Of Books and Stories

BOOKS & THEIR BRETHREN

The book in digital and physical format has been ubiquitous: it is everywhere. A look at the story of the book is a long and interesting one. From ancient time Man has been recording and re-telling things to each other – a look at the cave paintings in France, the proclamation and decrees from the Kings of Babylonians and Persia; the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians; the use of paper from papyrus in Egypt and parchment from sheep skin from Pergamon; the establishment of the Great Librray of Alecandria by the Ptolemys and the Bayht Al Hikhma by the Abbasids; and the mass production of paper from China in Baghdad. A book a scroll that contained knowledge, information and stories were much prized.

In the West, after the decline of the Roman Empire there were active efforts to reproduce books. They came from all over and in monasteries around Europe – Scriptoriums and libraries : just like the Bayht Al-Hikma , books were manually reproduced in beautifully illustrated forms called Illuminated books. These books were much prized that only the rich and the powerful could afford them.They were much appreciated that owners would resort to book curses and the more practical chains binding them to the walls and tables of the library.

It was only during the development of the printing press that books and other materials were made more available to those who could afford it – not everyone but a larger segment of the population. People’s ideas were being made available for other people to read. The works of Copernicus and Shakespeare were published.

Books and its other printed cousins became the vehicle for idea and opinion. And because of this flow of idea and opinion the book et al there were moves to control it: (i) in Paris, France during the incipient stages of building Universities there were debates whether to allow to writings of Aristotle to be allowed to be read, because it ran contrary to some beliefs of the Christian leaders; (ii) In China the first Emperor Shi Huang Di burned books of the other kingdoms and those that were not deemed practical (at the same time philosophers and scholars opposed to philosophy and politics of the First Emperor were sent to build what came to be known as the Great Wall of China); (iii) Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party led the book burning of works done by Jewish writers and scholars; and book burning is not limited to the past. The acts to control the flow of idea and opinion is still done today by the State, Organised Communities. Special Interest Groups and Individuals.

For ideas and opinions whether expressed in the written word or said is powerful. Hitler’s Mein Kampf was effective in pushing him to power and the Protocols of Zion was instrumental in planting one of the seeds of anti-semitism in Hitler’s mind. Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped the freeing of slaves in the United States. Marx’s Das Kapital helped topple Czarist Russia. While SInclair’s Concrete Jungle paved the way to for food safety measures in the United States. And in the works of Rizal were among the seeds that Philippine Revolution and Independence was built on.

Truly the book and its brethren has come a long way and it still is changing. In our contemporary age books can now be read on paper and on the screen. One can also listen to it as one sits in one corner or perhaps surfing the net. It is not only composed of the written word but of images. It can come in ephemeral form – in pulp paper that oxidises and burn in time or in more permanent form acid free paper (perhaps even treated with mylar) and hardbound, it is not written on gold plates but it is durable. In my opinion the book and its brethren will continue to exist in many forms – print and non-print.

OF STORIES

Eric Blair aka George Orwell was a prolific writer and we know him from his work Animal Farm and 1984. He wrote several works one about the execution of an elephant and an essay on why he wrote. If I remember correctly there are five reasons for writing: (i) We write to record things that happen; (ii) We write to entertain; (iii) We write for aesthetic pleasure: (iv) We write to move readers to action or belief; and (v) We write for Ego.

In terms of Science, Technology and Society, one can read several works that fit Orwell’s reason for writing. In non-fiction we see how Copernicus describe his findings about the Universe and in non-fiction we see how Charles Darwin details his belief in Evolution. Later examples we how naturalist Konrad Lorenz wrote about his theories in Animal Behaviour and keeping Aquariums in light and entertaining way in his book Solomon’s Ring. In fiction we see writers depict issues in Science and Technology with Man/Society and in fiction we writers predict what could happen.

In Mary Shelley’s The Modern Prometheus. The creation of the monster/the creature from body parts bought to life by electricity is a backdrop for Victor Frankenstein’s dilemma of going against the law of creating life. It is a cautionary tale any scientist or technocrat would be familiar with, The creature to Victor Frankenstein is what the Atom Bomb is to Robert Oppenheimer. And this cautionary tale is still the blue print for a number science fiction and horror stories.

In Jules Verne’s A Trip to the Moon, we see how our fascination with the stars can produce fiction that try foretell the future dystopian or not. H.G. Wells among other things told of how Martians’ nearly conquered the Earth or what happened to a man who travelled to the future – what he did he see and what are the effects.

One of the strengths of fiction and storytelling is that the reader, the listener and the viewer is brought into the story, He is immersed into that fictional or historical story. And it entertains and informs. And that is how the stories of Star Trek predicts a future where at least on Earth almost everyone is equal – something revolutionary for the 1960s. Stories may seem escapist but they are also cautionary, prophetic and thought provoking.

It would be worthwhile to read the following stories:

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus
Dune
The Sherlock Holmes Stories
A Trip to the Moon
The Stroke of the Sun
Nightfall
A Logic Named Joe
Flowers for Algernon
With his Bootstraps On
The Sound of Thunder
Sandkings
The Billionth Name of God
The Lottery
Leningen versus the Ants
Microcosmic God
Solomon’s Ring
The Log of the Sea of Cortez
Murder in the Rue Morgue
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
The Time Machine
The War of the Worlds

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What are Netizens made of?

What are Poor Netizens made of?
What are Poor Netizens made of?
They would be lucky if they had a Cherry Mobile
And 4G speed that has seen better days
That’s What are Poor Netizens made of
What are Rich Netizens made of?
What are Rich Netizens made of?
Iphones and devices highly priced
And Internet Speed as fast as light
That’s what Rich Netizens are made of

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Murder in Animal Farm

It was two weeks after the annual celebration of Animal Farm when the tragedy occurred. Napoleon the Father of All Animals, Hero of Animal Farm died. So instead of the annual parade a memorial. The horses pulled the cart where the remains of the Hero of Animal Farm lay flowers and vegetable formed the bed where he lay. Following Napoleon s cart were his faithful dogs, followed the pigs, both old and new generation – Squealer, Pinkeye and Wnymper were there along with his brood; and of course Napoleon’s brood both biological and adopted were there – Pigs of all sorts and shapes. The other members of Animal Farm – assorted sheeps, chickens, even the cats and crows were in attendance. Partners of Animal Farm sent in their delegates to Napoleon’s Memorial. Napoleon was laid to rest temporarily in an icebox then a chest freezer inside the house. Each year after mourners passed and laid flowers and straw at the feet of the chest freezer. And for the lucky ones, the lid of the chest freezer was opened to display the perfectly frozen remains of the Berkshire Boar named Napoleon. In time Animal Farm at the back of the windmill a room called the Hall of Remembrance and this was where the chest freezer containing Napoleon rested along with the portraits of Old Major, Boxer and eventually Clover.

This was more than ten years ago. The Porkers led by Squealer, Pinkeye and Whymper pursued the Napoleon’s vision of Animal Farm. Squealer had spoken during the memorial of Napoleon and talked about the blissful passing of Napoleon in his sleep. And how Napoleon on his will laid down his plan for Animal Farm and how he was tricking Mr. Pilkington into believing he and the pigs were turning into man. Had Napoleon lived he would have seen the fruits of his diplomatic endeavor into enriching Animal Farm. But unfortunately he passed away as he slept, never to see his Beloved Animal Farm again, cried Squealer.

But this was a lie. As soon as Napoleon died there were rumors spreading around. One was that Napoleon and the Pigs had become human and began fighting each other that led to the death of Napoleon. Another was that Snowball had entered Animal Farm that night and sliced the throat of the Father of Animals. And another was an agent: A fundamentalist sent by Moses the Raven, killed Napoleon in order to enter and be rewarded in Sugar Plum Mountain. None of these seems to be true, The first one was ridiculous at best: Animals cannot turn to Men and back again. Second, Snowball might have been a threat initially but his influence and power had waned to the point he could not enter nor mount an assassination attempt on Napoleon. And furthermore, at all times Napoleon was guarded by Dogs and Porkers: As he slept four Dogs guarded each corner of his bed – a fanatic, assassin or a fifth columnist would find it hard to penetrate his guards. But he was killed snd recently I found the truth in a journal:

START OF EXCERPTS FROM THE JOURNAL

XX, 19XX

I have found it impossible not write down my thoughts in this journal. Our random security unearthed this old journal of Farmer Jones along with some writing implements. This is an interesting piece of document. This is something I must keep to myself otherwise I would be called a recedicivist or worse a counter- revolutionary.

XX, 19XX

… Things are heating up Napoleon and Snowball rivalry is getting intense …

XX, 19XX

Snowball flees … I think I have to stop writing in this journal and I have to hide it inside one of the rooms in Jones house. Napoleon picked out a room for himself and this seems the best place to hide it,

XX, 19XX

I am writing again. The Education of Animal Farm is going as planned. It has been peaceful most of the times. A number of enemies of Animals and Traitors have been executed. Most of these are counter-revolutionary and followers of Snowball. And as for Snowball he is a mere shadow of what he once was. More of a Ghost really: always heard but never seen. Hard to believe he was the Hero of the Battle of the Cowshed. And we are not allowed to say that anymore.

XX, 19XX

… The Dogs and Cats keep on killing the rats. And this is why rodents will always be recruits by Man and Counter-Revolutionaries. Officially, we condemn this but in reality we just turn a blind eye …  to this …

XX, 19XX

Today, I visited one of the veterans an old dog. He was blind, infirm and delusional. He was rambling about the old days. The Old Dog was obnoxiously loud but from time he would whisper of things done near the Eastern Fence beside the river. He was rambling about snow and more snow. He died that Summer and was given the standard burial of hero memorial. 

XX, 19XX

N called a meeting. A proposal to change Animal Farm to Manor Farm. He also detailed future plans. All of this was met with approval and applause: nobody argued against it. How could we the Old Boar had all the power.

XX, 19XX

Everyone was busy with the anniversary. Mister J Animal Farm’s ally would be one of the guest. N was hosting a dinner and a game of cards. Dinner was great but the card game ended badly. Still in the morning everything went back to normal.

XX, 19 XX,

N called several meetings. He also began to air that he was informed that there were plots from the sympathizers of Snowball and Mr. Jones. An alliance was formed between the disgraced Snowball and the defeated Jones. Even among the pigs, both porkers and berkshires, there were counter-revolutionaries waiting for the signal from Snowball to overthrow N and bring back Animal Farm. N said the list was being drawn and soon the traitors would be arrested. An enemy was no longer an enemy if they are dead, N ended the meeting.

XX, 19 XX,

Met with the others today. The plan was found to be wanting. N had increased the number of dogs around him. Orders were given to keep a tight look at N. 

XX, 19 XX,

N did not wake up at his usual time up . The dogs kept everyone away. It was only before lunch that the pigs entered. N was mot on his bed. He lay on the floor. S approached N and kicked his behind once, twice and thrice. Then N opened his eyes, S leaped back into the group of porkers. N then closed his eyes and lay still. The dogs surrounded him and kept everyone at a distance. However, this did N no good. He wailed something incoherent and then died. So passed the Great Emancipator of Animal Farm.

END OF EXCERPTS FROM YHE JOURNAL

Clearly there was a plot to kill Napoleon. Given his proclivity for unmasking plots, real and imagined,  against Animal Farm it was ironic that his actions might have led an actual plot within his own circle of pigs. Whether or not the plot actually proceeded; or someone acted on their own or it was Fate that struck down Napoleon it is hard to determine. The demise of Napoleon was not announced till a week later. The new leaders of Animal Farm announced the death of Napoleon, Squealer was the chief mourner at the wake, this was his last public act before he retired.

The temptation to conduct an autopsy is great but I fear the repercussions on the order of things. No, it is up to the next generation of Animal Farm to complete the final de-Napoleonization of Animal Farm.

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