The Fall of the Ottomans: p. 251

Just finished reading about the siege at Gallipoli: the numbers are staggering. One simply cannot grasp the idea of almost a million men fighting on one spit of land overlooking the Dardanelles. The problem is that nothing really happened, other than a whole lot of dying, followed by a British retreat.

Next chapter is the Invasion of Mesopotamia. Again lots of strategizing and moving of armies.

Finally, finally, we’re at the siege of Kut:

The Sanussi fighters went south to occupy the oasis towns of the Western Desert, stretching from Siwa near the Libyan frontier to Farafra and Bahariya, where they were within striking distance of the Nile Valley but beyond the reach of British forces.

It is a good thing they do, because they only have “one quick-firing cannon and three machine guns” to share among “fewer than 1,200 men.”

The British go in hot pursuit, and finally corner the Sanussi at a small “coastal village” called Sidi Barrani. Here the Ottoman Army was forced to make its last stand. Self just wants to say, the British Army were not gracious in victory. A wild melee ensued, with lots of sabres engaged and horses shot out from under and officers taken prisoner (but what happened to the foot soldiers, self has no idea. There weren’t that many to begin with. It was a very one-sided battle)

It’s very surreal reading. Reminds her that while she was re-discovering the City of Light in May, just a few months ago, she was reading, of all things, Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, which taught her a lot about mules.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#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.

 

 

 

#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.

 

 

 

 

BARBARIAN DAYS: Sri Lanka

This memoir is like Jack Kerouac, but much much more enthralling. The author and his buddy, Bryan, go all around the world, living hand-to-mouth, and experiencing culture from the bottom. Only young Americans would be so laissez faire.

But, enough of digressions. Below, an excerpt from p. 289:

We pushed on, always edging west. We caught a ship from Malaysia to India, sleeping on the deck. We rented a little house in the jungle in southwest Sri Lanka, paying twenty-nine dollars a month . . .  I resumed work on my novel. We got Chinese bicycles, and each morning I rode mine, board under arm, down a trail to the beach, where a decent wave broke most days. We had no electricity and drew our water from a well. Monkeys stole unguarded fruit . . .  A madwoman lived across the way. She roared and howled day and night. The insects — mosquitoes, ants, centipedes, flies — were relentless.

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Night descends on a Philippine Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. 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 BARBARIAN DAYS, p. 227

My fears were unnecessary. Nothing too heavy came. Instead, I caught and rode so many waves, through four or five distinct phases of the day, that I felt absolutely saturated with good fortune . . .

— William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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Albion, California

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More BARBARIAN DAYS: In the South Pacific

The cast of characters in William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days is very New Age-y hippie. It’s been a long while since self has encountered one of these, which means San Francisco has really changed.

Anyhoo, Finnegan and a friend go bouncing all over the South Pacific, searching for good waves. And they have very, very interesting encounters.

With an American missionary who is also a surfer. With locals who take an “anthropological interest” in the author and his traveling companion, Bryan. Finnegan and his friend are so obsessed that when they find a good surfing spot, in Tonga, they surf every day.

Surfing seems magical when you’re just watching. Here’s the reality:

  • My hands and feet were a salad russe of coral cuts, and Bryan had a large, raw scrape on his back, the dressing on which I changed twice a day.

There’s a type of pairing I’ve seen on Boracay:

  • One of Parker’s oil field managers was a big, thick-spectacled Texan named Gene. He had a face like a turkey wattle, a scary smoker’s voice and a local girlfriend who was seventeen. Gene was pushing sixty. His girlfriend was a knockout but not happy. I overheard her telling the wife of a Parker executive that she was a half-Fijian orphan, and therefore a social outcast in homogeneous Tonga. She had turned to prostitution, she said. She was now desperate to get away from Gene. “Help me! Help me!” she pleaded.

As for the king of Tonga, Tupou IV: “He was an absolute monarch who weighed, reportedly, 440 pounds.”

Fascinating stuff.

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 Evan Osnos’s New Yorker Article, “Endgame: What would it take to cut short Trump’s Presidency?”

Self hopes dear blog readers appreciate that she is giving up precious time she could have spent writing her most kick-ass story to date (pagophilics, a Captain, a woman, an alien invasion launched from the Bering Sea) to continue reading the Evan Osnos article (in the 8 May 2017 issue of The New Yorker):

Trump has embraced strategies that normally boost popularity, such as military action. In April, some pundits were quick to applaud him for launching a cruise-missile attack on a Syrian airbase, and for threatening to attack North Korea. In interviews, Trump marvelled at the forces at his disposal, like a man wandering into undiscovered rooms of his house. (“It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant.”)

and:

The White House recently stopped releasing visitors’ logs, limiting the public’s ability to know who is meeting with the President and his staff.

This is indeed a very enthralling piece, dear blog readers. Self can’t wait to read how it ends.

Stay tuned.

#amreading: More from BARBARIAN DAYS: A SURFING LIFE, by William Finnegan

How has self spent this Fourth of July? Her first Fourth in Sacramento?

She’s spent most of the day (it’s past 5 p.m.! How did the time pass so quickly?) looking up Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers (lol), perusing Twitter, and eating quarts of ice cream. That’s right, self said it: she’s eating quarts of ice cream. And an It’s-It (It is soooo hawtt here in Sacramento!)

She is on p. 132 of Barbarian Days, William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-Prizewinning memoir of his surfing days. Here he describes what it felt like to work in a bookstore in Maui:

The bookstore was three small rooms on a rickety old pier at the west end of the seawall. There was a bar next door. Ocean sloshed under the floorboards. The couple who owned the store trained me and, having picked up danger signals from local authorities, fled Hawaii for the Caribbean, leaving me to run the place along with the draft dodger, one of whose names was Dan.

Hilarious!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

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