#amreading: THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS, by Eugene Rogan

Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans is the first history/nonfiction self has been able to get into since May.

She’s on Chapter Five: Launching Jihad, p. 102

The Jihad does not come from the source you’d expect: It is December 8, 1914. Turkey’s Minister of War is a politician named Enver Pasha.

Rogen’s description of Enver:

Enver, an impetuous man, had made his career through bold, high-risk initiatives. A historic leader of the 1908 revolution, an architect of the 1911 Ottoman-led jihad in Libya, leader of the 1913 raid on the Sublime Porte who forced the prime minister to resign at gunpoint, and “liberator of Edirne” in the Second Balkan War, Enver believed in taking action and had little doubt in his own judgment and abilities.

Here’s a list of the other history self has read thus far in 2017:

  • Montcalm and Wolfe: The Decline and Fall of the French Empire in North America
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • SPQR
  • Rubicon
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner

Self began Franny Moyle’s hefty biography of Turner a few days ago.

It begins at the end of his life, which is a little sad. The man lived with his common-law wife in a grotty part of London and no one knew he was Turner. Neighbors thought he was a retired sea captain and called him “Piggy.”

Come to think of it, self hates any biography that begins at the end. She thinks it’s a little bit of a cheat. But that’s the only quibble she has about the book so far.

She was in London just a month ago. Can you believe it? She went to the British Museum and saw an exhibit, Places of the Mind, British Watercolour Landscapes, 1850 – 1950: celebrating “the work of British landscape artists during the hundred years following the death of J. M. W. Turner.”

She’s not reading the Turner biography because of that exhibit. She follows a strict order in her reading list. She read about the biography two years ago, and it took her all this time to work through the books that came before. It’s amazing that she’s reading about Turner when the watercolour exhibit is still so fresh in her mind.

More amazing: the Mendocino Art Center contacted her about submitting a description for the writing workshop she’s teaching there, early next year. The Art Center has a lot of visual artists, and that’s what it’s known for. There’s synchronicity in the universe now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: THE THREE-YEAR SWIM CLUB, by Julie Checkoway

Self got this helpful reminder from Goodreads: You participated in the 2017 Reading Challenge. You have promised to read 30 books.

She’s on p. 326 of The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory.

The swimmers take part in the first post-war Olympics, which take place in a “positively dreary” 1948 London. They are welcomed to Wembley Stadium by this sign:

Welcome to the Olympic Games. This road is a danger area.

Over the scoreboard are these words (from Baron de Coubertin):

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.

Self is fascinated by the Chapter Detroit, Redux (1948) because the Europe it depicts is so starkly different. Plus, the opening ceremonies are July 29, and now is July 22. The anniversary is just one week away!

Among the difficulties of the time:

One practice pool was “open for practice to each of the thirty-seven nations for a mere two hours per day. The rest of the time they had to practice to distant pools . . .  In the end, the swim committee had to settle for having the teams practice in off-hours, during closing times . . . in more than twenty-three separate venues across the city.”

Very interesting.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

#amreading From the Book of AMAZING RARE THINGS: About An Amazing Naturalist, Maria Sibylla Merian

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How Self Reads: Everything In Front of the Couch

MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN (1647 – 1717)

Born in Frankfurt, she “married one of her stepfather’s pupils and they moved to her husband’s native city of Nuremberg in 1670.  Five years later Merian published her first book, Florum Fasciculus primus (A first bunch of flowers), which she followed with two further parts in 1677 and 1680.” These were essentially pattern books “designed to serve as a model for embroidery . . . ”

“Merian’s first scientific work . . .  was her Raupenbuch, or more fully Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung (The wondrous transformation of caterpillars and their remarkable diet of flowers) . . .  Each part comprised fifty plates showing caterpillars, chrysalises, butterflies and moths in their natural habitat, and represented the results of many years of observation.”

Her pioneering work was performed “between 1699 and 1701,” when she went “to the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America, where she studied the insects indigenous to the country,” resulting in the “magnificent work” Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (The transformation of the insects of Surinam). It was “one of the most important works of natural history of its era . . .  ninety-five” of her watercolours on vellum are in the Royal Collection.

You can see some of her art here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: More of SURF CULTURE

“He went out from the shore till he was near the place where the swell begins to take its rise; and, watching its first motion very attentively, paddled before it with great quickness, till he found that it overlooked him, and acquired sufficient force to carry his canoe before it without passing underneath. He then sat motionless, and was carried along at the same swift rate as the wave, till it landed him upon the beach. Then he started out . . . and went in search of another swell. I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and smoothly by the sea . . . “

— Captain James Cook, in his Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, 1785

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Mendocino Headlands, Winter 2016

Stay tuned.

#amreading: Sunday, 2 July 2017

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Exhibition Catalogue, SFMOMA: Jim Goldberg’s “Raised By Wolves,” Photographs of Seattle’s Street Children (1995)

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A Parent of a Runaway, Quoted in the “Raised by Wolves” Exhibition Catalogue

Matthew Hopkins, Witch-Hunter

In the 1640s, a self-designated witch-finder named Matthew Hopkins “toured the counties of Norfolk, Essex, Hants, and Sussex, in quest of witches.”

In one year he brought no fewer than sixty to the stake.

Method of detection: “swimming”

  • The right thumb of the suspected person was tied to the toe of the left foot, and vice versa. She was then wrapped in a blanket and placed on her back in a pond. If she floated — which we are told was generally the case when placed carefully upon the water — she was guilty, and was burned forthwith; if she sank, she was innocent.

— Sax Rohmer, The Romance of Sorcery

Only the preposition “she” is used, throughout this section. Self can only assume this means: No male witches, ever.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BATH: Magnificent Order

And self does mean magnificent.

The Royal Crescent in Bath takes her breath away. Even after seeing it for the third or fourth time.

The shape is an ellipsis cut in half. Who thought of this curved shape? So perfect. It’s almost mystical.

The architect (whose name self immediately forgot) was inspired, according to the guide on the walking tour, by the Roman Coliseum (which is itself elliptical. Really? Self never knew!)

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Royal Crescent

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Royal Crescent No. 1 (Royal Crescent Museum): Self is so happy that this woman came out of the entrance just as self was getting ready to take this shot.

Self had been on the Grand Parade, many times. But she never looked over the bridge to the river below. She finally did, yesterday, and — GAH! Rapids! Who would have thought?

Only after looking at the river for several moments did she realize that the gulls were walking on the edge of the top rapids. Grand illusion! And there are kayaks over there!

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The River Avon from the Grand Parade

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still More Evanescent: Paris Day Trip

Today self and her niece Irene went on a one-day tour to Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte and Chateau de Fontainebleau. The guide’s name was Laurence: she was great.

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte came first. OMG, that estate is just fabulous. It’s privately owned. The main buildings are open to the public; no sign of the family that owns the place, but hey, imagine giving birthday parties there! Must be soooo fun!

At some time in its fabulous past, the estate was in the hands of the same family for eight generations. The last heir murdered his wife so he could be with his mistress, was convicted and imprisoned, and committed suicide in his cell, a year later. Payback’s a bitch!

His chef invented the praline.

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A Photo Shoot Was Happening at the 17th Century Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte! Self was so woke!

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Windows, Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

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More Windows at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte: Self took so many pictures there that by the time the tour arrived at Fontainebleau, her camera battery was exhausted. Ugh!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

FAMILY: by Anna Moi for Air France Magazine

Early 1960s. The “war” was the Vietnam War, which pitted the North, where Moi’s parents were from, against the South, to where they fled:

How long does it take for a mother to read Alone in the World and The Story of Perrine to her child? My mother read to me almost every evening, because my parents went out only three or four times a year, and never had guests. It was wartime, but that doesn’t explain it — war had only just begun and nobody imagined at the time that it would last some 15 years and that we’d face shortages of everything, especially freedom, the basic freedom to move around as we chose.

This sense of frugality was something my parents were born with, just as others live with a heart murmur or an irregular heartbeat. It was the region of their birth, the North, that had triggered this simmering anxiety.

At bedtime, my mother would decide on a number of pages, but I would beg her to carry on, and she was always happy to continue the story of Rémi the abandoned child or of Perrine Paindavoine, an orphan searching for her family . . .  From one episode to the next, in those days before TV series, I traveled from one family to another, and from town to town, in the comfort of knowing I would fall asleep sated with emotions.

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