actually, half of the Sjöwall/Wahlöö are still 60s). - Of Donna Leon's I read a handful or so of the earlier ones and even then I had the impression that they always centered around very similar themes. Not a fan. - The Cormoran Strike series is not very good, IMO. I don't think it would have got of the ground without Rowling's name. I read the first three because my sister gets them anyway, so I can borrow them. - Fred Vargas. This was highly recommended to me by my brother and it's worth a try because it contains brilliance without a doubt. But I quit after about three, though because I found them a bit too implausible, extremely "constructed" and I also don't like the characters (that are supposed to be excentric and likeable, I guess). Anyway, I will mention a few that are special favs of mine or some that I consider classics have not been mentioned at all so far. - Judge Dee: This is the only historical series I read and while I have not re-read any since I read them ca. 2005-7 I absolutely loved them. And all I know about Medieval China I learned there, highly recommended. - Rex Stout, i.e. Nero Wolfe and Archie (I read only one of his others which is also quite good, basically a single sidequel with a "female dick" (i.e. woman detective)). Sure, there are a few weaker ones but if one loves the general style, the mystery is not even that important - Friedrich Glauser: Sergeant (Wachtmeister) Studer. Glauser was a somewhat tragic figure, a brilliant drug addict. This is unusual because a) the main detective is an elderly officer of low rank and b) 1930s rural Switzerland is rather different from the typical "classic" (or most modern, although by now everything has been explored as crime mystery setting). It's only 4? novels, though - Leo Malet: Nestor Burma. (about two dozen, I have not read all) This is Paris in the 1940s/50s, basically Marlowe or Spade in France. Atmospheric, noir, and quite different from the usual fare, I'd say, although it's been a while I read them, so I cannot be more specific. I see "The Moonstone" has been mentioned already, so I'll add two more unsual ones: E.T.A. Hoffmann Mademoiselle de Scuderi (1820) which must be one of the first mysteries in the history of literature (and it is also historical, taking place during the reign of Louis XIV.). And Leo Perutz The master of the day of judgment (1921) a brilliant piece (although it pivots around one main twist, so not great for re-reading) taking place in pre-WW I Vienna.
  5. Jo498

    Second Quarter 2019 Reading

    It took me three attempts to get to and trough Paradiso (but I started at the beginning Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita each time). I don't quite remember where I got stuck for the first time, probably somewhere in Purgatorio already, but I was still a teenager, I think. Next time was in my (early?) 20s and I got as far as the first few cantos of Paradiso before it became too boring and confusing. (My edition has annotations but not very comprehensive ones.) Only about 20 years later in my early 40s about 3-4 years ago, so according to Dante already past del mezzo del cammin di nostra vita I made it all the way through. And now I am really a huge fan. I want to be able to read at least some of it in the original some day. Epic poetry usually loses quite a bit in translation (I got glimpses of this when translating parts of some of the Latin and Greek epics in school), the most appropriate way of experiencing it is loudly reciting it in the original, I think, and I guess that this is also one problem of Paradiso. You got the other problems mostly covered. Hell is picturesque, often grotesquely funny and we can often understand why Dante thinks someone deserves such kind of punishment. This gets more difficult with the penitents on the mountain although here the philosophical/theological background/discourse is still fairly "down to earth". And as this is the most "realistic" setting we also get beautiful descriptions. Paradiso is the most abstract, the most catholic and the most medieval part. And of course Justinian is in Paradise. He was the last emperor who held East and Western Rome somewhat together, Dante thinks that the main problem of his time is the lack of a powerful monarch (he wrote a big Latin tractate on monarchy). A few days ago I picked it up again Purgatorio without going through Hell before that but I'll probably stop at the earthly paradise or so.
  6. Jo498

    Popular Book series you’ve tried and failed to get into:

    I don't think one would guess that Wolfe was a Catholic from reading "New Sun", if one had not known before. It's somewhat unfair to compare it with Lewis, especially Narnia.
  7. Jo498

    The Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler

    According to my kindle, I got through about one third (but this might be only the first volume). Most of his main points are already made in these sections, though. It's fascinating, but also dense and I got stuck last summer or so. Spengler was fairly odd already within his time and he is virtually incompatible to any academic history or philosophy or social science of today. I should probably continue reading and see if he can make me believe that the "oriental" cultures of Jews, Muslims and "Byzantines" could be plausibly seen as one culture like the Greco-Roman Antiquity. He seems to ignore the seemingly obvious continuities although like Nietzsche he certainly has a good point in criticizing the 19th century appropriation of what they took for classical culture. In the ancient world the foil for the Greek classical culture that is "living in the now" was the Egyptian culture with their focus on Death and Eternity. I guess Goethe was his hero because the latter was also a polymath of some kind and held to a strongly holist, "organic" view of everything. OTOH Goethe was not pessimist, I think and could also be quoted as an example how the Western Faustian culture could conserve lots of the classical equanimity (not only classical learning). As you point out, it seems also strange that today's conservatives claim him as their own. If Spengler is only somewhat correct a restauratio imperii or even keeping the status quo is a completely futile and foolish endeavour. Even if one follows Spengler one should be wary about the timescale, I guess. But if Alexander = Napoleon Bonaparte and we are now in the first century BC or maybe around 0 AD we would still have about one century of some kind of expansion of the West (if we take the largest extension of the Roman Empire at ca. 100 AD) or in any case about 4 centuries of decline that would still be quite splendid (but also rather horrid) at times. We should also witness already, or maybe in the next few decades the kernel of the next great civilization, be it the rise of a true "Russian" culture Spengler envisioned or something analoguous to the sects and movements of the first century of which the Christians became the one that prevailed.
  8. Jo498

    Tolkien 3.0

    But this is not a problem for the practice of maths or physics. We can still do math. We only cannot automatize theorem-proving in a way some people envisioned. As I said, it mainly shows that this stuff is more "local" than we thought. To put it simply: Goedel's result does not lead us to doubting most mathematical proofs or make maths as a whole or the very idea of proof problematic. We can keep doing (most) maths, almost like we did before Goedel. It is only/mainly relevant for some special fields and for the philosophy or metamathematical theory of maths.
  9. Jo498

    By Everam’s will; a re-read of the Demon cycle:

    This is one the main problems. The premiss of the first book is brilliant (demons cannot be fought, only be warded) and the first options for fighting them devised by Arlen (and in the second book in that pseudo-muslim city) are well thought out and still stress the danger and skill involved. But already within the second book, demons become cannon-fodder. I stopped after that second one. Then there's the rape including incest, sodomizing small boys for educational purposes and the ridiculous "saving myself for the raping day" storyline of that herb girl but worst of all is that the style devolves into something like a high school RPG script with people in one defense battle of a village referring to the wood demons (that were spine-chilling and invincible foes until yesterday) as "woodies". Like pets or the members of another HS football team "Go Woodies!"
  10. Jo498

    Billionaires, making the world a better place (for them)

    Economics might be dismal, but I am not sure it is a science. Today I heard in the radio that some council for the German ministry of economics "corrected" the prediction of the 2019 growth rate to 0.5 %. In january or so they were at 1.0 % (or whatever, I am not looking this up, you get the message). In any natural science people would be laughed out of the lab or the lecture hall if they expected to get paid for memoranda and predictions they had to "correct" by a factor of two within two months. In economics that's just par for the course. I am not saying that it is useless but their pretention to be like physics are insufferable.
  11. Jo498

    Second Quarter 2019 Reading

    I am sufficiently childish to have enjoyed HP in my late 20s (started a few months before book 4 came out) and I pre-ordered the last three and devoured them in a day or two. During this time (ca. 2001-2007) I also re-read the earlier books several times. But after book 7 I was finished as well and didn't revisit the series again. I probably re-read 5 and 6 once before 7 appeared but I was never really convinced by the later books although the whole thing is wrapped up nicely. In hindsight I also think that the first three books are the most successful, especially the 3rd. The turn towards a much darker atmosphere at the end of #4 is impressively done but overall the whimsical episodic earlier books work better in that world than the old "fight the dark lord" trope that doesn't square well with the boarding school setting.
  12. Jo498

    Second Quarter 2019 Reading

    Quidditch is fairly ridiculous because the capture of the snitch is almost always (there was the exception in the WC in #4 but not in any school game, afair) "sudden death" and makes the normal "field goals" somewhat irrelevant. It's entertaining enough for such a book series (and it serves the purpose of giving Harry something he excels at in the wizard world) but I think JKR realized that it had outstayed its welcome after the 4th book or so. Some people actually play it.
  13. Jo498

    Tolkien 3.0

    incomplete means that every system fulfilling a few rather basic conditions (complex enough to contain standard arithmetic or whatever) contains statements that are undecidable within this system. If with true one means provable within a system, then this means they cannot be shown to be true. So they are, in a way, neither true nor false. As far as I understand these statements can be made provabe within slightly larger systems (or they can simply be added as axioms to the original system). But then new statements will arise that exhibit the feature of being undecidable within the larger system and so on. Goedel's incompleteness theorem is probably rivalled only by some ideas from quantum mechanics of being taken as a "morale" for totally different fields of thought. In praxi they are "local" and not readily "importable" into other areas. Roughly, while highly significant in their respective fields, they should not be taken as applicable elsewhere without a lot of caution.
  14. Jo498

    Billionaires, making the world a better place (for them)

    I didn't use Rowling mainly as an example against the status quo where here income/wealth is actually taxed. The point was against the libertarian case that someone like Rowling should not be taxed at all because she was entitled to the money people gave her voluntarily through buying her books (i.e. she did not exploit any workers like the Scrooge-like capitalist). And the royalties percentage is also not the point. Of course one can debate how much the author should get compared to publishers, booksellers etc. all of which help generate that wealth.
  15. Jo498

    Billionaires, making the world a better place (for them)

    The point with Messi and Rowling is that they are by far the best case for the libertarian pov that they are "entitled" to their wealth (and taxing would be theft etc.) because they did not get rich by exploiting other football players or authors or dependent workers. The printer gets paid the same amount regardless of the book he is printing and Rowling clearly is not exploiting the printer (like the boss of the printing company might be) by keeping more of the commonly created wealth for her and thus becoming filthy rich. But Franklin's argument is sufficiently general to justify taxing even wealth that has not clearly been gained by exploiting the labor of others. Rowling did not create a culture where almost everyone can read, she did not invent cheap methods of printing and binding etc. to make mass market books possible etc. Her wealth is dependent on what generations of others invented, established and sustained. And obviously she benefitted disproportionally from these structures and institutions of society. So it is in no way unjust to tax her in proportion to these benefits she reaped. (Of course the same dependence and disproportionate gain is true for Gates etc. but in their case one could also use broadly Marxist arguments that the don't deserve their wealth because they obviously did not pay their employees who contributed to creating it, enough, otherwise they would not be a thousand times ore more as wealthy as their typical employee. But this line of argument is weak for cases like Rowling.)