Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn (2012)

I have to admit I saw the film before reading the book: and the book’s better. It’s not a book to read if your relationship is in any way shaky.

It’s a close-run thing, but it’s definitely better for the story to have the direct feed into the characters’ innermost thoughts. Both the protagonists are well and deeply drawn. It’s a depressing story, of course, the tale of a marriage doomed by stress and indifference, before being “saved” – if by saved you mean the husband being trapped into acquiescence with his wife’s ideal. The sting in the tail, of course, is that he’s not entirely unhappy with this outcome, as it makes him in some senses a better man: he’s passed through anger and confusion and come to an understanding with his admittedly psychopathic wife.

5/5. Finished Sunday 8 March, 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

PhD Studentships at University College Cork

There are PhD positions open at University College Cork in the area of video processing.

PhD Studentships at University College Cork in Ireland

Closing Date for Applications: None, positions will remain open until filled. Applications will be reviewed at as soon as they are received. Project: An Internet Infrastructure for Video Streaming Optimisation (iVID) The Mobile and Internet Systems Laboratory (MISL) in the Department of Computer Science at UCC is an internationally recognised research centre focused on innovative networking research. iVID is a new research project funded by Science Foundation Ireland to investigate the use of software defined networking (SDN) techniques to optimise the delivery of streaming video. A team of 5 project researchers will work on iVID, including 3 Ph.D. students. The project will involve collaboration with AT&T, EMC and the University of California Riverside. Applications are invited for fixed-term studentships (annual value of €18K, plus fees) from suitably qualified candidates who wish to undertake a PhD within the Department of Computer Science. Applicants should have a Masters degree in computer science or a closely related discipline, although applications from truly exceptional students with a bachelor’s degree will be considered. Ideally, applicants will have some project experience in the areas of video streaming, software defined networks, or more generally network protocols. Applicants must have strong mathematical ability and an interest in systems programming and experimental computer science. Applicants must demonstrate good inter-personal skills, and a high standard of spoken and written English. The positions are open to applicants of any nationality. How to apply: Applications by email to Mary Noonan m.noonan@cs.ucc.ie and must include “PhD Studentship iVID” in the subject line. Applications must include, in PDF format only:
  1. 1300 word personal statement explaining your interest in the project and networking research;
  2. full CV;
  3. copy of transcript(s) showing names of all courses taken and grades achieved; and
  4. summaries of projects (BSc/MSC), internships and relevant work experience completed.
For more information on MISL and the Department of Computer Science, please see the links below. http://www.cs.ucc.ie/misl/ http://www.cs.ucc.ie/

Fatal Fortnight: Arthur Ponsonby and the Fight for British Neutrality in 1914

Duncan Marlor (2014)

The story of Parliament during the run-up to the First World War isn’t well-known: certainly significantly less has been written about it than about the run-up to the Second. So this book is an interesting addition to the literature.

Marlor presents a view “from the bottom”, in the sense that he’s concerned with the actions of backbench MPs trying to keep Britain neutral. The book is therefore good to compare against The Guns of August which looks at the same events more from the view of the protagonists. It’s driven largely by diaries and letters, and uses them unsparingly as comparisons against the “official” history promulgated by The Times and other newspapers of the fortnight’s events.

The overriding impression is one of the impotence of Parliament in the face of pre-existing commitments that had been made but never publicised, as well as an ability to exploit the ambiguities of treaties to justify an already-decided policy. It rapidly becomes clear that the “debates” on Britain’s war conduct were simply window-dressing with no potential to influence events – although it has to be admitted that the rebels were unwilling to go all the way to opposing the supply motions that provided funds for the war. Things haven’t changed all that much, and there’s lots to commend in this book as a filter through which to view more contemporary events.

5/5. Finished Saturday 28 February, 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. Selected Prose 1966-1978

Adrienne Rich (1979)

I was brought to this book through one of the essays in it, Claiming an education, that talks about the need for students (and especially women students) to actively claim their educations rather than passively receive them. I still think this is the most powerful element of this collection, but there’s lots more to engage the reader.

It’s not an easy collection for a man to read, not least because of the sense of powerlessness it evokes – which is ironic, given that many of the essays are replete with the power of patriarchy and men’s dominance of women. But there’s a powerlessness too, a sense that, as a man, there’s no redemption, no way to help or bridge the gap, no way to avoid being an obstacle that women must struggle against despite your own individual actions and intentions.

Some of the essays are nearly fifty years old, but they’re aged well, and the issues they address are still very much alive. In many ways they’ve broadened beyond being purely women’s issues. It’s easy to read in many of them a rage that any powerless group might feel against any establishment. In some ways Rich’s arguments are occasionally almost weakened by their feminism, in that many men in powerless roles would identify with the feelings she examines. But they give a powerful insight into a feminist perspective on life and education (important for me as an academic), even to elements one might like to think were purely objective.

Some of these perspective don’t translate well to me, for example the notion of women (especially gay women) often having no sense of real identity because they haven’t been realistically represented in literature – the idea being that a gay woman would have no literary role models against which to judge her own feelings and value. As a science-inclined young boy, there were very few good scientist role models in literature either: plenty of “mad scientists”, “evil scientists”, and even overly dedicated and over-rational scientists, but none who did what it is we actually do as scientists. I’m not convinced that this literary lack did much to impact my sense of identity, I can accept that better models might help to make people’s choices more comprehensible to those around them.

4/5. Finished Saturday 21 February, 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

American Notes For General Circulation

Charles Dickens (1842)

2/5. Finished Tuesday 17 February, 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)