Death by Books

A search for the real dangers in books, who they've hurt, killed or maimed, and the reasons why they are so feared by governments and religions everywhere.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking on the impossible

Ok, I've been quiet for a long time, but not exactly dormant. I think that I've finally decided that it is time to tackle the truly dangerous books that I have been avoiding.

Believe you me, there are some truly dangerous books, and I'm not talking about the hernia you get from trying to lift an entire set of Encyclopedia Brittanica. No I am talking about books of law. There are many different books of law. Religious law. Civil law. These books, and their interpretations directly lead to the deaths of many individuals.

So it is time to tackle them. I have avoided it for too long.

So I am now making a request for comments. What do you think are the most dangerous books ever published and why? What great tragedies, suffering, & death did they lead to?

I await with baited breath.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Search Continues...

And so I still continue to scour the news for any sign of the dangers of books. Today we can read on The Register that:

Man Dies Playing Computer Games

US Kids Run Amok on the Internet - bypass net filters, crack admin passwords, threaten democracy

I must admit than many governments seem to fear the internet... but I have yet to hear of any religion banning the internet. Further more I have never heard of either frowning on computers in general. So if computers aren't inherently evil I guess we can all thank our lucky stars that these poor souls above weren't reading Tom Sawyer or who knows what might have happened.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Exeptional Human Characteristics

From a very young age we become inspired that there is a certain justice to the world. This may be the reason why we automatically become order makers. Its part of the process of coming to understand the world.

Categorization is drilled into us from a very young age. Starting from "Cat" & "Dog." It could, I suppose, be just the other way around. That we, as humans, have just been passing along this single skill set: Categorization. Hence we seek order and desire justice.

Maturity frequently arises from the realisation that the world is not just.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Terrorism by Pen

I have discussed before the potential reasons that governments may fear books, i.e. the poisons released in their production, the destruction of natural resources, the dangerous machinery used, et. al. But I have just had a new revelation...

Maybe it is the pen that they fear. It is, after all, commonly said that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Certainly the US government is trying to make sure that we don't forget 9-11 (what year was that again?). I am still astounded that a group of terrorists were able to hijack a series of planes with box cutters. This quite simply overwhelms me. Since then I have, as most US citizens, experienced the heightened security in airports and federal buildings and consequently lost my favorite pocket knife to the nearest trash can (and even a family heirloom or two).

Now let us consider the ever so common plastic pen. This weapon of potential destruction is shaped rather like a stiletto. A long, thin, penetrating shaft with a sharp point. Let us now consider what damage such a device could inflict on a jugular artery or a well aimed blow to the heart. Who needs a gun after all when a plastic pen quite handily passes all security inspections.

Of course in this day and age of digital life styles portable computers who writes by hand any more any way?

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Ok, today we have a non-book quiz for all of you.

What famous 1973 film had the line, "Kind of like Walt Disney tell the Ho Chi Minh story."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Books VS Television

News flash!!! -
"Children who watch a lot of television are more prone to push other kids around, according to the research. Conversely, four-year-olds whose parents tend to read to them, eat meals with them and go on outings together are significantly less likely to become bullies in grade school." - Yahoo! New 4-4-2005

Like this is news? When I was growing up I was friends with everyone. By the time I graduated from high-school I had never had a single fight, and was an accepted member of the nerds, the punks, the prepies, the jocks (though I did have a rather shy streak when it came to talking to girls).

Why? One of my earliest memories is of my mother reading to my sister and I The Secret Garden - by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Before I went to kindergarden I could already read. By third grade I had read Tolkien's trilogy.

Of course now I am an intellectual bully. Not a psuedo-intellectual bully. Psuedo-intellectual bullies like to try to impress people with their knowledge. Intellectual bullies tend to ignore anyone who isn't truly worth sparring with. I guess people don't notice intellectual bullies so much, since it isn't the same as being pushed in public and getting your pant's knee torn when you fall to the ground.

So who are the bigger bullies? TV heads or book heads? Is it worse to be beaten up physically or wrangled mentally? I know I have caused several people to question there entire value systems. Lord knows that's got to hurt.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Will work for books...

I would just like to share a little bit with everybody one of the great new wonders of the internet For example, in my last post I said I was reading some of the Chinese classics. One of the books I've been reading is Cao Xue Qin's The Story of the Stone. This book is available for free in text format along with 1000s of other books not restricted under copyright laws.

Of note, I continue to find the computer a most unpleasant medium for reading. There are so many obvious advantages to the medium, such as linking/relating content to sources or other mediums with a simply web link, or including multi-media directly in the content itself. But its not mobile, its not tactile, books are so much easier to embrace, to feel comfortable with, to "possess". I have all these files on my computer but they belong to the computer. The books on my shelf... they belong to ME.

Consequently, and somewhat humorously, even though I downloaded the 3000 pages of The Story of the Stone from I still ended up paying $90 for the 5 volume Penguin set to be sent to me by (one of the few ways that I can receive books in Vietnam without having to have them reviewed by the censor before receiving them - of courese I'm a white guy, Vietnamese locals still have to pass the censor).

One of things I miss from all my jobs of the past is working at the book distributor in South SF. I bring this up, because there is a certain criminal element (in my hubmle opinion) to the Penguin publishing house. Penguin, in general, is great. They publish all the classics of literature and as noted above have even been expanding into the classics of Asian literature.

On one hand these books are hundreds, even thousands of years old. On the other hand they need to make money off their publishings. Consequently every month I used to have to restock several classic volumes with new copies that were $0.25 more expensive. Yes, you read that right, every month. Now there are several possible reasons for this. Most likely though it because people aren't buying books like they used to and cover their margins that have to increase the price. But what happens to the old priced books? Their front covers are torn off and they thrown away. What a tremendous waste!!!

First they cut down the trees. Then make the paper and publisht the books. Then to cover their margins they tear off the covers and throw them away. But whose replanting the trees?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Death to books...

I've been reading the chinese classics of late. 2 years ago I finished the Three Kingdoms. If I thought that was a long book, my current endeavor The Story of the Stone is 5 volumes totalling almost 2500 pages. Written 300 hundred years ago it remains one of the most popular chinese novels to date, if you don't count that guy who wrote all those flying kung-fu serials.

So this is what I am seeing. A couple weeks back it was reported that a German University had done a comprehensive analysis of the effects of computers in the home on test scores. The result? The more computers/computer time available to young students, the worse their grade. Worse, did I say?

Worse! (

Why? It seems obvious to me. Not enough books. Not enough pen and paper. Instead of memorizing common mathematical systems (i.e. the multiplication tables) I simply pull out my trusty calculator. Result: I didn't learn anything except how to enter equations into a calculator. The process is still a mystery to me.

Gee, now I'm thinking about books. What effect does the reading of books have on test scores. Hmm. Every report that I can find on the topic says exactly the same thing: Scores improve. I hate to say it, but Jerry Mander may have been onto something. Oh my god, I can't believe what I'm about to say, but Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television may have more basis in reality than I previously thought.

So how do governments feel about this? Well, in the US where funding for public schools is low and students tend to graduate with a third world level of education, it would seem that this is a good thing. The on-going diet of commercialism, TV, computer generated imagery is maintaining the status quo (ignorance) and satiating the masses.

Religion? Well they only want us to read one book anyway. Be it the Quran, Bible, Bhagavadgita, or ancient Tantric scrolls.

The death of books. Wow!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

End of This Process

There is an excellent article in Wikipedia on the process of producing paper, it's history, etc. There is also this excerpt about environmental impact:
- start quote -
The pulp and paper industry has been accused of being instrumental in forest destruction. Several major Asian producers, for example, with strong connections to their respective Governments and bureaucracy have been systematically stripping rainforest for many years. Often the logs are transhipped to other countries to disguise the damaging trade.

The Indonesian, Malaysian, Cambodian, Amazon rainforests are currently being subject to some of the worst excesses of environmental vandalism.

The processes by which paper is rendered white, in most cases, is also a source of concern. Many rivers have been badly damaged by the discharges from mills processing the wood pulp. These concerns are not merely side issues but rather display the comprehensive problems that occur when production dominates thinking. As in many problems over the years the mistaken belief is, and has traditionally been, that nature can cope. The short answer now is that nature cannot and increasingly the state of the ecosystems has been rendered such that the position has, and is becoming, terminal. The flow-on effect compounds and already disastrous position as in (for example) water quality.
- end quote -
In conclusion, maybe the governments and religions aren't trying to protect us from books, but from all of the hazards involved in their production. It does seem a rather backwards way to do it especially considering....

Monday, November 08, 2004


My grandfather worked most of his life at the paper mill in Camas Washington. It has since changed owners so I don't have to fear for my life when I tell you that he died of lung cancer most likely due to the asbestos removal that he was involved with at the mill. My father said that when he was growing up he would have to check every morning just to make sure that he hadn't shat his bed in the night. Not that he ever shat his bed, just that even after living next to a paper mill for years and years the smell was so bad that it was impossible to believe that the source wasn't right there in the bed with him. I too know this smell from visiting my grandparents as a kid, and my dad now (yes, he's back in the old home town now), and let me tell you it is a stench beyond reckoning.

Of course we're not here to discuss scent pollution.

We were discussing paper. Once the dangerous process of logging has been completed and the wood for the paper has been trucked, trained (sit up loggy - oh I mean transported by train), or rivered (a dangerous and difficult task of guiding logs as they float down the river) to the paper plant begins the next set of dangers in the book production process come about. Again, as with logging, the modern paper making process usually involves very large and dangerous equipment. (here is a cute kid's video about the paper making process: Paper Video

... continues ...

Friday, October 29, 2004

News Flash

Today's Saigon Times reports (in 2 different articles)"

"The death toll on Vietnam's roads now averages 58 people a day..."

"Cancer strikes some 150,000 Vietnamese people annually"

Yesterday they reported (I am paraphrasing, can't find the article right now):

"Fragrant trees in Da Nang causing headaches..."

In Science news this week (on my Yahoo feed) it was also reported that trees produce more poisonous ozone than previously was thought.

No specific references so far this year to actual deaths by books in the Saigon Times, Vietnamese press, or my Yahoo feed.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Vanity Cometh

I have gone so far (enjoying this now too much) as to make a banner for my site. Feel free to add it to your web page with a link back here...

-- Kirkkitsch has also kindly designed a lovely banner (thanks, can I call you Kirk?). View his blog at (opens in new window).

His banner:

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Real Danger

I may have figured it out. Last night in the shower it suddenly came to me that maybe it is reverse protection. Sure, that box of books might fall on your head or throw out your back, but the real danger is in the production of books, and not just books, but all printed materials. Let us look at the process in order.

Firstly there is the need for paper. Paper is today still produced largely from trees. So the beginning of the process is in the acquisition of trees commonly called logging. The logging industry has a long and illustrious history going back 200,000 years to the dawn of man and the introduction of house fabrication. This advancement was a major improvement in human lifestyles and persists until today as one of the greatest achievements, improvements, and desirable commodities of modern life. The house combined with advancements in understanding of horticulture led to a more stable agrarian lifestyle which in turn led to further intellectual and social advancements including writing. This in turn led to the eventual invention of paper both independently in Asia and Africa.

The logging industry, though is fraught with dangers. There are the real dangers involved in the process of logging. In modern days logging is usually performed using advanced machineries and tools like power saws, trucks, tractors, etc. These tools themselves are highly dangerous and claim thousands of lives and limbs every year in the USA and probably tens of thousands world wide every year. Also involved in the act of logging is the actual felling of trees which weigh several tons and come crashing to the ground. Proper safety measurements are required in this process by all major corporations involved in this industry, but it remains a dangerous undertaking none-the-less.

Deforestation, a by product of over logging certain areas, is also a common place danger that results from logging. Deforestation contains many hazards that may either directly or indirectly have an effect on human beings. Some of these hazards include erosion, loss of habitat for wild animals, loss of bio-diversity, and reduced oxygen production. Each one of these hazards has been well researched and documented and rather than try to detail all of the effects these hazards I would like to request, gentle readers, that you perhaps offer some links and references for us all?

As you can see there are real and present dangers in the first stage of book production with both an annual head count (in both deaths and dis-memberment) as well as long term hazardous effects. The next stage of the process after logging is the actual manufacture of the paper itself...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Death by Books

Ok, I have yet to become a BLOGGER, per say. I understand the phenomenon very well as I used to do the whole BBS thing way back in the day. Still for the most part I have not found the need to expound publicly on my own ideas.

Then last night I was working on a business plan that I am developing to open a science museum here in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. It is not relevant at this point how a westerner (U.S. California resident) came to live in Vietnam, sufficed to say that this is currently my home. For the most part I love living here. I live a life of ease for next to nothing and have opportunities here that I could never have at home in the USA. Still, there are areas that are hard to deal with, censorship for example. With the US poised to destroy their own freedom of information act, and the continued errosion of civil liberties I was suddenly prompted to the thought, "How many people die because of books?"

Especially here in Vietnam where there are more social police than traffic police, and there are thousands upon thousands of traffic deaths every year in the extremely chaotic Vietnamese traffic, it seems to me that we should look very carefully at what is that is so threatening about books.

So now I am making a call out to all of you... can you send me any documented evidence of death caused by books? Allow me to qualify this statement. I am not referring to religious wars, for example the crusades, which could arguably be claimed as being caused by the bible. I would say that it is not so much the bible as religious fervor that caused these deaths. If you disagree I will be glad to receive your comments on this topic as well. But, what I am thinking of more is say for example the call for the murder of Salman Rushdie for the writing of the Satanic Verses. If Mr. Rushdie had been murdered for writing this book I would qualify this as a death by books. Of course there are the obvious deaths, such as man crushed by box of falling books, or heavy tome causes concusion. I mean just how dangerous are these books anyway?