Literature as a Strengthener of Character: "The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare" by Emma Smith

Review:

The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare (Cambridge Introductions to Literature) by Dr Emma Smith (2007-04-09) - Dr Emma Smith

Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus!

 

The thing about drama is that everybody has to put effort in to learn their part, then they have to work together to make the play happen. Putting on a successful performance is very hard work but the buzz children get from the performance is huge and they learn that hard work is worthwhile. The play won’t work without Titania, Bottom or Puck or all the more minor parts or the person who does the lighting, the scenery, the costumes. They compete for parts but work collaboratively to achieve a result and are proud of what they achieve. What better life lessons could children learn? There is bound to be a positive knock-on effect on other subjects.  Any good play, or musical, will do this but Shakespeare has huge scope and, generally, a large cast. This is a wonderful initiative. We owe it to our pupils to open up to their imaginations a world beyond our own shores and time. The ‘Metamorphoses’ speak to us about the fluidity of identity and have so much to offer to teenagers confronting this issue in their own lives. They can be read with Jeffrey Eugenides’ ‘Middlesex’ as effectively as with Shakespeare. Emma Smith is right to point to the importance of the Philomela story for ‘Titus Andronicus’, but the many rape narratives in the ‘Metamorphoses’ present serious ethical challenges in the classroom. In teaching teenagers (and not only) respect for others, you are teaching them respect for themselves. That’s the main point of school and home; in their rapidly-changing world (i.e. their intellect, their bodies) these are mainstays. These are what enable them to contextualise the attacks of commerce on their minds. And anybody who thinks that good literature and art aren’t great strengtheners of character is missing the point; of course, they are, because they improve human intelligence.

 

 

If you’re into Shakespeare, read on.

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ThisIsMyPasswordForNatWest: "KALI LINUX – How to crack passwords using Hashcat – The Visual Guide" by Taylor Cook

Review:

KALI LINUX - How to crack passwords using Hashcat: The Visual Guide - Taylor Cook

Yep, most of our supposedly easy-to-remember-hard-to-crack strategies fall pretty quickly when we’re informed that there must be a symbol – but not that one, that one, that one, or that one – and there must be a capital letter and there must be a number, oh and sorry your password is now too long. So now we need to remember our standard phrase AND the fact that for THIS website we couldn’t use that symbol so we had to put in another and we had to stop after 6, 8 or 10 characters which meant we had to move the number to the front…

 

Passwords should never be stored as plain-text, but as a big long hash. So ‘ThisIsMyPasswordForNatWest’ becomes ‘a64b8d3190050e4600ed3352cb05e5fb9a54c6dc’ under a hashing system called SHA1 for instance, and you can’t take that hash and reverse it and get the password. A per-account string of random characters should be added to the user’s password too – this alone makes it virtually impossible to crack a password. So long as no website stores your password as plain-text then you’re in the clear.

 

The problem is that you can’t trust websites to not store passwords as plain-text, and you have no idea if a website is there just to suck up people’s passwords and password strategies. Or even if a company has a website and just one developer decides to make copies of submitted passwords or figure out people’s password strategies.

 

 

If you’re into Computer Science and White-Hat Hacking in particular, read on.

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The Emperor Had the Boy Locked Up: "Mastering Kali Linux for Web Penetration Testing” by Michael McPhee

Review:

Mastering Kali Linux for Web Penetration Testing - Michael McPhee

“As applications have become more complex, and their importance has skyrocketed, bolt-on security approaches are no longer cutting it.”

 

In “Mastering Kali Linux for Web Penetration Testing” by Michael McPhee.

 

 

Hah… memories of a rather expensive inter-bank trading system we were offered one time to test. Examining the executable revealed a few plain text strings, one of which (the name of a biscuit in upper case) stood out as dubious, and turned out to be the encryption key for all communications (“super-duper unbreakable encryption” was one of their selling points) … With that, and a little bit of poking around, we reached the stage where we could send a message to another counterpart offering them a product at a certain price, and then we could send a message that told the server they’d accepted it (forming a legally binding contract – notional values for these goods were of the order of millions and tens of millions of dollars). Being nice guys, we didn’t do this for real (the above was done on the QA rig), but rejected the software. When we explained why, the vendors told us what we did would be “a breach of the license terms”, and couldn’t understand why we fell about laughing… especially after the way they “patched” the holes (obscured the encryption key with, I kid you not, ROT13.)

 

Names above withheld to protect the incompetent…

 

 

If you’re into Computer Science and Web PenTesting in particular, read on.

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antao.booklikes.com/post/1595904/the-emperor-had-the-boy-locked-up-mastering-kali-linux-for-web-penetration-testing-by-michael-mcphee

A Society of Abatement: “Year of the Fat Knight – The Falstaff Diaries” by Antony Sher

Review:

Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries - Antony Sher

“Sartre said that there’s a God-shaped hole in all of us. Greg fills his with Shakespeare; the other day he said, laughing, ‘I’m not the director of a company, I’m the priest of a religion!’ and me? I have Falstaff inside me now – I can say it confidently at last – and that great, greedy, glorious bastard leaves no room for anything else at all.”

 

In “Year of the Fat Knight – The Falstaff Diaries” by Antony Sher

 

 

 

Reading stuff like this, always awakens my creative streak. Here’s a little something for your (and my own) enjoyment I’ve just written that I think aptly summarises Sher’s book.

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The Emptiness of Literature: "Requiem – A Hallucination" by Antonio Tabucchi, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)

Review:

Requiem: A Hallucination - Antonio Tabucchi, Margaret Jull Costa

“Were someone to ask me why I wrote this story in Portuguese, I would answer simply that a story like this could only be written in Portuguese; it’s as simple as that. But there is something else that needs explaining. Strictly speaking, a Requiem should be written in Latin, at least that’s what tradition prescribes. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d be up to it in Latin. I realised though that I couldn’t write a Requiem in my own language and I that I required a different language, one that was for me A PLACE OF AFFECTION AND REFLECTION”.

In “Requiem” by Antonio Tabucchi

Affection and reflection: with these two words, Tabucchi defined his book better than any reviewer would be able to. “Requiem” is a small masterpiece of contemporary literature, from which one can only complain about one thing: it ends too soon for those who are taking delight in it.

It’s a very subjective thing, but when you read something that impresses you as language, regardless of its meaning, that seems to be so perfectly expressed that no one could have written it better, that makes you want to telephone a friend at 4AM and read it aloud, then you’re probably reading a great prose stylist. I also pay attention to a writer’s ability to create interesting, appropriate and original metaphors, similes, etc. A few top off-the-top-of-my-head’s examples of what I would call great prose stylists, really the greatest of the great, and they’d be Shakespeare, Proust, Walter Pater, Frank Kermode, Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall”, Faulkner, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and “To the Lighthouse”, William H. Gass, William T. Vollmann, Cormac McCarthy, John Donne in his sermons (which are enjoyable purely as prose), and many, many others. Again, it’s all very subjective, and everyone who cares about this stuff probably has a different list. Hell, I would have a different list if I made it two minutes from now…

Having said that, let me fanboy on Tabucchi as hard as I can, and on “Requiem” in particular.

This is a tribute to the dead, a fictional Tadeus (the narrator’S best friend), Isabel (his lover), and Fernando Pessoa. But it is also a tribute to a city almost dead, the old Lisbon that the Europeanization of Portugal had been destroying. Tabucchi is passionate about ancient Lisbon and describes it with affection for the all 12 hours during which the main character goes out in search of his ghosts.

On the last Sunday of July, the anonymous narrator is reading “The Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa under a mulberry tree in a farm in Azeitão, when he suddenly finds himself at the Lisbon dock waiting for the “dude” with whom he realizes he suddenly had a scheduled appointment. The “dude” is Fernando Pessoa. While trying to figure out how to fulfill his commitment to the poet, the narrator wanders through an almost deserted Lisbon (people have been refreshing themselves on the beaches), following clues that lead him to the Museum of Ancient Art, the House of Alentejo, the Cemetery of Pleasures, Brasileira do Chiado Café and other traditional points of my Lisbon.

 

If you’re into European Literature, read on.

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The Power of Certain Narratives: "Pereira Declares" by Antonio Tabucchi, Patrick Creagh (translator)

Review:

Pereira Declares: A Testimony - Antonio Tabucchi, Patrick Creagh

“[…] but I feel I must tell you that originally, we were Lusitanians, and then came the Romans and the Celts, and then came the Arabs, so what sort of race are we Portuguese in a position to celebrate? The Portuguese Race, replied the editor-in-chief, and I am sorry to say Pereira, that I don’t like the tone of your objection, we are Portuguese, we discovered the world, we achieved the greatest feats of navigation the world over, and when we did this, in the 16thcentury, we were already Portuguese, that is what we are and that is what you are to celebrate, Pereira.”

 

In “Pereira Declares” by Antonio Tabucchi.

 

I read this in a Portuguese translation from the Italian more than ten years ago, if memory serves me right, I haven’t come across anything quite like it and I still have a place in my heart for portly, perspiring Pereira with his omelets and his quiet, but subversive, decency. This time, this wonderful translation by Patrick Creagh just made my day.

 

In a narrative that does not want a puzzle, Tabucchi uses a very similar resource to the one used by Isaac Bashevis Singer: that of telling alien stories supposedly collected from conversations with real people, and not hiding it in the book’s writing. “Pereira Declares” is a book that walks slowly, seeking to situate the scenario through which the characters walk, without extending the descriptions but worried to leave the reader with significant details about the characters, as, for example, the custom of Pereira to take Lemonades and the same path every day.

 

 

If you’re into European Literature, read on.

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Witchcrafty-Cyperpunky SF: “Killing Gravity” by Corey J. White

Review:

Killing Gravity - Corey J. White

I am not sure which word I hate more, “badass”, or “Kickass”. Both, and often the situations where they are used, make me feel like we are celebrating being aggressive and mean rather than being strong.  Why is being successful always equated with winning over others? Why do people encourage someone with “go kick some ass’. Speaking for myself, I would love to make a success of things but I would rather do it without hurting any asses or feeling like my ass is “bad”. And by reading some fiction I discover another negative dimension to the word, as usual, women being asked to be strong are asked to be manly. What a sad way to be a feminist. Were I a woman, I’d not aspire to be more like a man. I’d aspire to have the same rights and opportunities as a man, and to be strong in my own way. But that’s just me talking. I understand we must keep in mind that unfortunately the world we live in is a competitive and aggressive one. Whenever someone’s gets to the top it is because he/she has kicked some ass in the road. Of course, there are a few exceptions given certain conditions and circumstances. Because this is the way language develops and changes over time, just as how ‘gay’ became shorthand for ‘homosexual’. ‘Badass’ might still mean something negative for men (not least because it suits some people to imply as much). It also explains why there have been so many feminist attempts to ‘reclaim’ words. Or is ‘badass’ going to join the list of Words-You-Must-Never- Use-to-Describe-a-Woman such as ‘feisty’?

 

Is “badass” the only way to be?

 

No. Women are diverse that way.

 

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on

 

 

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