“BBC Inside Out follows the badger vaccination team in west Cornwall as they test whether vaccination could be an effective alternative to culling.”
I actually thought badgers were more silken looking than furry. I have been misled by the Wind in the Willows illustrations.
Here is a riveting essay Harry Browne wrote and published back in 2006 on peace protestors at Shannon airport and the Irish media’s coverage of the trial of “five people associated with the Catholic Worker movement (who) had been arrested for damaging a US military plane”.
First though, read this news report on Ireland’s disgraceful permitted use of its airspace and airport for what we know now to have included the transit of CIA rendition flights. We know from the recent US Senate report precisely the despicable and sadistic forms of torture that such flights and transfers would have resulted in.
Then read Harry Browne’s essay here about the people who were brave enough to stand up at that time to the transgressions both known at the time and unknown.
I am reading or pinch reading on thanatophobia and grief in anticipation of a piece I must write and contribute next year at a conference, thus I revisited or flittered into Roland Barthes Mourning Diary (Wang and Hill) and was taken (up) by his sentiment or the resonance to be found in this entry:
“Many others still love me, but from now on my death will kill no one.
— which is what’s new.
He’s referring to the death of his mother and it struck me that he marks something here. That there are certain deaths — one’s parents or partner — where, if you like, a standing guard is removed. Barthes records this realization. He seems to also be asking Who will bury me now? or who will be worked up sufficiently to bury me? Since the organization of burial is involved and requires a degree of commitment it’s quite a responsibility that you cannot just ladle on to any passing person.
Barthes is calculating or re calibrating where this puts him as an adult now his mother, his reliable burial steward or executor we might imagine, is already buried. Who remains?
In burial as in most things roles are cast. He anticipates the absence of a key player and marks his grief and death anxiety through this shift.
Mary Harper is doing terrific reporting on Somalia (and has been since the 1990s). I’ve been following her BBC World Service reports for a while. I began with her report about a writers festival in Somaliland (which I think I must have blogged on) and ever since I keep my ears and eyes open for her reports. I truly admire her work and that she speaks 4 languages!
Here she contributes to BBC Newshour Extra on What is Fuelling the Global Jihad? well worth a listen to this programme.
Quite a contrast to think (in relation to last post) of the luxury of refuting or delaying notions of death vs bloodthirsty death cults donging the instant death knell on other people’s behalf with the equivalent frequency to making a cup of tea.
The Reith Lectures are underway on BBC Radio 4.
#3 Hubris I found most compelling:
“Dr. Gawande argues that the common reluctance of society and medical institutions to recognise the limits of what professionals can do can end up increasing the suffering of patients towards the end of life.”
I’d add to that the common reluctance more widely to face any notion of death at all (not merely at the end of life or terminal diagnosis when you’ve no choice but to face it, but in the everyday healthy population who chose not to think or dwell on it until it banjaxes them) is also inherent in refusing or refuting the limits. If you were to introduce the concept of the limits early: would you be better adjusted once they were upon you?
A curious change or shift is the lack of visible public mourning. I rarely to never see a funeral cortege in the city I live in. I am therefore never aware of anyone’s death around me unless they are personally known to me. This may be a peculiarity to this city. (You can read my LRB blog on the Final Funeral Forum to understand more about the specifics here) But if you take note of the new forms of overt social media mourning and outpourings, you cannot but notice a certain public possession towards the dead who are not known to us. Whether this is public figures or artists or people we’re vaguely familiar with or stories of people we’ve (now) been familiarized with through the channels of social media. Sometimes it can take the tone of near strident and heightened outpourings. Sometimes it’s verging on an Olympic competition. Then the rapid tributes arrive, endless anecdotes, breached correspondences, it starts to read like the semi-finals of who can now outdo the last espousal. In our confessional culture, the plate is wide and forks lose the run of themselves.
It’s likewise easy to get emotionally operatic at the end of one’s fingertips in relation to a person, actively, unknown to us as a living being but whose persona we’ve attached to. Note it’s much easier to attach to a distant, carefully shaped persona than engage with the difficulties and complexities and, one hopes, liveliness of an actual person. I would be curious about the absenting of one form of visible public mourning (the funeral cortege) versus the arrival of the invisible (self invited) funeral cortege where the stakes may not demand the same level of respect, in tandem with wider deflection on accepting death. (Becker’s Denial of Death) Case in point: you cannot hurl yourself into or at a passing funeral car or group of mourners. You must maintain some kind of decorum and respectable distance while bearing witness to what is passing, what that indicates, a life has ended. This isn’t the case at your keyboard into the vortex of social media and new media journalism, where you can bounce up and down on a trampoline of self directed, insulated, wombling as you wish, to the extent the dead person is merely an accessory for you to womble around and tweet about.
Strange evolving disparities and disconnects that do not necessarily do much to engage with the urgent matter of thanatophobia. The limit of the final bus stop and the need to at some point get off the bus.
Even the experts agree this is one heck of a weather system. A matriarch of a triple mama system. We are due to receive a sub-tropical weather event that involves three storms over three days.
The numbers are madness. The North Shore will see 300mm of rain in the three days. We are currently in round 1 of these three storms. Usually the entire rainfall for November and December is 300mm so obviously this volume in three days will likely cause problems. Floods are likely and more worrying, mudslides are possibility.
There was a recent mud slide on that side of the city (North) during another rain and storm event and there are boulders (I have recently learned) that fell into the Seymour River. Not clear how the boulders tumbled but one hunch is the rain caused it.
If you are a pedestrian it’s very hard to see you in this weather and this is the most likeliest moment not to be seen by a car thus don’t wander absent mindedly staring at your phone. Be careful when crossing the road. Wave your arms if you have to. Visibility is dreadful in this epic rain.
Thank you to the lovely people of Powell River and Sechelt for coming out to my public reading events in both those communities.
Much joy and exchange on literature was had.
Thank you so much to the Canada Council For the Arts for funding these readings. So marvellous to travel to different BC communities and read and discuss literature.
I am buried in reading.
From Leskov to Benjamin to Balzac and more. It forms its own cartography.
I hope you are too.
We are day 3 of the ‘Polar Streak(er)’ weather event. A stride of -5 has struck us. It was anticipated but preceded by a band of sun that suggested there was no way this polar could streak through. Crowd control would melt him!
Last night I had to declare it life-alteringly cold. But the polar streak by night becomes a bounty of sun in the morning, which must give us pause to recognize, perhaps, this is how Winnipeg and Edmonton live to see another day when it’s -37.
It’s excellent reading weather, though suffice to say reading is weather-proof.
Globally weather-wise Britain seems balmy, Brisbane bonkers and the rest you’ll have to discuss amongst yourselves.
This weather event, henceforth localized to the “the blood will drain out of your feet” weather event has been termed the Polar Invasion in the US. (the successor to last year’s Polar Vortex)
Colorado perished last night and the Texas Panhandle recorded a temperature of -10.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean there was localized flooding in Ireland with the yellow alert being raised to an Orange alert.
Here we have -2 for an overnight low, dipping to -5 in the mysterious titled sheltered areas. (Definition forthcoming)
Here’s the full forecast. I am too timid to click on Edmonton, so click amongst yourself if your fingers aren’t already frozen.
“Each kidney (bean-shaped organ) weighs about 5 ounces and contains approximately one million filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron is made of a glomerulus and a tubule. The glomerulus is a miniature filtering or sieving device while the tubule is a tiny tube like structure attached to the glomerulus.”
This is the closest I could find to an image of one nephron.
This was my Saturday/Sunday view. 12th floor at VGH. It was somehow redolent of Legoland that H. Heliport landing.
Thank you to the nurses & doctors for their excellent care. Thanks be to everything else for public health care and Sir Alexander Fleming for inventing antibiotics.
My latest piece for the LRB blog can be found here
“I should like to apologise to Brigid O’Duffy (née Davis), who served in the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising in 1916 but did not see her military pension until 1937. Her pension application (MSP34REF20583 in the recently digitised Military Service Pensions Collection) is date-stamped December 1936 by the Department of Defence. The files of 433 other women have also been unveiled.”
“It is likely that no one ever masters anything in which he has not known impotence; and if you agree, you will also see that this impotence comes not at the beginning of or before the struggle with the subject, but in the heart of it…” Walter Benjamin, A Berlin Chronicle from Reflections. Translated by Edmund Jephcott
There’s a lovely hint of vibrancy in the latter part of this sentence. I enjoyed its determinate quality!
“Lowering the death rate must in the end cease and it is well to emphasise the fact that the object of public health is to prolong life to old age, not to secure immortality of terrestrial life. “
Influenza in Ireland. Feb 17, 1900. The British Medical Journal Vol 1. No 2042
(Note the date is 18 years before the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918)
This Joanna Kavenna piece was a remarkable read this week: I share this large chunk and then go here to read ALL. Joanna is the author of numerous novels and critical writings and has a brain seventeen times the size of most of us. Buy her books.
“The whole temping experience made me dislike the modernists as well, or some of them. It made me lose faith in those post-Nietzscheans who condemned the ‘ordinary man’ (or woman), who decried ‘the masses’ and assumed the masses all felt and thought the same. Often, as I waited in some random flock of people, I thought about Ezra Pound’s seedy protégée, Richard Aldington, who stood in central London and wrote:
The Masses at Piccadilly
Are sordid and sweaty
We suspect them of vices
Like marriage and business
We know they are ignorant
Of Hokkei and Rufinus
Or Amy Lowell, ‘imagist’, who added:
Fools! It is always the dead who breed!
The little people are ignorant
They chatter and swarm
They gnaw like rats . . .
I ranted my way home each night – as I stood with my kind, as we swarmed into a mass, as we breathed in unison, like ladybirds in a cluster, related and merged organic matter, as I stood and swayed – I hated Aldington, Lowell, felt that had they not been so utterly dead I would have found them and beaten them to the ground, a futile fantasy of vengeance on the long dead, but I thought, how easy, how glorious, to set yourself against the masses, when you have been saved by wealth or accident, how easy to denounce the Others –…”
By chance after a conversation about the work of Édouard Levé last night at a gathering, the World Service were broadcasting this edition of Outlook, which features Cara Anna (her name reads like the opening of a love letter) bravely describing her own experiences with suicide attempts while working as a reporter in Beijing for the Associated Press. I admire her practical intentions with this blog and her work to reduce the taboo of discussing the subject of suicide attempts. Her blog Talking About Suicide is here
World Service Outlook programme can be heard here It’s rapidly becoming one of my favourite listens. I seem to chance upon accidentally every Saturday night.
I must pause to record the first rainfall warning of the season last week. Perhaps two rainfall warnings or perhaps one that lasted 2 days. It was a relentless rain that fell. Grey on waking, grey on sleeping, lashing in between.
Hark today we are back with megawatty sun bright! But what came in between, what came by chance was eiderdown to the mind. Yesterday driving North in Washington there sat fog. By the side of the road fog. Small bowls of fog. I was tempted to call it rolling fog but it wasn’t rolling. It was sitting in a bowl-shaped-pudding fog.
I was puzzling out whether this was particular only to Washington State, when I found more patches of it sat identically on the side of the road once I crossed the border. Curiously though on the Canadian side it was more square-shaped. Are we therefore square to Washington’s pudding?!
Teashops they are a changing. Yesterday I met my first ultra slick and swifto tea hustlers. Usually teashops have one man, bedraggled or reading a mystery novel at the back or a hung over student or a woman juggling the dishwasher and the tea selling. Not yesterday’s encounter. It was doubles tennis rebound tea selling. I have never seen so many people selling tea in such a small space. And selling tea swifter than the sample could traverse the tongue. So you’ll be wrapping that tea up and taking that tea home will you? Unfortunately the tea in question was sweetened and decorated beyond recognition — it tasted like tea-ish cool aid.
What can we deduce? The Venture Capitalists have landed on the tea leaf. Still enthusiasm for the leaf is never an entirely unhappy thing, just in this case a tad pressured and go easy on the sweetener.
I faithfully disagree with Colm Tóibín’s point in his weekend Irish Times interview about tea in the novel. You can never have too much tea in a novel dude. Tea is the word. True progress will announce itself when beds come with built-in kettles. (along with my other unrelated but much belaboured desire for 24 hour swimming pools).
“[The] conventions of Western discourse — order, logical progression, symmetry –… impose upon the subject an aspect that does not belong to it. Among other ideas, Eastern Aesthetics suggests that ordered structure contrives, that logical exposition falsifies, and that linear, consecutive argument eventually limits… Most likely to succeed in defining Japanese aesthetics is a net of associations composed of listings or jottings, connected intuitively, that fills in a background and renders the subject visible. Hence, the Japanese uses for juxtaposition, for assembling, for bricolage.” Donald Richie A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics
The above quote I read in a book I mentioned yesterday called the BRICOLEUR & his SENTENCES by Stan Dragland (Peddlar Press), but it is quoted from a Michael Ondaatje essay called “Mongrel Writing”, which in turn is quoting the original Donald Richie text which it names as Tractates. (Perhaps the book is out of print, but the only title I could find that’s near it for Richie is the one I’ve attributed it to above.) That’s three layers of quotes to arrive here. It is 7,549 km from Vancouver to Tokyo and unfortunately I am unable to calculate how long it would take you to walk there, but it probably includes the number 3 someplace as well.
If you are wondering what Tractates means (I was) here is a definition:
late 15th century: from Latin tractatus, from tractare ‘to handle,’ frequentative of trahere ‘draw.’
This remarking of Richie’s also brings to mind the comments Xiaolu Guo made during this panel at the Jaipur Literary Festival. Xiaolu has a new book out called I AM CHINA. This is very good news. I walked up a mountain in Banff with Xiaolu last year. I should be happy to walk up many mountains talking to her. Indeed we could tractate up and down mountains ensemble.
No sooner have you cancelled rain when a story flashes up of a dreadful storm situation, this time the Philippines where 5 people have died and over 200,000 displaced. Fung-Wong is now head to Taiwan according to this BBC report. This is the second storm in two weeks to hit that area.
I was just about to welcome back my old friend the rain and announce it was time to start discussing the weather again … when he was given a battering today by 79 degrees worth of Fahrenheit sunlight. Prior to today’s intervention, we had two remarkable grizzly overcast days and I was ready to hat and scarf my way to this weather watching station and declare the season commenced. In any case CANCELLED. Cancelled. There’s nothing to be said about the sunshine that Beckett hasn’t already covered. One never sees any true variety in sunshine, it’s just up there, bright, blue and beautiful. Thus nothing to be said.
The rain however I’ve managed to fill hundreds of posts on since approx 2005 or whatever ancient date this blog hails back to.
Anyway chief weather watcher going back into her box under the table until something to actually report shows up.
Under the table winter reading has begun. I am continuing to read this Alice James biography by Jean Strouse (NYRB Classics) but there’s an awful lot of Henry Sr, (one legged boozer) who I mistook to be Henry Jr (two legged) and had to give Henry James Jr a leg back on twitter. But really why so much Henry, why so many Henrys’? Why didn’t the dad go for Harry or Hamid as a name for Henry James (the scribbler)? If he’d known how melted my head is shifting between him and H jr while all the while ONLY wanting to read about Alice for whom I purchased this biography.
All other actual Jamesians would be yay delighted to find the entire diaspora included but I want to know about Alice and since this book is supposed to be about Alice, hurry up Alice. Climb out of the pond weed and duck tails of these Henrys. It must be said though I very much appreciated the description of Henry Sr’s “vastation”. Have you ever had a vastation? I want to survey random folks at bus stops. The very next time I meet a religiously inclined street preacher or bell ringer I shall ask this question promptly.
Also being read is a book about a Bricoleur, with Bricoleur in the title, which I hope to review if as usual I can persuade “the newspapers” that a book that dissects reading is a valuable one to contemplate critically. The newspapers do not seem to concur with the titles I think could use vital contemplation partly because my appetite for the obscure is, um, long confirmed.
A roasting hot read staring at me here that I’ve been saving for the reading equivalent of a Harvest supper: a book called Postal Culture by Gabriella Romani subtitled “Writing and Reading Letters in Post-Unification Italy” published by the University of Toronto Press. The newspapers already told me negative Nelly on this one. How and ever I feel a postal essay brewing that will hopefully include this book and another from the NYRB Classics.
Here also is one of the most riveting things I read last week. You may not find this riveting so do not be alarmed if it fails to rivet. In fact it’s so riveting I cannot locate it. It was about Viral Hemorrhagic Fever and the timeline of how it strikes. I will find it and hang it here forthwith. (Postscript: Here it is. It’s a chapter from a textbook with latest info on Ebola provided by The Wellcome Trust). Note the quote below in the key points and how the symptoms are so non-specific they could present as any virus. The chapter goes onto explain the history of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever as a term first coined by Russian physicians in the 1940’s and that it may be caused by 30 different viruses from four taxonomic families. (I have no clue what taxonomic means).
“Viral HF is characterized by a short incubation period (usually 1-2) weeks followed by a rapidly progressive illness usually lasting no longer than 2 weeks. Initial signs and symptoms are usually very nonspecific and include fever, headache and myalgia, followed rapidly by gastrointestinal symptoms and, in some cases, rash and neurologic involvement. ”
Malarky has different shelf mates this week at Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris (merci mille fois mes amis) from last month. Someone who stood in the bookshop on Monday sent me this picture. How cheering to see the fine company she keeps in this feisty shop that engages so robustly with challenging literature and always has done. May it ever be so.