I just finished reading “Poilu: The World War 1 Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918” as translated by Edward M. Strauss. It’s a book I can’t recommend without some historical interest and context. Barthas was a common soldier in the First World War who wrote about his experiences while there. He is thus seen as representing the Poilu (“hairy one” in French, common slang for French soldiers at the time), unlike more grandiose portrayals. Despite being 35 at the start, he was at most of the big French battles but mostly writes about being cold, tired, hungry and frustrated with his officers. My French isn’t good enough for the original text, and English translations of non-English war memoirs are somewhat rare, so this makes it worthy on its own already. Continue reading
With 2017 drawing to a close, it strikes me that the centennial of the First World War will end next year. It’s a strange feeling, because 2014 doesn’t feel that long ago. I’ve long felt that the most important lessons … Continue reading
I wonder why independence is seen as a solution to all sorts of regional political problems. It’s a very square peg applied to lots of strangely shaped situations. But first, some context. I lived in Indonesia during a very interesting … Continue reading
The film adaptation of “The Disaster Artist” is releasing in December, and while I really enjoyed “The Room” and heard good things about the book, I had never gotten around to reading it. Reading that the audiobook version was read … Continue reading
There seems to be a debate in America today about what it means to be American. Is it the past heritage that defined the country today, or is it what it is today and will become? A typical answer would be: both. They aren’t mutually exclusive, despite what people may think.
At the moment this debate is made manifest in the events in Charlottesville over the weekend. For those not in the know, the controversy is over whether or not statues commemorating either Confederate generals, heroes or just the Confederate soldier should be taken down. There are a lot of levels to the debate, which is what makes it interesting. Continue reading
If you’re too easily convinced by something, there’s probably something wrong with it. What you need is perspective, usually brought about by challenges. Continue reading