Monday, January 25, 2010

Flowers in the Desert

Just looking at this photograph is enough to send the mind into paroxysms of delight. The botanical gardens of the Huntington Library in Pasadena are very special, especially the cactus groves. Robin Lane Fox explored the gardens recently.

Immigrants & Migrants

A very important op-ed piece appeared in today's NYT. It concerns African immigrant workers in Italy. I have previously posted about the treatment of various minority populations in European countries and the resurgence of nationalism and fear of the "other". This op-ed piece by Roberto Saviano peels back another layer of the problem: the mafia. Saviano points out that native-born Italian workers are too afraid to stand up to the mafia,m who control the economic sectors in which the immigrant/migrant workers were protesting bad working conditions. Just like here in the US where no one wants to do the very hard work done by migrant workers from south of the border, so too in Italy: farm labour, menial labour, construction labour. Yet resentment about the presence of these people festers and all the negative "isms" emerge. Migrant workers face these issues all over the world: China, Middle East. For more information, check out the website of the Migration Policy Institute.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Regarding the grass is always greener........

There was an op-ed piece in today's NYT on an aspect of people's skin-tone issues: it is called 'colorism'! This is a problem all over the world and nothing new.

The grass is always greener........

An article in the NYT on 15 January got me thinking about how odd/funny us humans can be. The story was in the health section on the use of skin lightening creams by darker skinned people and how many of these creams are prescription strength but often purchased without one. These creams are also sold in many immigrant grocery stores and come from unregulated sources. These creams can cause cancer and have other serious side effects. While many people use these creams topically to lighten age spots or other dark spots, many others use them on large areas of their faces and bodies because they want a lighter skin tone. This got me thinking about the tanning industry. In spite of tanning bed companies saying these things are safe, will not cause cancer, etc there are studies showing otherwise. And people still spend money at tanning salons, roast themselves on beaches and at poolsides, and apply creams to tan themselves chemically. So, on the one hand, we have darker toned folks lightening themselves, and on the other hand, paler folks darkening themselves.......

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rory Stewart

Read this linked piece written by Rory Stewart who is a candidate for the Conservative Party in the Cumbria district. He is an experienced and thoughtful observer of people, politics, and history. He wrote The Places In Between (about walking across Afghanistan in the footsteps of Alexander) and Prince of the Marshes (about Iraq and reconstruction). I find it interesting that he has taken this road in his local politics. It reminds me a bit of Michael Ignatieff whose biography of Isaiah Berlin was outstanding. He also wrote Blood and Belonging, about the new, rising nationalisms around the world: it was excellent and thought-provoking.

Read about Haiti's Slave Uprising

Writer & professor, Madison Smartt Bell, wrote a trilogy about Haiti: All Souls' Rising, Master of the Crossroads, and The Stone That the Builder Refused; as well as Toussaint Louverture, A Biography. Read these to get a sense of the travesty foisted upon these people and the Medea-monster that grew out of infighting amongst the the various French factions, the racial hierarchy that was created, and the how the seeds for Haiti's troubles were sown way back in the 1700's, only to be compounded by US meddling in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Aaah, so satisfying!

Once I realised that I could order volume three of Stieg Larsson's fabulous series from (the US edition will not be published until May...what were they thinking when they thought they had to "build interest"??), I got my order in ASAP. Read the book in three days. Apparently, there is part of a fourth manuscript left....let's hope Larsson's lifelong companion prevails in the face of his greedy father and brother and is allowed to administer his literary estate. To think that, even in Sweden, a couple not legally married at time of death has the same issues facing us here...

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millenium, #3) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson