Thursday, December 31, 2009

Summing up

Well, it seems to be the thing to do. I have procrastinated posting recently because the story I wanted to highlight just seemed to be too depressing. There was an article in the New York Times a week ago on violence in Polokwane, South Africans against Zimbabwean and other African refugees. It is depressing to me because it speaks to the inability of the South African government to fully address the needs of its own people. It is depressing because the problem that is Robert Mugabe is still there, making life miserable for the people of Zimbabwe. It is depressing because the "lost generation", primarily men 24-50 whose education was interrupted due to school boycotts beginning in the mid-1970's in protest against the Apartheid regimes 'Bantu Education' policies, will never gain full employment and may only ever settle for under-or-unemployment. And it is depressing because it is a microcosm of all societies where inequity breeds discontent, distrust, and violence.

On a more upbeat note, I saw Invictus last night. Now, I know and can appreciate the complaints by South Africans that no South African actors played the lead roles. But in reality, this was a movie made for a non-South African audience and is another Clint Eastwood exploration of revenge/redemption stories. He usually focuses on the revenge of the underdog and the making of this movie is about the ultimate revenge of Nelson Mandela. I found many parts of the movie very moving for the feelings they invoked about the man Mandela. It reinforced in me the sense that Nelson Mandela is, and will be, regarded as one of the most amazing and important human beings, ever.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Consistent Behaviour.....and all of it negative

The Chinese are nothing if not consistent: their actions in Africa have been mentioned here before. They offer investment in economic development in developing countries: infrastructure development, resource extraction, etc The expectation is that this will lead to much needed employment growth, ancillary business growth,etc. Various African nations which have negotiated such deals with the Chinese have found that it is an all-inclusive package: the Chinese bring with all their own workers, restaurateurs, equipment. And now the Vietnamese are complaining! And the Indians! Check out the NYT article linked here.

And shame on the Cambodians for sending back the 20 Uighers who had fled repression in China and now face certain imprisonment and torture. And how remarkable that this was done one day before the arrival of the Chinese who, the day after their arrival in Phnom Penh announced an economic development package worth $1 billion! Are the Cambodians expecting the Chinese to also employ locals, patronise local restaurants, buy goods form local businesses?.....see above for frustrated expectations elsewhere. And where are all those newly found human rights principles that were rediscovered since the fall of the Khmer Rouge? Shame on them all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

And Give More....

Nicholas Kristof wrote and article in the NYT on 16 December about the school that Valentino Deng and Dave Eggers are building in Southern Sudan, in the town that Deng grew up in before it was burned to the ground and he became on of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Dave Eggers wrote What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, based on conversations he had with Deng and all the proceeds from the book went to starting this school project. Buy the book, read about Deng's Foundation in the links, send money.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Romania's Securitate Legacy

Two references to Romania's past have appeared recently. A BBC report by Oana Lungescu describes files kept on her own family, as well as others, that have become available for perusal. And today, Herta Mueller, a German citizen born & raised in Romania (part of the German minority there), who fled in 1982, was awarded her Noel prize for Literature. The German minority in Romania was also in the news this past week, when the NYT reported on the popular mayor of Sibiu. Such interesting stories.....

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Salt Trade

A story on the BBC about profound, and permanent, changes in the salt trade in Mali, reminded me of other aspects of this story I heard about a number of years ago that have immense implications for all humans in terms of our repository of knowledge accumulated over our species' time on earth. The BBC story reported on how the use of trucks, instead of camels, to haul salt from the mines to market (such as Timbuktu) has impacted the lives of the Tuaregs. A truck journey to-and-from the mines is a week; a camel journey is 45 days. Tuareg customs dictated that when a person had made three round trip journeys by camel to haul salt, he was ready for marriage: the trip by truck does not prove perseverance, responsibility, any accumulation of knowledge. Another story also focused on how climate change has made the journey with camels very difficult because of the lack of water at needed intervals for the camels.

The story I heard about a few years ago, concerned how the fact that the Sahara Desert was traveled by fewer and fewer people working in the salt mines, resulted in the loss of knowledge of how to read the desert. Reading the desert by the Tuaregs or Bedouin is like reading the snow by the Inuit and Eskimos. This knowledge about our environment is dying out...using a GPS device is just not the same. Having the information in text books only is not the same. While no one would wish the traditional life of a salt miner/trader on anyone, it is also a shame that we will eventually lose information on reading/understanding/living in an environment that taxes all of our creativity, acuity, and endurance.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Stalinism, Russia, & Chechnya

The London Review of Books, 19 Nov 2009 issue, contains an article of interest to those concerned about the psychopath and his master who are ruining lives in Chechnya and a commentary for those interested in the convoluted/tortuous mind-bending to-ing & fro-ing that takes place amongst the politicians and the peoples of the former Communist Eastern block countries.

Jonathan Littell writes about the horrors being committed in Chechnya in his article Chechnya, Year III. What he comes to realise is the the new "normal" resembles the worst of the Stalinist years when people kept their heads down, their noses to the grindstone, saw 'progress' and 'prosperity' around long as they asked no questions.

Slavoj Zizek, in the same issue, leads us down the contorted pathways of post Communist elections. And if you add into that mix the ideas of the expats of these countries, you start getting dizzy.

Anyone interested in the communication/philosophical/mind games issues resulting in the fall of an Eastern Block country should read Caryl Churchill's play Mad Forest: A Play from Romania...she does a great job illuminating the problems.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Northern Clemency The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I began this book with a little trepidation as it seemed that the psychological edginess might going where I wasn't sure I wished to go. However, that was not the case and I thoroughly enjoyed finding out how the members of these two families grew and changed during the book's long time-frame. There was a great deal of humour and knowing about British politics and social issues makes the book much richer than if the reader is unfamiliar with same.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Your REI, Eddie Bauer, or North Face will just not make it at the opera.....

Designers transform the puffa
By Alex Gorton in the FT's Weekend edition

Puffa jackets

Autumn/winter puffa jackets by, from left, Giles Deacon, Iceberg, F by Fay and Junya Watanabe

"As winter looms, complete with icy winds and freezing body parts, the question of coats becomes as pressing as what to wear to the office Christmas party. How do you look good while also maintaining your core body temperature? The two requirements do not necessarily go together, sartorially speaking." To read more, click on the story headline above.....

How American Health Care Killed My Father - The Atlantic (September 2009)

How American Health Care Killed My Father - The Atlantic (September 2009)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Racism, Communism, Nationalism

President Obama's visit to China has highlighted, as usual, the many inequities and iniquities of life under the Han. Coverage this week on PRI's The World and the Seattle Times underscore, yet again, the sad state of affairs regarding the views of the Han people towards people of darker skin colour. Various apologists said that the lashing out at the young biracial (black Chinese) woman on the Chinese TV show was just due to ignorance...listen to/read the comments: I think not.

The increasing number of Africans moving to China for economic reasons (the influx of Chinese investments in various countries in Africa) has lead to an increasing number of cases of harassment against these people. During the heyday of Chinese and Soviet jockeying for spheres of influence in the developing world, they encouraged African students to travel to China and the Soviet Union for training. Even then, being black in those parts of the world was not easy. But in the name of comradeship and worker solidarity, overt racist behaviour was suppressed. With the rise of the ultra right nationalists in Russia and China flexing it's geo-political muscle, and with both countries trying to control minority populations within and around their borders, racism is rearing it's ugly head even higher.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Chinese in Africa, again

The Seattle Times carried an article on China's investments in Africa. I cannot really must be read to be believed. Just look at who thinks Chinese investments are great: Mugabe, Bashir, and China's lame apology regarding investing in treacherous, repressive regimes...

Wine, Food, Fun

October and November are busy months in Washington State as winemakers get their grapes in before the frost and start on another adventure in creating fabulous wines. There are a fair number of winemakers who live in the Seattle area and make wine out of "garages". I decided to volunteer my labour helping winemaker Tim Narby of :Nota Bene in return for learning about the process of making wine. I got really good at deck swabbing, washing buckets with antimicrobial solution, labeling barrels. Here I am in action filling the press with grape skins to squeeze out the last of the juice.

For my work, I was paid in delicious blends and Syrahs....aaaah, what a life.

This last weekend was the annual Cayuse barrel release weekend in Walla Walla. Eastern Washington was aglow in autumnal tones, the cloudscapes were a wonder, and the warm welcomes at the wineries was a pleasure. We visited Cayuse (it's 13th birthday!), Sapolil, Adamant, Buty, K Vintners, Forgeron. We ate a fabulous dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford and ran into our favourite sommelier, Robert, formerly of 26 brix. We had our first meal at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, a wonderful addition to Walla Walla's culinary scene: Chris and Island Ainsworth are fabulous chefs, hosts, and humans! The interior of the restaurant has subtle Ottoman touches: Turkish screens, Moroccan lights, warm tones, nothing overdone. The menu is interesting and well executed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Disturbing News Reports

A report on NPR news this morning about increasing enforcement in Chechnya of strict Islamic laws in daily life is a chilling reminder of what can happen when a people have been tormented, repressed, subjugated, and then brought back into the fold with bribes and a wink. The Russians must be worrying about the monster they have created in their midst in an attempt to keep their territorial integrity intact in the face of losing many of their former "stans", rather than think about what might have been good for the Chechens.

The second horror story of the day was heard on KUOW: Rana Husseini was interviewed by Steve Sher about her new book "Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman's Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime." There is almost no country in the world where women are not killed by male members of their families if the family believes it's honour has been tainted by the behavior of a female relative. Honor killings have happened in Britain, Italy, USA, countries in South America, the Middle East, Africa. Shame on the perpetrators, the legal systems where the killers are exonerated, the social mores and norms that deem what the neighbours think more important than the life of a woman. Shame on us all.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Horsey's editorial cartoon says it all

Washington State has been beset by a plague called Tim Eyman. He has submitted initiatives to our ballot boxes that sound too good to be true and the cost to our state in terms of services that the community needs and enjoys has been overwhelmingly awful. Even Joni Balter, of the increasingly conservative Seattle Times, has tried to educate voters about the consequences of this plague.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wow, China on my radar twice in one week!

More news on China's outreach to the developing world. I have before mentioned China's role in infrastructure investment/development in Africa and the consequent frustrations by the various African nations because China does not employ locals in these projects. This morning, NPR had a story on Chinese investment in.....Afghanistan! One of the key insights in this story was that because these investments are made by the Chinese government, not private companies, money is no object, so that competitive bidding just does not happen and firms from other countries do not have a chance. China wants access to Afghanistan's natural resources and wants to ensure delivery. They made the proposal to do these projects on the grounds of helping redevelop Afghanistan in the wake of war. They support NATO efforts and cause, but do not wish to commit military money or equipment. This seems admirable on the surface, except that they are not actually helping rebuild what the Afghans need. And as paranoid as China is about the Uighurs and other minorities, they are perfectly happy for other nations to deal with Islamist-based terrorism.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two of my favourite topics

Monday's NYT had stories on two of my favourite topics/rants: China and its attempts to expand its sphere of influence and South Africa and its cartoonish incarnations of political leaders.

China was the honoured guest at the Frankfurt Book Fair and naturally, they attempted to control which authors could attend, which books to promote, etc and complained that members of the Dalai Lama's entourage might be there. They seem not to get it that most of the world has no desire to play by their rules or to squash individual freedom.

And the farce that is currently on display in a corruption trial in South Africa requires a playwright to reveal that truth is far stranger, and more entertaining, than fiction.

Speaking of South Africa, the 8 October 2009 edition of the London Review of Books has a very interesting review of RW Johnson's new book "South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid". Roger Southall's review is thought-provoking.

Can't wait for book three!

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2) The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a page turner! The pacing was relentless, there were surprises, what a great read!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When no new news is still news....

The weird tale of the hijacked Russian ship last summer continues to wend its murky way through the news machines without getting any clearer. A report in Sunday's New York Times contains the priceless comment by the ship's second in command: “Something certainly happened out there, but we are not allowed to talk about it"....! Where are the hijackers? Who really are they? What is their fate? Why is the ship now have a North Korean name painted on it? What will be the fate of the remaining three crew members still on board?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Support a great cause!

Hidatsa Earth Blanket. Created for the AICF by Pendleton Woolen Mills

It's that time of year again for the American Indian College Fund Gala!. If you cannot attend, send a donation, shop their online store, spread the message. And a big shout out to Pendleton Woolen Mills, a long time supporter of AICF. And, while the Ken Burns' documentary on the National Parks is a great reminder of our national treasures, Pendleton has been supporting and promoting the parks for a long time:L check out their fabulous National Parks Blankets series.

Rainier National Park blanket created by Pendleton Woolen Mills

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Indigenous People suffer the failure of governmental will ....again

Nothing beats travel to expose oneself to the idiocies of other governments and their failures to fulfill promises to underserved and overexploited minority groups. While we had a fabulous time in our travels through Australia (we covered 5000 km, a mere speck in a continent of that size!), we did do our due diligence by reading the local papers and talking to many people. It is possible to travel in Australian cities and ignore the plight and problems of the Indigenous Peoples of Australia; visits to any museum- art, cultural, migration-bring these peoples and their rich cultures and suffering to light. An opinion piece in The Australian on 18 September does much to inform one of the promises made, but not kept, by the current sure to click through and read it.

The Migration Museum in Adelaide is excellent.

We took these photographs outside The Migration Museum, Adelaide.

China spreading it's largesse in Africa and beyond

I have posted on several occasions about the investments China has been making in infrastructure and resource development across the African continent. Initially, people were thrilled with all the news and hoopla attendant with the investments. However, there has generally been grumbling and resentment simmering and surfacing by locals in most African countries. Usually when there is this type of aid and development, the ancillary businesses which crop up to support the building of roads, mines, water systems, etc are local, so the local economies grow. In China's case, though, Chinese businesses tend to move in, do not hire locally, look down their noses at "inferior" locals, so that only the ministers who cut these deals with the Chinese benefit. In today's New York Times, there is an excellent example of what has happened in Namibia, especially after locals woke up:

"Namibia charged that the state-controlled company selected by China to provide the scanners — a company until recently run by President Hu’s son — had facilitated the deal with millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks. And until China threw up barriers when Namibian investigators asked for help looking into the matter.
Now the scanners seem to illustrate something else: the aura of boosterism, secrecy and back-room deals that has clouded China’s use of billions of dollars in foreign aid to court the developing world."

Be sure to read the rest of the article.

Depressing news on the education front.....again....

But this time in South Africa. The New York Times had a front page article on Saturday detailing the failure of the ANC to adequately address education problems faced by students. The distressing examples reminded me of driving through KwaZulu/Natal in 2005 and being impressed by the number of new school buildings we saw in the rural communities and the hordes of school children in their smart uniforms in maroon, green, navy, black walking miles and miles in pursuit of improving their lot in life. We were so impressed, until we began to realise that we were seeing these children walking to and fro at all times of the day. We discussed this with an old anti-apartheid fighter in East London. She informed us that what we had been observing was called "schooling": when teachers don't show up, when attendance requirements are not upheld, when there are no books, then the children walk to and fro, in a fashion parade of uniforms, getting their "schooling". Their parents have had to buy these uniforms, pay tuition just so that these students can walk the highways. The teachers' union, the ANC, the community should feel ashamed and demand accountability and live up to the promises that have been made to the youth of South Africa.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Booker Short List is Announced

The short list for this year's Man Booker Award has been announced and the list will make intereseting reading, regardless of who wins. JM Coetzee is going for his third and AS Byatt for her second. I am pulling for Hilary Mantel for her book Wolf Hall.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Update on the highjacked Russian ship

A story in the The Melbourne Age updates the story I drew attention to several days ago. The Russian reporter who first brought this story to light for the rest of the world has fled Russia in fear of his life after receiving a very creepy phone call. Let's hope this intrepid reporter will not suffer the fate of other Russian journalists who cross the Kremlin. Remember to support Reporters Without Borders. Please consider a contribution to their heroic work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Initial & Abbreviated Observations from Australia

Sydney: the tunnel system is incredible...never seen so many tunnels for cars as well as trains. But traffic is also a nightmare partly because road signage is terrible. Everyone also uses navigational they are driving and reading their devices! But, the buildings are really interesting, beautiful hiking trails in the city along the many shorelines, and people are very friendly.
Country driving: terrible signage!...great roads comment by local is that since everyone is using GPS devices, the government saves money by limiting spending on road/street signs.
Driving in the Barossa Valley wine country: beautiful, fabulous wines, signs to towns and wineries, especially driving in from the south. Driving in the McClaren Vale wine country: great signs!
Australian roads are remotely monitored for speeding...and they are very serious about this. Lots of rules and taxes in Australia, making the cost of living here very high, for locals and tourists alike.
Adelaide and Canberra...great parks, very heavy looking public buildings. The houses in town and country are really pleasing to the eye and reflect the country's settler and colonial history.
Museums and art galleries: really excellent...The Migration Museum (an educational experience for all to understand the rich variety of in migrants, their experiences and influence in this country, as well as the effects of these in migrants on the Aboriginal Peoples already here), the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Museum of South Australia in Adelaide are well worth hours of browsing. The National Glass Museum in Wagga Wagga as well as the Contemporary Art Gallery there are fabulous, unexpected in a town of several thousand in the middle of nowhere.
Wineries: in general, the wineries have not succumbed to the ostentatious inclinations of many Oregon, California, and a few Washington wineries of building neo-Tuscan villas: the tasting rooms suit the landscape and reflect the history of the area, landscapes, and materials found locally.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The ugly underbelly of Europe, East and West

Tourists cavort on the beaches of Italy, sip wines in the vineyards of France, explore the fabulous coastline of Dalmatia. And remain oblivious (along with those who remain at home, wherever home is) to the nastiness in the underbellies of the the beautiful places. Of course, the same can be problems can be discussed in USA, but the focus here is on the Roma and the Baltics because of their vulnerability to the forces of evil in the form of nationalists and the Russian Bear.

This week four people were detained in Hungary in "connection with a series of killings of Roma". We're not just talking about good old-fashioned murder: this violence includes firebombings and other assorted sordid acts of aggression and degradation. The above link to the NYT article is a small report.
Then we have the situation with the highjacked Russian vessel, the Arctic Sea. The Russians report this in the same vein as the highjackings by Somali pirates or pirates in Indonesian-Malaysian-Indian waters. Not quite. What cargo was on that vessel? Why were communications so effectively blocked? Why did they turn off the GPS tracking device? Who is "they"? The whole story sounds weird from the outset, but the fact that Russia was very quick to point out that the "pirates" were Latvian, Estonian, and Russian (in that order) makes the hairs on the backs of necks of all Balts rise and antennas tuned to the vibes emanating from the east. Russia is still smarting from the loss of what it considers its territories (ask the Balts how they feel about that) and any chance it gets, will rattle sabers and make Estonians, Lithuanians, and Latvians feel very vulnerable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A loving memory and tribute

A beautiful young woman, bright, full of life and love. We hold this image, these thoughts, her love, close to the bone. In the tradition of the Jews, as long as we remember a person, they live on. Ariel lives on in the hearts of her father, brother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Let us be silent a while and treasure all moments she shared with us. Let us remember her laughter, her Mona Lisa smile. Her concerns for the earth we all share, the air we all breathe are an inspiration. Take a walk, pick a flower, hug a loved one. It is all so fleeting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a woman! What she accomplished in her lifetime as a Person (a reference to an inside joke in her family), was just remarkable. For all her joie de vivre, she experienced so much personal sadness and the lack of a life partner was something she never got over. Anyone interested in the complicated and nuanced history of the Middle East will find this book useful. Another book to read as an accompanying text would be Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan, which sets the background the resolution of the end of WWI, the stage for WWII, the problems in the Middle East with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More "Here we go again"

Another horrifying incident in Europe was reported today in the New York Times. Rabid nationalists are again showing the terrible nature of humans. This happened a month ago....where was the outrage, the reporting? When atrocities take place on an individual scale, they must be noticed as much as large scale horrors. The murder of this woman in a courtroom, no less, in front of her child and husband is appalling.

Instead, we get reports on the weird French who wish to restrict Muslim women who wear "burquinis" from swimming in public pools. Their concerns of safety are credible, but they could have just allowed Muslim or Orthodox Jewish women to have access to the pool on their own at different designated times with female lifeguards in attendance (as they do here in Seattle), when they would not feel the need to cover up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Here we go again....

Lithuanian Roma teen. Photo by Andrew Miksys.

What is it with nationalists everywhere and the rabid right that they cannot leave others alone, especially when those others are Roma. Slovakia is the latest location where skin-heads attack Roma. Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Czech Republic all have Roma populations that have been threatened. According to the European Roma Rights Centre, Serbia and Bulgaria have also been in violation of human rights accords regarding treatment of Roma.

Where is the Outrage?!

Another day, another year, another story..check out these links at The New York Times, the BBC, Mail & Guardian. These links take you, not to an article on this topic, but to years of articles! And the horror of these stories is not only in the suffering of the rape victims, females and males alike, but the sometime cover-up/collaboration/turning-a-blind-eye by peacekeepers.....and us. Rape as a weapon of war (this link takes you to pages and pages of stories) knows not boundaries or continent: Sudan, Congo, Bosnia, Colombia, and more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hospitals and Elders: not always a happy outcome

An NPR story this morning caught my ear and my heart, as it told of a situation I had experienced with my mother in 2005, which really was the beginning of her end.
These were my comments:

My mother had been inappropriately given a morphine patch for arthritis pain at the University of Chicago Hospitals, which landed her in the hospital with hallucinations and balance issues. While there, delirium ensued & she was tied down, etc. She also kept thinking she was under a railway bridge hearing trains go by. This did not help her evaluation! After hearing about 'sundowners', I spent several nights with her in order to orient her when she woke up. And then I heard the "trains": turns out the helipad for the medical helicopters was right near her room & that is what she was hearing! But I must tell you, the general hospital noise was enough to drive a sane, well person nuts: bells, lights, announcements, visits to get anyone was supposed to get well there, was unimaginable. This visit was the beginning of her end. I was totally unimpressed with care for elderly patients: from waiting for hours in the emergency rooms, moved around, beds & chairs not good for stiff, aging bodies, food just left at the bedside for patients who could not lift their hands to their mouth. Don't get me started on my father's (lack of) care. May I never die as an old person in a hospital. Geriatric care has a long way to go.

On a related note:
Several years ago, several researchers completed studies on noise reduction in hospitals: not only did the patients benefit, but the work environment for doctors, nurses, staff improved dramatically and stress levels came down. The cost of implementing these positive changes was negligible.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Yesterday, our house was broken into. Broad daylight. Through a small awning window facing a major street. Small electronics, in and of themselves old and not worth much, daughter's university laptop with her thesis, her data collection from lakes in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, 1000 photos in her camera of the middle of nowhere in Alaska, my husband's work laptop and camera; dvd player; jewelry that my mother had given my daughter before she died that had been her's and her mother's, a little glass box of mine containing broken watches, one of which was a birthday gift from my father to my mother on the first birthday together; a new tv, in it's box still (how convenient). But the sense of violation, people prowling in our drawers, going through the house, watching the house to see when we feels so dirty......

Friday, July 24, 2009

Can/Will Zuma Rise to the Challenge with Integrity or Impunity

Photo by Jennifer Griffiths, Duncan Village near East London, South Africa.

The people are finally speaking and they are not happy: campaign promises, years of waiting for basic shelter, utilities, jobs, while watching the cronies of politicians make millions, buy fancy cars (the number of BMWs and Mercedes on the roads of South Africa is truly astounding), build second homes, etc. In today's Mail&Guardian there are several stories about protests in townships, strikes that are threatening to create chaos for the upcoming World Cup events, threatened strikes in the mines. And, here is a comment from one reader:" Welcome to the South African version of the chaos in Zimbabwe.At least we do not kill foreigners thinking that this is the solution to ending poverty and the incompetence of our leadership. Those who were killed were by ZANU PF goons because the populace knows clearly that villifying foreigners is a red herring. I am sure now there will be crow eating. After all there has been this perception that SA is better. Well the mask is off. Corrupt and inefficient leadership just like any other place. Most South Africans have yet to develop the political maturity to place blame where it should go. Local councillors only to blame, my foot! It is the whole chain of command from the top. Are councillors the ones who have gone on to buy luxury vehicles in the midst of a gripping recession? The problem with our politics is that it has always been regarded as a profession, a way to make money, rather than service to the people. When we can have honest dialogue on this issue, that is when we will start voting with our heads and not from sentiment.
Mukai Sithole on July 24, 2009, 7:55 pm" For more press go the FT of London.
And, it looks as though one of Madiba's grandsons is entering business rather than politics. Perhaps he has realised, at a very young age, what heroes Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale concluded: stay out of politics until the ANC has dug itself into a hole so deep it cannot get out....this seems not very far off.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Messianic Impulse

Two groups in Seattle with messianic impulses have recently been making their squeaks more noisome of late. They are the Unhappy-with-Kiva subgroup of the Kiva Seattle Team and the Northwest Animal Rights Activists group who are exposing all those who serve foie gras. Now, I am quite content to let any and all of these people believe what they want and express their concerns, just stop trying to convert the rest of us and stop telling us what to do! Rant 1: the U-w-K subgroup, aka the Pissed-off-with-Kiva's-recent-decision group. Kiva Management recently decided to test the waters for making domestic loans to needy entrepreneurs, not just those in developing countries. It is not a requirement that any Kiva members direct their loans domestically, just another option. Well, you would have thought that Kiva was now making loans to Bernie Madoff. According to the U-w-K leader, Tom, there is no poverty in the US like Third World poverty; all Americans are wealthy enough to get along without assistance because there are banks and lending institutions here (anybody been reading about the credit crunch lately?). Now, Tom and this group are not merely content with just continuing to make loans to entrepreneurs in developing world, no, they want us all to send messages to Kiva, have ranting conference calls with Kiva. We, on the Seattle Team, went through two rounds of this. Several of us decided that when Tom would not cease & desist, we would leave the Seattle Team (so we would not have to deal with these rants) and just continue our giving to whomever we choose to through Kiva.
Rant 2: Local NPR affiliate, KUOW, hosted a discussion on a recent edition of Weekday with Steve Sher, regarding foie gras: eating, producing, serving in restaurants. The guests on the show were journalist Mark Caro who has written a book "The Foie Gras Wars"; Jonathan Sundstrom, restaurateur/chef of Lark; and Jenn Kaplan, attorney for Northwest Animal Rights Activists (NARA). Members of the latter group stage demonstrations outside restaurants that serve foie gras. They have arrived every Friday night since January on the sidewalk in front of Lark: consumption of foie gras during this time period has increased 20%,consumption nationally has decreased 20%, largely due to the recession. NARA is also focusing on the plight of chickens in industrial complexes and is planning demonstrations at KFC and McDonald's. Their ultimate goal is to stop the consumption of all animals. I am all for the ethical raising and slaughtering of animals: proper care, clean environments, a decent life for all farm animals. Those who do not wish to eat animals are welcome to eat what they want. What I object to is the self-righteousness of those who tell me what I can and cannot eat. When restaurateurs visit the farmers from whom they purchase their food products and see how the animals are treated, when they care enough about their clients and the earth to strive to only serve organic food, they should not be made to feel like criminals.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Artists...without them our lives would be so dull.....

Preston Singletary. A glass artist, living in Seattle, brings such incredible joy and delight to all those who see his work. The Museum of Glass (MOG) in Tacoma just opened a new exhibit of Singletary's work and it is overwhemingly, achingly beautiful. Singletary has used glass to explore the stories, myths, art, and life of his people. The people of the Northwest tribes have historically been accomplished artists and this foray into a different medium showcases not only Singletary's gifts as an artist but brings to light (literally) the arts of hundreds of years of gifted people. The piece pictured here is on exhibit and to see it is to see the Raven and the Moon in all their mythical glory.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

City Fruit has launched!

With a lot of hard work and enthusiasm, a group of us in Seattle has launched City Fruit:
City Fruit is a coalition that promotes the cultivation of fruit in urban landscapes in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate. City Fruit and our partners help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees.
On our website, we have a link to a fabulous tree mapping project that allows everyone to add fruit trees to our googlemap, creating a virtual City Orchard! Check us out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

So, the Chinese Government is at it, again, squashing ethnic minorities

They just cannot keep their hands off anyone not like them...first Tibetans, then Uighurs (they have a very interesting history. As an aside, one of the tribes they are related to is the Khazars who played a prominent role in Michael Chabon's book Gentlemen of the Road; they are the subject of Milorad Pavic's book Dictionary of the Khazars: a fabulous book with a male and a female version!). The Uighurs who were at Guantanamo preferred staying there to going back to China! The four who were recently taken in my Bermuda were just thrilled with their new home, even if it meant not seeing their families. The current crackdown in Urumqi, Western China (although Uighurs prefer to think of the area as East Turkestan) is just another step to containing dissent. The local Han in Urumqi feel threatened by the Uighurs...and well they might...they were "bussed" in by the Beijing government to out-populate the locals. Same thing was done in the former Soviet Union..and now those Russians stuck in all those places feel very threatened (the 'stans', Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia). Read about the very brave Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur businesswoman and political leader as she speaks in support of her people.
Just look at these lovely Uighur girls!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Science, Religion, Fundamentalists

An interesting confluence of news stories were available in print and audio this past week. First, heard on BBC on Monday (by the way, searching for stories on the BBC website in order to document a post like this, is one of the most frustrating endeavours...rarely do search words, checking story times,etc. yield useful results)was a story about a surgeon in Turkey who is one of the leading lights in the Muslim world advocating against Darwin and the theory of evolution. He joins his fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Jewish brethren in frothing at the mouth on the subject. He presents a Creationist Science point of view on the biblical/Quranic view of the origin of life and, in the Abrahamic tradition, explains the creation of the earth in six days by doing a Bill all depends on how you define the length of a day.......Fortunately, there are plenty of sane scientists and philosophers in Turkey who are able to debate him on this.

At the other end of the spectrum, was a story in the New York Times about a group of Tibetan monks and nuns who are taking a course to learn the basics of mathematics and science in order to broaden their understanding of the outer world. This is a one month course at Emory University in Atlanta . While many of the participants found some of the material slow going, their life-long habit of focus and meditation allowed them to gain insights very quickly. In advocating for this type of learning, the Dalai Lama said views science and Buddhism as complementary “investigative approaches with the same greater goal, of seeking the truth,” he wrote in “The Universe in a Single Atom,” his book on “how science and spirituality can serve our world.” He stresses that science is especially important for monastics who study the nature of the mind and the relationship between mind and brain." (NYT cited above)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Migration, Displacement, & Climate Change

As the House debates the climate change bill today and the whiners from the rabid-right make fatuous quips about 'cap & tax' and how this bill will result in job losses and the government controlling our lives, let's put this in perspective: real life changes, disruptions, devastation, and human tragedies. An article in the Weekend FT of 20/21 June, the feature article is titled 'The Human Tsunami' by Sam Knight. The sub headline reads:"By 2050, hundreds of millions of people could be forced from their lands by climate change. Where will they go, how will the host communities cope and can we learn from other migrations, past and present?" With immigrants in various potential host countries already under fire, with nationalism on the rise in many parts of the world, this issue has huge implications for world peace, budgets, and immigration policies. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has been doing excellent work in this area and holds very good workshops for those who live in the D.C area. The MPI website is an invaluable information resource and worth visiting, and supporting, on a regular bases.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Difficult reading and thinking

Homecoming Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink

Like his earlier book, The Reader, the story takes place through several time periods with several subtexts...this book being more complex in that there is also a thorough review of The Odyssey and Odysseus' homecoming. The story is a vehicle for looking at good and evil, choice-making, deconstruction and the law & literature. It is not enjoyable reading because the material is difficult, thought-provoking, and uncomfortable to read/contemplate, bu the story is compelling and tension inducing enough to be a page turner.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More info on reactionary forces in Lithuania

Another article in the Baltic Review about the history of and discrimination against the Roma (did you know that one who studies the Roma is a romologist! and that there are such things as ethnonyms! who knew?) in the Baltic region. Also, an article in IPS on anti-gay legislation in Lithuania (thanks Andrew for these).

Three more photographs from Andrew Miksys' collection called BAXT.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We Should Be Scared, Very, Very Scared

The rumblings from the right are getting bombastic. Since I don't watch rabid-right TV or listen to rabid-right radio, I feel as though I have lulled into a false sense of security since Obama's election. Somehow, reading about it in Europe, as awful as that is, it seemed, well, over there. But the 'over there' is 'over here' and together they make for one living nightmare for many people. So, here is what we have to be very afraid of: Italian nationalists have been rooting out Roma and denying them benefits, education access, jobs. Italian nationalists and French nationalists have been scare-mongering around African immigrants and economic refugees. British nationalists (this is their actual website) won seats in EU elections and want to keep "Britain for the British and those who accept our values". Hungarian nationalists support British nationalists in wanting to keep closed borders and gave them campaign support in the EU elections. Northern Irish young thugs, with nothing better to do now that there is 'peace' in Northern Ireland, attacked Roma in their homes and threatened their lives. Intolerance seems to be rising all over Europe: to quote photographer Andrew Miksys (currently in Lithuania and whose photograph is posted here, with permission) "well, things are just getting worse and worse here too. don't know what it is. seems like lithuanians went from being very open after independence to increasing intolerance. i've kinda lost my patience. people here seem to have no empathy for anyone outside there immediate circle or clan. stupid and quite boring culturally too. been having a lot of conversations about this recently. my friend, dovid katz, at the vilnius yiddish institute wrote this recent editorial for the irish times. And now we come home to Frank Rich's op-ed piece in Sunday's NYT about the "Obama haters".
This photograph, by Andrew Miksys, is titled Reda and Alexander, Lithuania, 2004. It is part of a series on Lithuanian Roma.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Duwamish Tribe Just Keeps Getting Screwed

The Duwamish Tribe, the First People of Seattle, have been screwed out of their inheritance as well as subsequent atonements by the Federal Government, through broken treaties, broken promises, and being stabbed in back by other tribes who feel threatened/jealous of their leadership role. Chief Seattle, after whom Seattle is proudly named, had negotiated in faith for the future of his people. At the end of the Clinton Administration, the Duwamish were finally granted Federal recognition, which would allow them to be eligible for benefits from Indian Health Service and other resources allocated to recognised tribes. One of the first acts of the Bush Administration was revoke this decision. The Duwamish legal fund is still in need of help to fight for Federal recognition. If you can help, go to their website, do what you can.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ottomans, Eva Zeisel, Chihuly, oh my!

This last weekend's Weekend FT featured three of my favourite topics...each with a new twist. Jancis Robinson, the FT's wine guru, featured the wines and grapes of Turkey. The old Ottoman winemaking traditions suffered (disappeared?) when the Greeks and Armenians fled in the 1920's. Read the article for new information, insights, and maybe travel ideas. Complementing this, is an article by Nicholas Lander on the dining delights of Istanbul.....definitely worth adding to a travel itinerary! Next, in the FT House and Home section, is a feature on antique and modern textiles. Eva Zeisel, of porcelain fame, has a rug featured that is intriguing..this artist is 102 and still creating! And finally, in the section on Collecting, is an article about the emergence of glass as an art, "worthy" of auctions, and not just a craft. Given the prices that Dale Chihuly, chandelier below
and William Morris, reliquary vessel below, fetch in the US, it was shocking the provincial attitude taken by the British collectors...wish I had been there to snap up some real bargains!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Reading

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, getting sucked right in from the beginning. Gaiman has successfully created a great alternative, parallel world. While plot driven, it is also character driven. This book is the first selection of Open Salon. Those wishing to read the book and join the discussion, should read chapters 1-4 and be ready to converse on 10 June.

Readers should consider also reading Summerland by Michael Chabon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Same old, same old or is this different enough?

The White Tiger The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was interesting, but it is not clear to me why it was a Booker winner. The device of the white tiger was insightful and the experience of the protagonist possibly believable, probably more allegorical.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

For those with stong opinions about Ian McEwan....and other book notes

The 30 April issues of the London Review of Books has several articles of interest. "James Woods writes about The Manipulations of Ian McEwan".
Colin Burrow has a review of Hilary Mantel's new book Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell. If you have not yet read any of her work, get thee to a bookshop! In the 23/24 May 2009 Life & Arts section of the Financial Times of London (FT),there is also a review of Mantel's book by Julie Myerson. Both reviews are glowing....the reviews are themselves well worth a read.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alice Munro Wins the Man Booker International Prize

The announcement today, by the Man Booker Committee, of the recognition of Alice Munro's lifetime achievement of consistently outstanding work is just fabulous! All of her short story collections contain gems of observations of relationships, difficult situations people find themselves in, and how they manage their emotions. Each story unfolds in ways unexpected. Each peeling of another layer of the onion leads to tears. One of her most poignant stories, one of the first pieces of fiction to deal with this topic, was about how a couple dealt with the onslaught of Alzheimer's and even the best and most planning can not only go awry, but close and open very unexpected doors.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Russians' Mask Is Slipping Further & Further....

The Baltic nations and all other Eastern European countries which are trying to keep Russia at bay have been put on notice by Medvedev/Putin: if they deny that Russia "liberated" them from the Nazis, travelers from those nations will be barred from entering the Soviet Union, er Russia (oops, Freudian/Orwellian slip). An article in the Telegraph is a chilling reminder that teeth of the Russian bear are being bared. When this legislation in enacted, perhaps a group vacation should be planned by those of us who believe that there is no substantial difference between Fascists and Communists...both groups maintain power through brainwashing, fear, and social control.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Horsey Does It Again

David Horsey is a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist at did great series on the Bush years as well as the Clinton years. Check out his portfolio for great political humour and browse the comments of his will be amused and amazed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cross Cultural Musical Innovation & Exploration

Musicians are a wonderful breed of humans: they enjoy learning from each other, sharing their knowledge, and defying purist snobs and nationalists. Two groups recently discussed on PRI's The World are Chinagrass and Stockholm Lisboa Project. And hooray to the Garfield High School Jazz Band for taking first place at Essentially Ellington! The music program in Seattle Public Schools continues to produce fabulous musicians despite continuous cuts.
Garfield High School Jazz Band performing at Lincoln Center, New York. Go Bulldogs!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Women Step Up

Aung San Suu Kyi. Roxana Saberi. Women's Funding Alliance and Women Moving Millions. Women taking a stand. Women speaking up about the need for change. Women raising money to help women take a stand, speak up, change their lives. Check out these stories; look at the faces and the lives of these people of courage and integrity. Take action.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Two Philosophy Giants

Isaiah Berlin and Elie Kedourie are lauded by Martin Sieff in an essay he wrote in Covenant magazine. Their politics were considered to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum, yet Sieff sees many similarities. It is well worth reading Michael Ignatieff's excellent biography of Berlin, Isaiah Berlin: A Life. On a different topic, Ignatieff's book, Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism, is also excellent.
Martin Kramer has written an informative article on Elie Kedourie in the Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writings.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A visit to Botswana (even vicariously) is always a treat

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 10) Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
As with all the other books in this series, this is a gentle read, evocative of time and place, and a good story with insights into the small dramas in all of our lives.

The Okavango Delta in Botswana has a history rich in art and culture as well as glorious animals and scenery. Only once have I heard of a dire tourist event: a Seattlite was calmly canoeing in the Delta, minding his own business, when a croc snatched him off the boat for a quick lunch.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Local Kids Being Fabulous and the Adults Who Mentor Them

Yesterday, I learned that some local high school students have been raising money to free 120 people (so far) from slavery in India. The article and how you can support their efforts can be found in the Seattle Times. Hurrays to teacher Eric Ensey and International Justice Mission (IJM), a Washington, D.C., charity that seeks justice for the poor in developing countries.
Then, today I learned about school guidance counselor Jamshid Khajavi, and his fabulous frisbee team at Gatzert Elementary School. These students, from immigrant, often homeless situations, have transformed themselves into winners at the national level, focused on working and achieving.

Politics, Religion, Personal Choice, & Literature

By Night in Chile By Night in Chile by Roberto BolaƱo

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was interesting and the first of Bolano's that I have read. It is an edited stream-of-consciousness story about an individual who who was young in the 1940's/50's and his experience of change in Chile and the role of the literati through Allende's Chile and his subsequent assassination. Politics, expediency, morality, religion all are characters in this book.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Torture Memos are Killing Me

Last week, NPR ran a series on the Torture Memos. There was an Op-Ed piece by Ali Sufan in the NYT. See Frank Rich's opinion piece in Sunday's NYT. At the time the Bush administration first began justifying it's horrific and horrifying behaviour, revulsion, anger, dis-ease was an automatic response. And the horror continues, as well as shame and embarrassment. Two cultural pieces that make one think long and hard about the question of what each of us would do in compromised situations are 1) a review in Saturday's NYT of an exhibit at New York Public Library "Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under the Nazis". and 2) Nancy Pearl's review of Janice Y. K. Lee's new novel "The Piano Teacher." And finally, listen to Jacki Lyden's interview with reporter Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, who finished her assignment reporting from Baghdad for NPR. The connections between all these news items are both obvious and nuanced: but they remind each of us to be wary of smugness, propaganda, and how easy it may be to be sucked into a swamp.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh Madiba, Madiba

Madiba, how Zuma and the ANC have co-opted you inorder to win the election on Wednesday, and the people have fallen for it. Surely Graca Machel tried to stop them from using you. Read the excellent piece in the Weekend FT by Alec Russell on Jacob Zuma. The BBC has been interviewing voters these last couple of weeks and the disappointment with the ANC and its short-comings is palpable. Many women interviewed in Alexandria said that they would not vote...all those empty houses just sitting there. All those empty promises of opportunities. All those noises about transparency, no corruption. The Mail & Guardian has up-to-the-minute information and analysis on the election. But, there is little doubt about the outcome.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another Enduring Legacy of Apartheid

Young men: uneducated, unemployed, underemployed. In 1976, black students in South Africa began a boycott against the Apartheid government's edict that they be educated in Afrikaans, rather than English and their home language, and that their curriculum continued to be dumbed down inorder to make it impossible for them to compete with whites, and even Coloureds, for better paying jobs. This led to years of intellectual stagnation which consequently led to the rise of a culture of anti-authority, anti-discipline, and unemployability, especially among males. At about the same time, sanctions against the Apartheid government led to many manufacturing plants to close up shop and take their business to other countries. Of course, the immediate consequence of this was the loss of highly skilled, relatively well-paying jobs, as well as the loss of union power in these sectors.

When the first free election was held in 1994 and Mandela began to lead the nation out of bondage, hopes rose high for a better future for all: jobs, housing, education, electricity, running water. This was a huge burden for the new government to undertake, and to date, the results are mixed. The tragedy that cannot be easily rectified is the lasting effects of little or no education and a skilled workforce. Many of the new jobs being created by returning factories require a skill level that (in the early years after 1994) the South African work force no longer had. These skilled factory jobs were gobbled up by Soviet trained workers from Mozambique and Angola, and as the years went on form other African countries as well as immigrants from other former Soviet satellites. Bringing the education system back up to standard for all students has been a major undertaking, but that does not solve the problems of those who lacked even basic employment development skills and training and education between 1976 and 1994.

One of the negative consequences of all of the above is the rising crime rate and continued lack of sufficient employment opportunities for all, especially young males. This has led to a rise in the proliferation of gangs. There was a very interesting BBC report on 15 April 2009 about gang members, current and former, in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town...unfortunately, I cannot find the reference! These young men felt they had no choice but to "stab and steal". They lost count of the number of people they stabbed or shot, had no idea as to whether or not their victims were dead, got high out of boredom, and most felt it was pointless to respond to any of the several outreach programs aimed at skill development..both life skills and employment skills. The young men interviewed were 24!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Valiant Effort

On 17 March 2009, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Washington State's oldest paper, delivered its last print edition, becoming yet another big-city newspaper statistic. The paper was the first to migrate to an all-web format. In the meantime, a number of former P-I staff members set about creating a brand new online presence and today debuted the Seattle PostGlobe. Two other regional media sources have joined forces with Seattle PostGlobe: NPR affiliate KPLU and Seattle Weekly, a former news powerhouse that succumbed to dating and sex-services advertising in order to stay afloat. Seattle PostGlobe is hoping to develop a subscription/membership base. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie, author, poet, member of the Spokane tribe in Eastern Washington, has a great sense of humour, is a good writer of adult and children's fiction, and is an excellent conversationalist. Listen to him on today's Weekday on KUOW. Alexie is refreshing to listen to because he will talk about anything, is not afraid of being "non-PC", and allows open and honest querying in search of truth, which means we all have to take our limps, be honest in our own assessments, and not hide behind euphemisms and jargon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Of Rites, Rituals, and Memories

Read Nathan Englander's op-ed piece in today's New York Times, The Passover Song. His book, The Ministry of Special Cases is a damning look at Argentina's dark days. His previous collection of stories, For The Relief of Unbearable Urges, is a warm, loving look at people and their foibles. For more information about him, click here.

Books about War

Last weekend's FT included an article by Stefan Wagstyl reviewing five books about the war in/on Bosnia. About a different war, read Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Making a Transition Gracefully

There was an article in today's Seattle Times about the wonderful Angela Sterling, photographer extraordinaire of dancers. I have mentioned her before in this blog, but her talents are worth lauding again. She was a dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) until she injured her back. In transitioning into photography, she wanted to be able to show dancers, their bodies, and dancing in a way that rewards them for all the hard work they put into craft and instrument. She succeeds magnificently! The photo to the right, of Lucien Postlewaite of PNB, is a fine example of her art. To see more of her work, check out both the article referenced above in the Seattle Times and her website.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Reader

The Reader The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I will be interested to see the film version of this book. The book is very thought-provoking; there are no easy answers. What shapes a life? This book explores how is it we do not see/are unable to anticipate these things as they are happening and what consequences they will have. The author did a very good job concealing his hand and the allowing the outcomes to unfold and blindside me: I only anticipated one of the key mysteries.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grupo Corpo

See Grupo Corpo! Saturday night at Meany Hall, University of Washington, Seattle. Check Grupo Corpo's website for further engagements. In this time of economic stress, do what you can to support the arts and artists: they make life more interesting and teach us so much about ourselves and each other. See the review in the Seattle Times.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Moving? Buyer Beware

Never, and I repeat, NEVER, use Able Moving Company in Chicago or Nationwide Moving & Relocation Services. My brother just experienced days of nightmares over what these companies did to his furniture and other household goods. First, communication was negligible. Second, the packers/movers arrived unprepared: no packing paper to wrap dishes and other breakables, even though my brother paid extra for cartons for this purpose and discussed this with his Nationwide representative, Ms. Roper. Third, the breakables were packed with negligence and minimal packing material. Most egregious of all: two legs were broken off a sideboard BEFORE it even left the house: bound too tightly. Three legs were broken off a small side table upon arrival at the destination. Dishes were broken upon arrival; my brother has been unable to open the boxes with the china, not wishing to see what is inside. He has no recourse. He barely got a cursory apology from Able Movers. Nationwide was essentially AWOL after they got his money. If you need to use a moving company, find, and interview, a local agent for one of the larger van lines and you will not be sorry. Read the fine print, take out extra insurance, get references.

Books Reviewed in the FT and NYT

The Weekend FT gave a rave review to Lark and Termite by Jayne Ann Phillips (see my review in March). Phillips was praised for the beauty of her prose, her exquisite sense of time and place, and the ability to provide words to the wordless. Also reviewed was Who Will Write Our History: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto by Samuel Kassow. Eva Hoffman is the reviewer and her books are themselves worth discovering and reading. Kassow diligently worked to record life in the Ghetto for all those who would and would not survive. He organised reporters and archivists to save items of daily life, words, quarrels, activities, stories. This is the first translation into English of this amazing labour of life and love. Barry Unsworth reviewed 'Laish' by Aharon Appelfeld. Unsworth is another favourite author of mine (his most recent book is Land of Marvels). 'Laish' is the story of a journey where no one is interested in the journey/process, just the destiny. The narrator is a 15 year old boy, Laish, and someone worth spending a journey with.