scraping off the 00s


Was that really a decade that just sputtered by? Granted, everyone was numbed to the teeth for a couple of years after 9/11, but aren’t decades supposed to be demarcated by some sort of discernible content, like techno music, the civil rights movement or cocaine abuse? What can the Zeros claim? The Jonas Brothers? Avatar? Devendra Banhart? The emergence of graphic novels as a viable literary genre? Good TV? Gay marriage? These are all more or less wonderful things, but uniformly retro, cobbled together from surefire crowd-pleasers and reconfigured for today’s a-go-go cyber lifestyle. Where’s the surprise, the indication that something new is afoot — something that might signal a sea change in our culture’s disastrous path of self-destructive materialism, or at least save us from drowning in reassuring pabulum? When I see “The ’00s,” I think “the ooze” — and wonder how to scrape it off.

more from Doug Harvey at the LA Weekly here.

Friday Poem

Winter Solstice

Wiry and headstrong in life, so in death,
the bleached stems of harebells
– unflappable as marram grass –
outstare this sun, these easterlies.
At every branchlet’s pendant tip,
the vestigial ribs of a seed capsule
(bell-like, a birdcage in miniature)
accumulate and vitrify a water droplet.

Hence this platinum-wired gem tree
gathering December light, dispensing it;
a crystal-chandelier Adventist
illuminating, galvanising, rather,
its weedy, slug-pearled patch
of lavender and fallen harebell seeds;
igniting, with each icy tug,
summer’s metaphorical touchpaper.

by Jean Bleakney
from The Poet’s Ivy; Lagan Press, 2003

Orhan Pamuk interview

From The Telegraph:

Pamukstory1_1548262f Unrequited love makes fools of many of us. Even so, is it normal behaviour to collect 4,213 of your beloved’s cigarette butts – to say nothing of 237 hair clips, 419 lottery tickets and hundreds of other items you have surreptitiously looted from her family home, which you’ve been visiting every other night for dinner and polite conversation for nine years? And then to build a museum to house all your mementos? At best it’s eccentric, at worst it’s creepy – but Orhan Pamuk won’t hear a word of it. The Nobel laureate’s reluctance to condemn Kemal, the love-struck narrator of his latest novel, is understandable. For if Kemal’s behaviour is odd, what does that say about a novelist who is building a real museum in Istanbul to recreate the imaginary one in his book? Pamuk – animated, garrulous and jovial in person, his eyebrows shooting up expressively with every other pronouncement – insists he should not be confused with the moony protagonist of The Museum of Innocence, his eighth novel and first since winning a Nobel Prize for literature in 2006. Still, they seem to have more in common than the fact that both turned their backs on bourgeois Istanbul upbringings.

Sprawled on a leather sofa in his office at Columbia University in New York, where he spends four months of the year lecturing, Pamuk, 57, clearly enjoys being asked to discuss spurned lovers and collecting mementos. Given that in 2008 some fellow Turks were accused of plotting to kill him and, five years ago, prosecutors wanted to imprison him for “insulting Turkishness”, it’s a step forward for this controversial writer. “So many women readers in Istanbul have asked me, their eyes shining: ‘Is Kemal you?’,” he says, grinning. “To an extent, clearly yes, all lovers behave like this. And when women ask this, I think their tender smiles suggest they’re happy about their power to make men fall in love.”

More here.

Time, the Infinite Storyteller

From The New York Times:

Time Time gets special consideration today. We sweep out the old and ring in the new, take stock, dust off some of those perennial resolutions and maybe even formulate one or two new ones. Depending on your age and the way things have been going lately, this annual rite is not necessarily easy. So take refuge in art. There may be no better place — no place more stimulating or ultimately more comforting — to contemplate life’s forward motion than a large museum, especially the great time machine that is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met is closed today while most of us take a collective timeout for time, but — at least for now — there’s always tomorrow.

In a way it seems a trifle odd that artworks are such superb instruments of time travel. Time is not visual, after all, unlike space. And most works in museums are static, unchanging objects. And yet art is loaded and layered with different forms of time and complexly linked to the past and the present and even the future. The longer they exist the more onionlike and synaptic they become.

More here.

A Mathematical Novel

Mark Buchanan in New Scientist:

K8479 Good stories need rich characters that we care about, not mathematical theorems, however fascinating. So a work of fiction subtitled A mathematical novel makes you fear that it may only expose the tremendous difficulty of blending science and logic with the emotion and dramatic tension required of good literature. Fortunately, in this case that fear is misplaced, because A Certain Ambiguity succeeds both as a compelling novel and as an intellectual tour through some startling mathematical ideas.

Just before his death, Indian mathematician Vijay Sanhi entices his grandson, Ravi, into the world of numbers via one of its mysteries. Punch any three digits into your calculator, he tells Ravi. Then punch in the same three again. No matter which digits you choose, he claims, the resulting six-digit number will be exactly divisible by 13, that result divisible by 11, and the last result by 7. You will always end up with the same three-digit number you started out with. Amazed to find this is true, Ravi soon works out why (a clue: 13 × 11 × 7 = 1001), and falls in love with mathematics.

More here.

Peace between India and Pakistan

From a joint statement by the editors of the Jang Group and The Times of India:

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 01 12.47 The Times of India Group and the Jang Group [Pakistan] have come together to energize the process of peace between our two countries. We believe that this is an intervention whose time has come. We recognize that setbacks will occur but these should not derail the process. We will need to reach out and pluck the low hanging fruit in the beginning before we aim higher. Issues of trade and commerce, of investments, of financial infrastructure, of cultural exchanges, of religious and medical tourism, of free movement of ideas, of visa regimes, of sporting ties, of connectivity, of reviving existing routes, of market access, of separated families, of the plight of prisoners, will be part of our initial agenda. Through debates, discussions and the telling of stories we will find commonalities and space, for compromise and adjustment, on matters that have bedevilled relations for over 60 years.

When the two neighbours meet they move almost seamlessly into the shared cultural and human ethos. They talk to each other about food, about music, about poetry, about films, about theatre and about the prolonged absences spawned by lost years. They share anxieties, discuss rising prices, seek advice on their children’s education, gossip about their in-laws, trade anecdotes and laugh at the foibles of politicians. We want to lower the walls so that the conversation continues. We have to nurture the seeds of peace that have nestled, untended, for decades in hostile soil.

We owe our unborn generations the right to rise out of the depths of poverty, and squalour.

More here. [Thanks to Ruchira Paul.]