Students have trouble reading Ivanhoe? – Dumb down the book before they have to read it!

His epic novels used to be required reading for generations of schoolchildren. But the works of the early 19th century author Sir Walter Scott have recently fallen out of favour, considered too ponderous and wordy for the tastes of modern readers.

Now a Scottish academic is hoping to revive the novelist’s reputation by abridging Ivanhoe, one of his best known books, to make the work less “tedious” for a public raised on JK Rowling and Dan Brown.

Professor David Purdie has spent 18 months cutting the classic – set in 12th century England – from 179,000 words to a more manageable 80,000.

His efforts have also led to a backlash from purists upset that such sacred texts could be altered. One former president of the Scott club has demanded that the edited work is not sold under the author’s name…

Sir Walter, from Scotland, was one of the pioneers of the English language novel. He is generally considered the first ever historical novelist and English language writer to gain international fame.

But after his death in 1832, despite grand monuments built to his memory in Edinburgh and Glasgow, his popularity has waned. By the beginning of the 20th century his books were completely out of fashion, eclipsed by their more “entertaining” former contemporaries such as Jane Austen.

Prof Purdie said that if his new version is successful he could give other Scott books the same treatment

An excellent way to continue the dumbing down of the whole society.

When I lived in the Navajo Nation I had the biggest argument I ever had on this same topic – in the bookstore of the Navajo College. I was there on a completely unrelated errand – but, I can’t resist dropping in to look around a bookstore anywhere. Then, I discovered there were almost no normal print volumes.

They accepted lousy reading skills as “normal” and mostly sold comic book versions of what was supposed to be literature.

The chief Angry Bird says — piracy is good for business!

The chief executive of the company behind mobile gaming phenomenon, Angry Birds, has said that piracy helps companies attract more business.

Talking at the annual Midem music conference, in Cannes today, Mikael Hed, the chief executive of Rovio, said: “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day.”

He admitted that the games company, which is based in Finland and experienced huge success with the Angry Birds brand, learned from the music industry’s mistakes when thinking about how to deal with piracy…

We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy…”

Hed told Midem delegates that it was futile to pursue people who copy Angry Birds’ games and concepts unless they were harmful to the brand reported The Guardian. He said that he sees any type of piracy as being helpful to the brand in attracting new fans.

Not anything that serious geeks haven’t been discussing – and agreeing with – for years. The failure of the music and movie moguls to understand the Web and digital communications started this discussion – even before piracy became significant. They get the prize for dumb greed when it comes to dealing with intellectual property, anyway. Mostly for screwing creative artists all along.

From the archive, 1 February 1948 — An interview with Gandhi


Interview by Alan Moorehead

It is the violence of Gandhi’s death, this complete and contemptuous negation of everything he lived for, which is the shocking thing. Yet paradoxically, this is the aesthetic end to a life of non-violence, the end which, one imagines, the old man would have chosen for himself.

I remember, in the very middle of the war, I went as a war correspondent to interview him in Delhi. It was an excessively hot afternoon and I sat cross-legged on the floor sweating through my army uniform. Gandhi leaned back on a white bolster, wearing nothing but a loincloth, and he said amiably: “What is the good of our talking? You and the people you represent are committed to violence. I am interested only in non-violence. We have nothing to say to one another.”

I asked him if he was prepared to see the Japanese invade India (they were then very close in Burma) “Why not?” he said. “They can’t kill us all.” He went on to propound his famous doctrine: never oppose violence with violence. “Non-violence,” he said, “requires an even higher kind of courage than violence. You must be just as prepared to lay down your life – even more so.” I remember how cheerful he was that afternoon, how healthy with his great brown barrel of a chest, and how wittily he talked.

Nor was he much changed when I went to one or two of his prayer meetings in Delhi this winter. He was still getting up at four in the morning to exercise, he was still the nimblest (and I think the gayest) good brain in India, and he was still talking in parables on precisely the same theme.

Of course he becomes a martyr now; more than that – a mystical legend and a god. It is probably a waste of time trying to assess him in western terms. Inevitably, the mysticism and the fatalism intervene, blocking out all logic. I do not think Jawaharlal Nehru and the others ever expected practical politics from Gandhi, but they were inspired by him just the same. They loved him passionately.

I never met anyone in India who came away from a meeting with the old man without being captivated and in a slightly elevated condition of mind. He had an overpowering charm under that humility. He talked hard common sense as a rule and the mysticism ran between the lines.

What happens now? It seems almost impossible to be optimistic. The country has lost its figurehead, its living public conscience. Who is to speak against racial hatred now with that authority? The British kept the peace with police and prestige and Gandhi did it with love. Now, within six short months, both police and love have vanished together. Perhaps enough of his followers will obey his creed of non-violence. Whatever the immediate effect may be, at least his influence in the long run can only be for the good.

He has been missed in so many ways.

Get out of jail and come home – and bump into a burglar – WTF?


Shellie Leonard — neighborly burglar

At first, on Wednesday, she helped herself to some craft supplies. And a knife. A purse. One hundred CDs.

The window curtains.

Shellie Leonard wanted more, authorities said, and on Thursday she went back to her neighbor’s house on Dalwood Drive with plans to steal a computer and electronics. Her neighbor was incarcerated at the Pasco County jail. But Thursday happened to be the day the neighbor came home — and caught Leonard stealing, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.

Leonard, 43, of 4004 Darlington Road in Holiday, was arrested and charged with two counts of burglary. Information on the victim — and what crime the victim is suspected of committing — was not available from authorities…

Leonard remained Friday at the Pasco jail in lieu of bail…

Har! More konvoluted karma.

African Union opens new $200 million headquarters in Ethiopia

Standing on what was once Ethiopia’s oldest maximum security prison, the new African Union headquarters funded by China is a symbol of the Asian giant’s push to stay ahead in Africa and gain greater access to the continent’s resources.

Critics point to an imbalance in what they see as the new “Scramble for Africa”. But the prospect of growing Chinese economic influence is welcomed by African leaders, who see Beijing as a partner to help build their economies at a time when Europe and the United States are mired in economic turmoil…

The brown marble and glass monolith was fully paid for by China, right down to the office furniture, and cost $200 million. The office complex and almost 100-metre tower is Addis Ababa’s tallest building by far.

For the past decade, Africa has recorded economic growth of an average of 5 per cent but its underdeveloped infrastructure has in part hindered its capacity to develop further. Chinese companies are changing that. They are building roads and investing in the energy sector, and are active in areas such as telecoms technology…

Beijing now appears keener to flex its diplomatic muscle in the continent. It has also contributed $4.5 million for the African Union peacekeeping force battling Islamist militants in Somalia.

Outside the complex, hundreds of Chinese support staff, delegates and officials snapped pictures of their country’s most ostentatious presence yet in Africa. Yet African officials insist they aren’t being manipulated by China, and say the relationship is not based on aid but on trade and development.

There are people who still consider Africans like children who can be easily manipulated. The good thing about this partnership is that it’s give and take,” said the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ambassador to Washington, Faida Mitifu.

In a related story, Congressional Republicans are supporting – well, nothing that I could find.

I googled “Congressional Republicans aid to Africa” and got bored after wandering through several pages mostly of Republican candidates for president each trying to prove he’ll do the most to reduce foreign aid to anyone!