Archive for the ‘biography’ Category

Failure of British bookstore chains to display or stock Hippie

November 2, 2018

Hippie, a major international best seller by Paulo Coelho, yet noticeable by its absence in WHSmith or Waterstone’ s, two British bookstore chains.

I checked in Guildford High Street, a few weeks after publication.

WHSmith. No Hippie. Not on display, not in stock. Talking to a helpful guy he said he cannot recall ever seeing in the store let alone on display.

Waterstone’s across the street no better. Hippie not on display. I did eventually find, spine only, on the bottom shelf next to the floor with new books. A little direct action. When I left,  on display on table by the entrance.

I inquired the week published. No one knew what I was talking about. WHSmith not only not in stock, not even shown on their system.

I had hoped to find at Gatwick Airport. Not there either.

Contrast with Athens, Hippie in window display of all major bookstores, one even had a display poster on the door.

Naomi Wu

November 12, 2017

Didn’t get here by meekly doing what I was told. — Naomi Wu

Who is Naomi Wu?

A talented Chinese designer, a hacker, a coder, life imitating art, a Chinese real life Lisbeth Salander straight off the pages of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a punk, a cyberpunk.

Shades of Neuromancer, Blade Runner, Culture series.  Strong hint of steampunk.

In the 1960s, there used to be magazines with projects you could build, pop down to Johny Birkett in The Strait and he would have all the parts you need. He is still there by the way but nobody makes anything anymore.

In the 1970s, Wireless World would have designs for state-of-the-art amplifiers, loud speakers, FM tuners, record decks, short wave radios, all of which you could build yourself.

Naomi Wu aka Real Sexy Cyborg designs and builds the stuff herself, even better shows how she does it, how she puts what she builds into practice.

In the second or third in the series of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a phone inserted in a prison cell, used as a relay, somewhere along the way, hack into a telecom system.

Need information on  a company. Build a drone, drop off a payload that intercepts wifi, download data, retrieve at a later date.

In the Culture world of Iain M Banks, have tiny drones that can deliver munitions, act as spies.

Neoromancer enter into the heart of the digital world.

Her designs span a wide range, dropping a payload on a building, unusual clothes, a battle vehicle.

And the range of design techniques, software, hardware, electronics, 3D printing, mechanical design.

Imagine a network of talented girls like Naomi Wu, with access to technology, access to the internet, access to 3D printing.

Instead of patenting what you design, you share, but have intellectual property rights that cannot be used by Big Business.  The actual development shared, others can suggest ideas for improvement, build prototypes, experiment.

The marginal cost of information stuff is tending to zero.

Her explanation of Open Source to the boss of a 3D printer manufacturers is one of the best explanations I have seen of Open Source. 

Pitched to the private sector, an invitation to join the Open Source community. 
You have a 3D printer, you need a part to fix it, use the 3D priner to fabricate the part. 

In Barcelona, the plan is to build FabLabs in every neighbourhood. Not only 3D printers, state-of-the-art machinery, and expertise on hand to help you use it.

We are now postcapitalism.

We  can have a world of Uber and Deleveroo, technology used for exploitation, a world of low paid, zero hours, temporary McShit jobs.

Or we can have a world of open coops, collaborative commons, sharing economy.

Uber has been kicked out of London. They way to kill Uber and Deliveroo  is through regulation and through the creation of open coop platforms, the taxi drivers and riders own the platform, share in its design and wealth creation, set the fares, open source, the community can help shape and design, the design can be shared and adopted and adapted by other cities.

Naomi Wu has come under a lot of stick, attacked by men, she cannot be real, she did not design the stuff.  Sad as it is pathetic.

The same mindset that thinks women are there to be abused.

She gets attacked for looking sexy, for how she dresses.

One sad pathetic example of humanity attacked her for wearing a pink dress.

She does though an excellent job of taking down the people who attack her and making them look the pathetic specimens of humanity that they are.

She is intelligent, articulate, and that really pisses off the trolls. How dare she, a mere slip of a girl, challenge them in their own world.

Then it is a state of denial, she must be a toy or a robot, someone else is telling her what to do.

She has to prove she is real.

Editor of Make magazine Dale Dougherty made the astounding claim

I am questioning who she [Naomi Wu] really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people.

Which he was then forced to withdraw and issue a grudging apology.

But the damage had been done. It legitimised the attacks on her.

Shenzhen is the tech capital of China, which means it is the tech capital of the world.

In Istanul is the Spice Market. Shenzhen has the tech version of the Spice Market.

Shenzhen exists at the intersection of technology and art, a cyber punk world where anything goes. Naomi Wu can walk the streets scantily clad, wearing bizarre outfits, even visit a company HQ, she attracts attention but does not get attacked.  On the other hand if she is seen as a competent designer, pushing the bounds, all hell breaks loose.

The attacks on her are not on the street, they are on-line.

Nao Pare na Pista

December 15, 2014

Gives one a new appreciation for Paulo Coelho. — Elaine Street

A Melhor Historia de Paulo Coelho.

Biography of the life of Paulo Coelho.

I was invited to the premier in Cascais in Portugal, only I did not learn of this until later.

Rudolf Schenker talking about his life

December 9, 2014

Make something of your life. — Rudolf Schenker

Rudolf Schenker lead guitarist and co-founder of German rock group The Scorpions talking about life, happiness and success.

As Santiago was told by the old man in The Alchemist: Follow your dreams.

If you do not follow your dreams, you will spend the rest of your life regretting it, until you eventually forget what you dreams were.

If you are are a writer you write what you have to say, a musician what you wish to play. If you try to please a publisher, a record label, follow what the market dictates, you will not be a success.

Grayson Perry in his Reith Lectures last year, made the point, do not follow fashion, style or the market, be true to yourself,a nd you are more likely to be a success.

I am Malala

October 15, 2014

I am Malala, was one of the events at the Guildford Book Festival.

I would have attended, only the local Amnesty International group screwed up big time and booked a venue that was far too small. It was oversubscribed with a long waiting list, and that was before she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Same night was Andrew Marr discussing his satire Head of State, and so Andrew Marr it was.

Malala, when she opened Birmingham library donated a book. The book she donated was The Alchemist, her favourite book and the book that has inspired her.

War correspondent Christina Lamb is co-author of I am Malala. The Zahir is based on Christina Lamb. She was one of the few journalists granted the privilege of interviewing Paulo Coelho on his latest book Adultery. She approached the interview with trepidation, wondering if once again a books based on her. Her fears were unfounded.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

The Internet’s Own Boy

September 20, 2014

Documentary on internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz.

Malala Yousafzai: By the Book

September 12, 2014

The activist and co-author of “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World” relished “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the first book she read in the hospital when recovering from an attack by the Taliban. New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor will continue the conversation with Malala Yousafzai at a Times Talk this evening; click here to watch it live or afterwards.

Malala Yousafzai Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Malala Yousafzai Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What book are you reading right now?

I’ve been reading “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck, which is on the school curriculum. It’s a short book, but it is filled with so much. It really reflects the situation of 1930s America. I was fascinated to learn how women were treated at the time, and what life was like for poor itinerant workers. Books can capture injustices in a way that stays with you and makes you want to do something about them. That’s why they are so powerful.

What’s the last truly great book you read?

“The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho. I like it because it is hopeful and inspiring. It tells the story of a boy who embarks on a journey to find a treasure, but as he goes along, he learns from every part of his journey and every person he meets. In the end, he finds his treasure in a very interesting place. His story tells you that you should believe in yourself and continue your journey.

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Deborah Ellis (author of “Parvana’s Journey”) and Khaled Hosseini (“The Kite Runner”). Both tell stories about young characters in difficult circumstances, having to make hard choices and having to find strength. They accurately depict war-torn regions. I like writers who can show me worlds I know nothing about, but my favorites are those who create characters or worlds which feel realistic and familiar to me, or who can make me feel inspired. I discovered Deborah Ellis’s books in the school library after my head teacher encouraged me to go beyond the school curriculum and look for books I might enjoy. This wasn’t long after I arrived in Britain, and I was missing my friends terribly. Reading about Afghanistan made me feel like being back at home. This is the power of books. They can take you to places which are beyond reach.

And your favorite writers of all time?

Paulo Coelho.

What books would you recommend for young people hoping to understand the plight of girls and women in Pakistan today?

“Mud City,” part of the “Parvana’s Journey” series by Deborah Ellis. I was gripped by this series and couldn’t drag myself away from it. Ellis beautifully captures childhood in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. The stories are very moving.

Is there one book you wish all girls would read? One all students would read?

All girls: “The Breadwinner,” by Deborah Ellis. The book tells the story of a young girl who takes on the challenge of saving her family. I think it’s important for girls everywhere to learn how women are treated in some societies. But even though Parvana is treated as lesser than boys and men, she never feels that way. She believes in herself and is stronger to fight against hunger, fear and war. Girls like her are an inspiration. “The Breadwinner” reminds us how courageous and strong women are around the world.

All students should read “The Kite Runner.” It shows you should not judge other people by external things. And it shows loyalty and friendship.

Were there particular books that helped you get through the recovery process after the attack on you by the Taliban?

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was the first book I read in the hospital. I had been having headaches and couldn’t read or focus properly for a while. It is a lovely book, and it was given to me by Gordon Brown — he sent me 25 books, and this was my favorite.

Which books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

“A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking. I read it during a period when life in Swat was very hard. I distracted myself from the fear and terrorism by thinking about things like how the universe began and whether time travel is possible. I enjoy science, and I’m a very curious person. I always want to know the reason behind everything, big or small.

What was the last book to make you laugh?

“The Little Prince.” It is a very clever book, and in the beginning it’s extremely funny.

The last book that made you cry?

I never cry reading a book.

The last book that made you furious?

Mine! The editing was really hard. Especially because we wanted to get everything right in a very short period of time. The workdays were very long, but it was worth it in the end.

What are your childhood memories of books and reading?

One of the first books I read is called “Meena,” about a girl who stood up for women’s rights and education in Afghanistan. I also read a biography about Martin Luther King Jr., written for children.

But I didn’t read a lot of books when I was young. In our country, many children don’t attend school or learn how to read. Those who do usually read only textbooks. In our classes, we focused more on history, science and mathematics than literature. Many people couldn’t afford books. Most books were secondhand, used by many children before. In Pakistan even schools own very few books. I was lucky to have a father who valued education and thought it was important that I knew how to read. I read eight or nine books in Swat, and I was considered to be a bookish girl! Here [in Birmingham, England] girls have read hundreds of books.

One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I was asked to open the Library of Birmingham, Europe’s largest new library. I had never seen so many books and all of them freely available to members of the public. If only children in Pakistan had such easy access to books! People of Birmingham are very lucky to have such a wonderful library.

If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be?

If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be?

I would like to suggest him to read many books. He should read “The Kite Runner,” too. And “The Little Prince.” Or maybe “The Alchemist,” if he would like to get away from his real world into the imaginary world of “The Alchemist.”

If you could require the prime minister of Pakistan to read one book, what would it be?

I would suggest him to read “Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

The Alchemist.”

And the worst?

I think it would be disrespectful to say that, but I did read a book recently which I thought was the worst.

What was the last book you put down without finishing?

Someone gave me a book to help me in improving my English. I read a few pages, and I didn’t really like that book and decided not to read it, as it had no suspense. A book should have suspense and grab you right from the beginning.

What are you planning to read next?

“An Inspector Calls.” It’s actually a play that I saw and enjoyed. It is part of the English syllabus, and I want to read it as well.

Originally published New York Times.

Paulo Coelho: having an affair and saving your marriage

August 25, 2014

Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho talks to Channel 4 News about adultery, depression, betrayal and how he connects with readers through social media.


“I cannot tell you I was the most faithful husband on earth, and the same goes for my wife, she had one or two affairs but we were able to overcome.”


“I thought the big issue was depression today, which is not, it is betrayal. The main focus here is that fear of losing control of the things we take for granted, and among the things we take for granted is marriage.”


“I’m not this nice person who is always forgiving everybody, no I’m a warrior. I’m very passionate about life. It’s not that I’m revengeful, but I’m a warrior.”


“For Brazil, the World Cup was a disaster and we’re going to pay this nepotism debt for the years to come. I can blame myself because I was there for the bid. I really regret when I saw how they were investing the money. It was basically nepotism.”

Middle East

“In Brazil we have this expression, we ask the driver of a bus to put the brakes on when somewhere is too crowded so I think the same thing is going to happen in the Middle East.”

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist. He is the recipient of numerous international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum.

The Alchemist, his most famous novel, has been translated into 80 languages. The author has sold 150 million copies worldwide.

His latest book Adultery is out now.

You can follow him on twitter @paulocoelho.

Adaptation of Channel 4 News interview with Paulo Coelho.

Paulo Coelho explains why his latest novel is called ‘Adultery’

August 24, 2014
Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

I WAS not at all sure about going to interview Paulo Coelho. It’s not that I am not fascinated by Brazil’s rock-star writer, who has sold more than 150 million books and whose fans range from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Madonna. It’s just that the previous time I went to interview him, a few days after coming back from the war in Iraq in 2003, he ended up using me as the inspiration for a novel about a female war correspondent.

Then I looked at his new book: Adultery is about a middle-aged female journalist who enters into a destructive affair with a politician she interviews. Being the inspiration for that would be hard to explain to my husband.

Coelho laughs heartily, grabs my tape recorder and speaks into it. “Christina Lamb, who was the muse for my book The Zahir, is not the muse for Adultery,” he says. Fascinated by world affairs, Coelho devours news. As his wife brings us coffee, he quizzes me about Gaza, Syria, Iraq and ­Afghanistan.

All this death and destruction seems very far from peaceful Geneva, where the Coelhos live in a two-storey penthouse in a large apartment building, all white walls with colourful paintings by his wife. We sit at a table on the upper floor, surrounded by big windows looking out on to trees and mountains and a terrace with a target where he practises archery.

He will be 67 next week and is dressed in his uniform of black T-shirt and black jeans, a strange rat’s tail of white hair protruding from the back of his head. His phone is nearby in case his dentist calls — even the most spiritual of writers get tooth infections. Eventually I point out that I will have to ask him some questions and he points out that he doesn’t need to give interviews — he has nearly 22 million likes on his main Facebook page and nine million Twitter followers. Even though his new book will launch in 30 countries next week, he is giving no interviews besides this one and another to an American paper.

“Publishers still don’t understand — they say to promote a book you need to travel and give interviews,” he says. “I say, ‘No, it’s a waste of time. What promotes a book is word of mouth.’ ”

He also stopped book signings because there were too many people. Were it not for the money rolling in, publishers would surely hate him. He pirates his own books through a website called Pirate Coelho, which he insists has led to more sales.

He spends far more time on social media than he does writing, posting “random videos” in which he pontificates on subjects such as the “exchange of energy” as well as messages that are seen by some as inspiration and by others as banal: for example, “The extraordinary lies in the path of ordinary people.”

“This is the future of literature,” he enthuses. “I am positive in 20 years from now people will write very short pieces like the Greeks when they used to write about philosophy.

“Attention spans are being reduced and I have to adapt if I am going to continue to be read.”

The idea for Adultery came from his followers. “The origin of this book is the Kinsey report — you remember that?” he asks. When I crumple my forehead, he laughs. “No, you think about war, not sex!” Also, my mother was still a child in 1948 when Alfred Kinsey lifted the lid on American sexual behaviour in a vast study.

“When his book was released, Americans felt this great relief — I’m not the only one to make love in this way,” says Coelho. “So I thought that now I have more than 30 million people on social communities I can do the same as Kinsey did for sex on something I consider relevant.”

He chose depression and put up a post on his site. The next day he had more than 1100 replies. “I noticed that out of these 1100 responses, 100 were discussing depression and the others were all about being betrayed. So I realised the problem is not depression; it’s adultery.”

He started going on internet forums. “I saw that many people get such an emotional reaction to someone they meet, even if it’s just a one-night stand, that they sacrifice everything, get divorced and then regret it.”

Has he been adulterous, I ask, feeling a bit awkward as his wife is just downstairs. “Of course,” he replies. “At the beginning she had two or three affairs, I guess. I had … but we never considered divorce. We were open; still are. I didn’t see the point of hiding because she knew I loved her and I knew she loved me.” Indeed he has been with his fourth wife, Chris­tina, for 35 years. “Humans are not naturally monogamous but we adapt,” he says.

He shows me what he calls his “cell” — the downstairs room where he writes. There is a large computer on the desk and on the wall above it a map of Switzerland, an icon of the Virgin Mary and a clock. No music — “It’s too powerful, it will drive my attention away.” And no books: “I gave them all away to libraries and bought them in electronic form.”

He claims he writes books only after seeing a white feather. Astonishingly he says it took him just two or three weeks to write his latest. His assistants are instructed to refuse all invitations and almost all interview requests. He shows me his calendar for the month: “Look, nothing, nothing, nothing!” he says proudly.

Coelho’s own life is the stuff of fiction. He shows me a trailer for a Brazilian biopic that will go on general release that week. Though he was not involved, he says he is nervous of public reaction.

He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, and his father was an engineer who wanted him to follow in his footsteps or become a lawyer. But from a young age he longed to be a writer. So alarmed were his parents that when he was 17 they sent him to a mental asylum. “Not just once but three times,” he says. “They thought I was psychotic. Like now, I read a lot and I didn’t socialise.”

Doesn’t he feel angry with his parents? “Not then, not now,” he replies. “Then I understood it as a test of my willpower; now I understand it as a manifestation of love — they were trying to protect me.”

After he was freed he became a hippie. A chance meeting with Brazilian rock star Raul Seixas led to him writing lyrics. He was so successful that by the age of 25 he owned five flats. There was just one problem: Brazil’s military regime saw the songs as subversive. Coelho was arrested and tortured.

What kept him going, he says, was his belief he would be a writer. It took a long time. His turning point was a 800km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain in 1986. “At the end I thought either I forget my dream or write a book.”

He wrote The Pilgrimage and then The Alchemist, which has sold more than 65 million copies. The first publisher printed just 900 copies and sold so few that he gave Coelho back the rights.

Gradually by word of mouth the book started selling. I notice he tweets every week that it is still on The New York Times bestseller list: 315 weeks this week. Does he still get a kick out of the numbers, I ask. “Absolutely!” he replies. “I check every week.”

Fans of the book include Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts and Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, who had it on her bookshelf in the remote valley of Swat in Pakistan. What is it that touches so many people? “I have no answer,” he replies. “The day I have, I would try to repeat the formula, and that’s dangerous.”

He is delighted to have avoided a film of The Alchemist. “Warner has the rights,” he says. “But I think a movie kills a book. It can make a book sell for the next four weeks but no more. If I see a movie based on a book I am not going to read the book.”

He is in the happy position of not needing the money. He must be super rich, I say. “Of course!” he laughs. I wonder what he does with it. He has no children and seems to live simply — his watch is a Swatch and his only jewellery a silver serpent ring.

“I made a list of things I really enjoy,” he says. “The first is walking, which I do every day, but that’s free. Then archery, which I like because I can’t sit down and meditate and say ‘Om’ — I am not that type of person. Then the internet — I have broadband but that’s not expensive. Me and my wife don’t spend much money.”

What he doesn’t have is the respect of critics. For all his sales, his books are derided as cod philosophy full of platitudes such as “Everyone has a dark side”. He professes not to care. “I don’t take the critics seriously,” he insists. “They can say whatever they want — it’s part of the game. If I didn’t have such heavy criticism I probably wouldn’t be who I am.”

But clearly he yearns for critical acclaim, telling me that his dream is to win the Nobel. “Every single writer in the world wants the Nobel prize,” he says. “If I have one ambition, that’s it.”

As I leave, I walk through the neat Swiss streets, recognising locations of adulterous assignations in his book. Then I see he has added a posting to his Facebook page. It says: “The difficult times make us discover we are more capable than what we thought.” I don’t know if he is referring to the interview or the tooth.

— Christina Lamb

Interview with Paulo Coleho published in the Sunday Times two weeks ago.

Não Pare Na Pista

April 26, 2014

A cinebiografia conta a história do autor brasileiro mais lido no mundo.”Não Pare Na Pista – A melhor história de Paulo Coelho” é um filme de ficção baseado em depoimentos de Paulo Coelho.

A film documenting the life of Paulo Coelho.

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