Monday, May 30, 2011

Sibling rivalry in Indonesia:

"In the late nineties Suharto's daughter Tutu proposed to construct a three-tiered above-ground transit-way through the heart of Jakarta while her brother was simultaneously planning an underground system through the same area."

from The Politics of Power by Denise Leith
South African mercenaries in Iraq:

"They were always very nicely turned out, with shirts and trousers pressed - unlike the Brits, who rarely bothered with an iron - but many of them were badly shot up, with fingers missing and scars all over their body. They also had terrible brown-stained teeth. Most had served in the Special Forces in the 1980s, fighting jungle wars in Angola. During a three-month combat tour, they couldn't use toothpaste because the smell of it could warn the Angolan scouts in the close-quarters fighting that dominated the conflict. As a result, all of their teeth were completely rotten. Once, Mark [Britten] was talking to a South African in his fifties when two teeth simply fell out of his mouth onto the table in front of them."

from War PLC by Stephen Armstrong, in which we also learn that Group 4 Securicor is Africa's largest private employer, with 82,000 employees on the continent.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"The parrot fish... inhabits more exposed areas of sea and has to create its own protection when sleeping. It does this by secreting around its body a slimy envelope, which is distasteful to predators. In the morning it packs its bags, so to speak, by eating the envelope."

from Sleepfaring by Jim Horne.

Also apparently dolphins don't dream, because they only sleep with one half of their brain at a time so they can keep going up to the surface to breathe, and "the confusion in having half one's brain dreaming and the other half awake would be bewildering to say the least. Each side of the dolphine's brain can be sleep deprived separately, simply by waking the animal up as soon as this side sleeps, while letting the other side sleep normally." Which is like something out of Philip K Dick.

Also "hibernation is not a profound form of sleep, as is commonly thought, because hibernating mammals still have to arouse from hibernation in order to obtain some sleep."

Monday, May 09, 2011

On Tuesday evening I'm doing an event at the Akademie der Künste on Pariser Platz with the French novelist Vincent Message. An actor will read in German from the first chapter of Boxer, Beetle and then I'll be answering some questions in English.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Tomorrow I am moving to Berlin to take up a three month writer's residency at the Akademie der Künste. Goodbye London!