Why are rural areas right wing and urban areas left wing?

If you look at an election results map of America, you will see an ocean of red with only a few blue dots, which might make you think the Republicans won overwhelmingly, but in fact Democrats received more votes (the daft electoral college is an issue for another time). This is because rural areas overwhelmingly vote for the right wing Republican Party while urban areas overwhelmingly vote for the left wing Democratic Party. Continue reading “Why are rural areas right wing and urban areas left wing?”

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The Different Themes In GRRM, Sanderson & Abercrombie Novels

On the surface, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie tell very similar stories. They write fantasy novels about harsh worlds full of murder, betrayal and conflict, and their characters are often forced into terrible circumstances. They are also excellent writers who create amazing worlds and fascinating characters. For which they are (rightly) some of the most popular and largest selling fantasy writers.

In this post, I will discuss the common themes and features (as I see them) in GRRM’s five A Song of Ice and Fire books, the six books of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law (seven if you count the short story collection), and the ten books Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Stormlight Archives, Elantris and Warbreaker (eleven if you count the short story collection). That’s not everything they’ve written, but it is most of it and enough to see common patterns. Continue reading “The Different Themes In GRRM, Sanderson & Abercrombie Novels”

Why I Am Not A (Irish) Nationalist

During my teenage years, I was a passionate nationalist (because nationalism varies so much by country, this will be mainly in reference to Irish nationalism, but applicable to nationalism generally). I’ve always had a great interest in history and I loved to read about heroes from the glorious past. I especially loved the stories about the heroes who fought the British during 800 years of foreign occupation. While my classmates were interested in football and television, I read everything I could about Gaelic chieftains during ancient times, glorious rebels who fought for liberty, the United Irishmen who battled for a Republic where Catholics and Protestants would be equal, the brave war of independence and the modern war to throw the British out of Northern Ireland. Continue reading “Why I Am Not A (Irish) Nationalist”

A Novel About Esperanto

A while ago I was reading about the Ido-schism when I noticed several Wikipedia pages referenced a book named A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell, in which the schism was portrayed. As it’s rare to see reference to Esperanto in English, let alone a book about it, I bought the book straight away. It’s not the only English language novel that has Esperanto in it, for example in the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, the main character lives in Hotel Zamenhof which includes a few Esperanto signs like lifto (lift) and one character exclaims “What’s Esperanto for a pile of shit?” (I would suggest fekaĵaro). However, unlike others in books, Esperanto isn’t just mentioned in a throwaway line, it forms a core part of the story.

The book is essentially about three Jewish men and three cities at the turn of the century. Sigmund Freud, L.L. Zamenhof and Kalonymos Kalmish Szapira, in Vienna, Paris and London from 1894-1940. Following this structure the book is divided into three parts, with the middle one heavily focusing on Esperanto. The main character becomes a passionate Esperantist and there are many conversations in and about Esperanto. So is the book any good? Continue reading “A Novel About Esperanto”

Modern Technology Could Help Revive Irish For A New Generation

The Irish language has a serious image problem. In the minds of young people many, it is still stuck in the 19th century (or earlier) in a time without electricity or cars. The ghost of Peig Sayers haunts the language with many imaging the language only spoken on a desolate, wind-swept, rain-soaked West coast by an old woman in a shawl beside a turf fire over a plate of potatoes. Conversations are limited to potatoes, tuberculosis, the evils of the British and decades of the rosary. During school, we’d sit at the back of class and wonder why we were wasting time on Irish. We doubted whether it was even possible to have a conversation about modern life in Irish, did this peasant language even have words for modern technology? Continue reading “Modern Technology Could Help Revive Irish For A New Generation”

Esperanto and Ethnic Conflict Since 1887

Two books have been in my mind lately. Firstly, this week was the 130th anniversary of the publication of the Unua Libro, the first book in Esperanto, which makes it one of the few languages in the world to have a birthday. On the 26th of July 1887, L.L. Zamenhof created an international language that he hoped would bridge the divide between people and reduce ethnic conflict. The second thing is that I have been reading The Vanquished: Why The First World War Failed To End by Robert Gerwarth. The book details the enormous amount of ethnic conflict that erupted after the end of the First World War and continued simmering until erupting again in the Second World War. Continue reading “Esperanto and Ethnic Conflict Since 1887”

Why Ireland Should Become A Secular Republic

There was a time when Ireland was for all practical purposes, a Catholic state. Divorce, homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives were all illegal. Books and films had to be approved by a censorship board which banned anything that was contrary to Catholic teaching (which turned out to be a lot). The Church ran almost all schools, hospitals as well homes for “fallen women” and forgotten children. Acting contrary to Catholic teaching meant shame and banishment. The state was guided by Catholic principles to such an extent that it was hardly noticed or commented on. That was just the way things were. Continue reading “Why Ireland Should Become A Secular Republic”