The US Library of Congress


The United States Library of Congress was founded in 1800, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves.

The Library receives some 15,000 items each working day and adds approximately 12,000 items to the collections daily. The majority of the collections are received through the Copyright registration process, as the Library is home to the U.S. Copyright Office. It is no surprise therefore that its collection is impressive. The Library houses: Continue reading

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Hobbes, Erewhon and Religion


‘Having planted the subversive thought — that forbidding Adam to eat from one tree lest he die, and from another lest he live forever, is absurd and contradictory — Hobbes was forced to imagine alternative scriptures and even alternative punishments and alternative eternities. His point was that people might not obey the rule of men if they were more afraid of divine retribution than of horrible death in the here and now, but he had acknowledged the process whereby people are always free to make up a religion that suits or gratifies or flatters them. Samuel Butler was to adapt this idea in his Erewhon Revisited. In the original Erewhon, Mr. Higgs pays a visit to a remote country from which he eventually makes his escape in a balloon. Returning two decades later, he finds that in his absence he has become a god named the “Sun Child,” worshipped on the day he ascended into heaven. Two high priests arc on hand to celebrate the ascension, and when Higgs threatens to expose them and reveal himself as a mere mortal he is told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound around this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into heaven they will all become wicked.”‘

Hitchens. C. 2007. God Is Not Great London, Great Britain: Atlantic Books (2008) p. 156-157

On Beauty in Retrospect


“The great artists are the ones who dare to entitle to beauty things so natural that when they’re seen afterward, people say: Why did I never realize before that this too was beautiful?”

– André Gide

Recycling Ideas in the American Film Industry


Even though remakes are as old as the movie industry, the recycling of ideas in the American film landscape is getting more prevalent.

In the 1930s, the storylines of 16 percent of the 500 most successful films were recycled. Films such as Dracula and Frankenstein were made several times. Treasure Island (1934) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935) had been produced previously as silent films.

In the 1980s, the percentage of rehashed storylines increased to 22 percent. The 80s became the decade in which the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series were continued. It was also the time of the Scarface remakes (1983) and the creation of franchises such as Die Hard, Police Academy and Rambo.

In the first ten years of the 21st century, no less than 36 percent of the 500 most popular films are either a remake, sequel, spin-off or part of a franchise. Harry Potter, Pirates of The Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, and (again) Star Wars – to name a few – are turned into film series. Other examples include the Disney remakes of the Marvel superhero films, and the modern takes on Starsky & Hutch (2004) and Miami Vice (2006).

“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” – Michael Eisner, Disney CEO (1984-2005)

In other words, there has been a 20 percent increase over 80 years since the 1930s in the number of major American films whose storylines is either a remake, sequel or spin-off. The number of mainstraim American films which can be labelled “recycled” according to these criteria was 36 percent in the 2000s.

Failed Creation


(Chapter XV)

‘I sickened as I read. ‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? […] my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance.’

– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)

Ahead of Existentialism


‘Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?’

– John Milton, Paradise Lost (1674) Book X, 743-5

Egg Schism of Lilliput


(Part I, Chapter IV)

‘[…] the two great empires of Lilliput and Blefuscu. Which two mighty powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most obstinate war for six-and-thirty moons past. It began upon the following occasion. It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger end; but his present majesty’s grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown. These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire. It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large volumes have been published upon this controversy: but the books of the Big-endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party rendered incapable by law of holding employments. During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefusca did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: ‘that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.’

And which is the convenient end, seems, in my humble opinion to be left to every man’s conscience, or at least in the power of the chief magistrate to determine. Now, the Big-endian exiles have found so much credit in the emperor of Blefuscu’s court, and so much private assistance and encouragement from their party here at home, that a bloody war has been carried on between the two empires for six-and-thirty moons, with various success; during which time we have lost forty capital ships, and a much a greater number of smaller vessels, together with thirty thousand of our best seamen and soldiers; and the damage received by the enemy is reckoned to be somewhat greater than ours.’

– Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726)