Bert Olivier

On the death of a (benign) revolutionary

This morning, just after reading the news of Nelson Mandela’s death — uncannily coinciding with the world premiere of the film on his life — my partner and I were exploring the beautiful churches in Freiburg, Germany. In one of them (the Herz-Jesu) there is a series of magnificent paintings by Charles Bevaert, (I hope…

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Beautiful, but expensive Basel

Basel is among the oldest cities of Europe, and architecturally speaking, among the most beautiful. Its founding antedates the beginning of the common era (CE), and its history from the Roman through the medieval to the modern period is as chequered as any city’s could be. It is a relatively small city, with just over…

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Tarzan revisited

The story of Tarzan is familiar to millions of readers and movie fans all over the world. In addition to the original narrative (Tarzan of the Apes), more than 20 subsequent Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs fleshed out the story and concomitantly the parameters of what is ultimately a myth, mainly, but not exclusively…

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What ordinary people don’t know about the deep web

The November 11 edition of TIME magazine features a cover article on “The Secret (or Deep) Web” (pp20-27), which most regular users of the internet are not even aware of — I, for one, did not know that what I had always regarded as that most splendid of inventions, the internet as “horizontal”, democratising axis…

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Familiar places and foreign spaces

After a particularly strenuous semester, particularly regarding postgraduate students’ work, and on the eve of a much-needed overseas trip to a conference in Europe, I am reminded, again, of Michel de Certeau’s wonderful exploration of spatial practices in The Practice of Everyday Life (University of California Press, 1988), on which I have written here before…

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All hail women!

An article in a recent TIME magazine (“The last Politicians”, by Jay Newton-Small; TIME, October 28, 2013, pp46-50) has brought home to me, once again, how different women are from men, and what a pity it is that they, our human “sisters”, have not remained in the social leadership positions that, according to several accounts,…

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The normalisation of the unthinkable

We live in apocalyptic times. This is the considered belief of an extraordinary contemporary philosopher, who also phrases it as Living in the End Times — the title of a book that appeared in 2010 (Verso), and which contains between its covers so many intellectual tours de force that I, for one, will not even…

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Women and unconventional morality

The implications of the heading, above, are not as simple as it may appear. I can imagine most feminists immediately reminding me that adopting a different discursive orientation — different from patriarchal discourse, that is — is already highly unconventional. As a male feminist (no, it’s not an oxymoron) myself, I would agree, but that’s…

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Mirror wars

The crime novel I referred to in my last post (The diversity of individuals), Leif Persson’s Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End) is a real treasure trove of wisdom on life, love, good, evil, and a host of other things that really matter. It is much more than just a crime novel; it is a…

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The diversity of individuals

Some individuals are gregarious, and others are solitary. It is probably also the case that there is a group in-between these extremes – those people who are neither solitary nor gregarious, but are happy with their own company when alone, and comfortable among others at work, at play and on other social occasions. It is…

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