Isolation Leads to Extinction

Reading Ben Ehrenreich’s The Way to the Spring: Life and Death In Palestine, which is mainly about land. Land, stony land. Homeland.

She remembers reading, a couple of pages back, something about settlements. That it is natural for settlements to expand.

She also learns the meaning of the word Intifada: it means shaking off.

Which brings us to “isolation leads to extinction.” Which is something she read in a book, long long time ago. A book about extinction. She thinks it was The Beak of the Finch. Or maybe something by Stephen Jay Gould.

What self is trying to say is, from that book read so long ago, self learned this vaulable lesson: that when earth’s land bridges disappeared, and islands and their attendant species became cut off from other species, a species inevitably lost its vigor, inbreeding passed on genetic weakness, and eventually that species was no more.

Which brings us back to Palestine!

Apologies for the digression.

On p. 55, Ehrenreich introduces us to a man named Hani Amer whose land exists as “a crease” between concrete fences and barbed wire. The Israelis built the walls and gave Amer a choice: either he move and let them demolish his house, or he remained and they would build the wall around him. Amer stayed.

On the day he meets Ehrenreich, Amer says, “I’m tired of telling this story.” But Ehrenreich prods it out of him anyway.

p. 57:

  • Amer’s house was soon surrounded: the wall on one side, the fence on the other. They built a gate and told him to choose a time and they would come and open it for fifteen minutes every twenty-four hours. He demanded a gate of his own with a key of his own, so that he could let himself in and out when he wished, so that his home would not become for him a prison. They refused.

And now, self has spent far too long on this post and will resume reading.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Steve Jobs Photograph

The greatest photographs of Steve Jobs self has ever seen are here, at the Douglas Menuez Photography Archive in Stanford.

When she visited Bletchley Park in June, the tour guide said the first computer was invented at Bletchley Park, by Alan Turing. She saw this thingamajig (really, there is no other word to describe what she saw. Unless it’s the word contraption) that looked like the inside of someone’s cabinet, only with — gear wheels? And wires? It was a codebreaking machine.

That’s funny, self thought. All along, she thought the computer was invented in Silicon Valley. By IBM.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

As You Were

Classes were not cancelled. Self had to teach in the city; traffic was the usual.

Son went to school. He asked for a bathroom pass. He walked down a long, eerily silent corridor of classrooms. Through the open doors, he could hear the drifting sounds of CNN from the classroom TVs.

Her brother-in-law walked from his office in Wall Street, along with thousands. Somewhere midtown, he miraculously caught a cab which took him the rest of the way home.

There’s an article in The Conversation about a doctor attending a medical research meeting in the Brooklyn Marriott that morning. While people streamed out of Manhattan, he and a colleague walked towards Lower Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge; most of the people were heading the other way.

Last year, self was in New York City on 9/11. It was a very anti-climactic experience. Life went on as usual. Crowds drifted on and off the subways. The Grand Central food court was bustling with people. Not one of the crowds milling about mentioned 9/11.

That night, she took a train to Connecticut. It was late; the cars were full of young people. Laughing, talking. Nothing was different from the day before. Nothing marked the day as “different.” There were the usual intoxicated youths, no more, no less. There were no visible signs of increased security, not even in Grand Central.

Self would like the world to know: this nonchalance, it’s so “New York.” And maybe that was the point. We don’t let it change our daily lives, we don’t stop taking planes or trains. We don’t stop trusting people. We don’t stop trusting in the kindness of strangers. We just go on as usual.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

“The Mystery of ISIS” by Anonymous

The New York Review of Books, 13 August 2015

Self is not kidding: for the first time ever in her many years of reading The New York Review of Books, there is a piece whose writer is identified only as “Anonymous.”

It’s a review of two new (well, relatively new; the issue self is reading is a year old) books about the rise of Islamic State aka IS/ISIS/ISIL/Army of the Levant and its founder, Ahmad Fadhil aka Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan (Regan Arts) and ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger (Ecco)

The reviewer asks:

  • “Who (in 2003) could have imagined that a movement founded by a man from a video store in provincial Jordan would tear off a third of the territory of Syria and Iraq, shatter all these historical institutions, and — defeating the combined militaries of a dozen of the wealthiest countries on earth — create a mini-empire? The story is relatively easy to narrate, but much more difficult to understand.”

The piece is very long and dense with information. Among its many references is one to Lawrence of Arabia (who said “. . . insurgents must be like a mist — everywhere and nowhere — never trying to hold ground or wasting lives in battles with regular armies.”) and another to Chairman Mao (who insisted that “guerrillas should be fish” swimming “in the sea of the local population”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

You May Share My Bed, Mr. A. Lincoln

from the Books section of the Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, 23 July – 24 July:

On the day Joshua Fry Speed met the 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln was destitute and looking for a place to stay in Springfield, ILL. Speed, scion of “a wealthy Louisiana plantation family”, owned a dry-goods store. “On impulse,” Speed invited “this newcomer to share his his double bed in the room above his store, rent to be discussed later.”

In Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln, biographer Charles B. Strozier “maintains that , at a time when only ‘one percent’ had beds, or for that matter bedrooms . . .  Speed’s offer carried none of the sexualized connotations it would exude today . . .  For Lincoln, who had shared beds with other males throughout his impoverished life, Speed’s offer promised company at night, warmth in winter and split expenses year-round . . .  Of course they tossed and turned against each other every evening, but when they were awake they talked about navigating ‘the uncertain world of women.’ ”

A book about Abraham Lincoln’s sleeping arrangements during his young manhood? What next? Self is so there.

Nice review by Harold Holzer.

Stay tuned.

Poem For 9/11 (Tin House, 2002)

12/19/02

by

David Lehman

It seemed nothing would ever be the same
This feeling lasted for months
Not a day passed without a dozen mentions
of the devastation and the grief
Then life came back
it returned like sap to the tree
shooting new life into the veins
of parched leaves turning them green
and the old irritations came back,
they were life, too,
crowds pushing, taxis honking, the envies, the anger,
the woman who could not escape her misery
as she stood between two mirrored walls
couldn’t sleep, took a pill, heard the noises of neighbors
the dogs barking, the pigeons in the alley yipping weirdly
and the phone that rang at eight twenty with the news
of Lucy’s overdose we just saw her last Friday evening
at Jay’s on Jane Street she’d been dead for a day or so
when they found her and there was no note
the autopsy’s today the wake day after tomorrow
and then I knew that life had resumed, ordinary bitching life
had come back

Curve in London

The Daily Post Photo Challenge this week is CURVE.

  • FIND INSPIRATION IN THE CURVES AROUND YOU

— Cheri Lucas Rowlands, The Daily Post Photo Challenge

Self presents three types of curves:

  • Sign on a street corner in London
  • The curve of a swan’s wings
  • The curve of a swans’ neck
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Self’s ‘hood’ in London

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Swan Settling: Bletchley Park, June 2016

Self adores swans, though some can have quite a nasty temper. The ones in Bletchley Park are amazingly docile:

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This may be the same swan as previous. There’s a whole flock of them by the lake at Bletchley Park.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Trying To Think of the Good In Life (Pure 3)

Just two days ago, the sun was shining, all felt right with the world.

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Central Park, New York, Friday 10 June 2016

And this was a picture self took in Bletchley Park, outside London, just a week ago:

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Bletchley Park, Where World War II Codebreakers worked to turn the tide.

And another from Bletchley Park. The swans are exceedingly tame and are so used to people that they let children go right up to them and pet them.

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The tamest swan self has ever encountered: Bletchley Park, June 2016

In solidarity with the people of Orlando, Florida.

Stay tuned.


Numbers 4: Exhibits, Museum of the History of Science (Oxford) and the British Museum

Self-explanatory!

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Oxford, England: May 2016

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Assyrian Gallery, British Museum, London: May 2016

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Another Caption from the Assyrian Gallery in the British Museum: May 2016

Numbers 3: More From Bletchley Park

Each building in Bletchley Park has specific displays and documentary films. In the codebreaking huts (a total of 11, self thinks there were), the lighting is purposefully dim, as if to give the impression of how much secrecy was involved.

Yet the grounds themselves are beautiful.

Self never got to see the Benedict Cumberbatch movie, The Imitation Game. The film has a special exhibit in the Mansion House — there’s very interesting information from the costume designer, about the thinking behind the way the actors — who played a constellation of codebreakers that included Alan Turing and Stuart Menzies — were dressed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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