Friday, April 30, 2010

Painful and beautiful

The Surrendered The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Such a finely drawn, beautifully written (except for some weird typos and a surprising number of times the word 'array' or 'arrayed' was used), painful, and so sad book. There characters had so many burdens, beauty was seen but rarely experienced, always off stage.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Endangered Languages

Very interesting article in today's NYT on efforts in New York to record, possibly save, but most certainly appreciate endangered languages that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth in New York. It is a loss to the richness of our collective human cultures when we lose languages and knowledge through attrition and inattention.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In the last weekend's FT, Gideon Rachman reviews 'The Beijing Consensus: How China’s Authoritarian Model will Dominate the Twenty-First Century' by Stefan Halper. Rachman is generally favourable in his review, but where he raises issues and questions makes for interesting and thought provoking reading. Halper comments on why China has been successful in Africa and why many in Africa welcome China over the west. Rachman finds some of Halper's thesis a bit overbearing and ponderous and suggests that it would be more useful to consider "how big emerging powers such as Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa position themselves, as the US and China struggle to mould the international agenda."

For more on China in Africa, see NYT article on Niger.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bait and Switch

Another World Cup cop-out and bait-and-switch, this time in South Africa.....reminds me of the Chinese in Africa...who can out-hoodwink who the fastest. For more commentary, see London Review of Books Vol. 31 No. 24 · 17 December 2009.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A travel memory

This item in the Financial Times of London on visiting Lecce, Italy, brought back such vivid and pleasant memories of my visit there in 1969. I was the guest of a family and we traveled by ferry from Bar, in the former Jugoslavia to Bari in Italy, and then down the coast to Taranto and Lecce and then to Alberobello...those trulli were awe-inspiring and stirred the imagination of a very romantic teenager!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Disturbing and Depressing

Two items, one from last month and one last weekend, are of concern to anyone with a moral compass. A story in this last weekend's NYT about the South African Jewish community threatening Judge Goldstone with physical and mental anguish if he attends his grandson's Bar Mitzvah in Johannesburg because they don't like his judgment regarding the government/military of Israel's behaviour in Gaza. Shame on them for their thoughtless knee-jerk response.

And, in last month's London Review of Books, read Yonatan Mendel's explanation of "Hasbara": preemptive messaging and spin control. The left wing secularists in Israel have a lot of work to do!

China and Venezuela

China needs oil, Venezuela needs money and a friend: a match made by Mephistopheles!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had not expected to like this book and began it with some trepidation, thinking it might be another of those self-congratulatory I'm-not-one of-those.... In fact, I thought it was excellent! Well written, it mad me sad, angry, anxiety-filled as the story moved into the frightening territory of "laws of the South" being broken. It is hard to remind oneself that 1963, and the particular indignities of the South, was not that long ago.

Friday, April 9, 2010

If you need to get lost for a while....

Let the Great World Spin Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not only is the writing, the language, the evocations exquisite, but the story, told from several points of view, is a page turner. McCann's ability to get inside the heads of his characters is uncanny.

Those early humans just keep popping up!

The New York Times reported on yet another interesting find of early humans...this time in South Africa. These fossils were found in 2008. In addition to the two individuals mentioned in this article, another story mentioned the finding of a female and a young male, there was an additional female and an infant, along with numerous types of animals.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Yesterday, a wintry, windy day outside as I sat in a room full ebullient people doing good. In a moment of quiet, the inside air still, a little flutter and tug at my heart. A Tinkerbell of a moment, a hesitation. Ah yes, a little mind/heart visit with Ariel.