Friday, October 20, 2006

Gerry Studds

I've been checking out Ron Silliman's blog. He has an interesting post on Congressman Gerry Studds. Here's a section I found interesting. Check it out.

"So how does change come, finally, in the world? In part, it’s just in the ordinariness of a noun phrase, as at the end of this opening sentence from Damien Cave’s piece in the Times:

'Gerry E. Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress and a demanding advocate for New England fishermen and for gay rights, died early Saturday at Boston University Medical Center, his husband said.'"

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is God Green?

Bill Moyers' show "Moyers On America" did a good piece on evangelicals and the environmental movement. Check it out.

  • Is God Green?
  • Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Brown Caterpillar

    I thought this photo was cool. It was done by a birder here in Chicago. Here's his site.

  • Evan Graff's Nature Photography
  • Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    New Bird Species

    This Yariguíes brush finch has been confirmed as a new species found in the Andes. It is the first new species confirmed without taking a specimen (shooting one). I've never been a big fan of taking specimens, but realized that it was an important tool for scientists. Now with DNA testing it is becoming less important.

    Check out that part (below) about the indigenous tribe of Yariguies committing mass suicide instead of submitting to Spanish rule! Wow. There's my next Google search.

    New Bird Discovered in Colombia -- National

    October 10, 2006—This is one rebel that's been tied to a very serious cause.

    The fist-size bird with punk-rock plumage is a new—and possibly threatened—avian species that makes its home in the last remnants of a remote Colombian cloud forest.

    Dubbed the Yariguíes brush finch, the small bird was first found in 2004 in an isolated region of the eastern Andes mountain range known as the Serranía de los Yariguíes. The region and the finch are both named for the Yariguíes, an indigenous tribe that once inhabited the mountain forests and reportedly committed mass suicide rather than submit to Spanish colonial rule in the 1500s.

    Over the past three years researchers Thomas Donegan and Blanca Huertas have regularly hiked into the remote Andes forests to help document avian species diversity. In a paper submitted in February to the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, Donegan and Huertas describe finding a bird that differs from other known brush finches because it has a solid black back and no white markings on its wings.

    During further fieldwork in 2005 the scientists were able to capture one of the birds and take photographs and a blood sample before releasing it back to the wild. The images and DNA analysis cemented the finch's status as a new species.

    "There are about two to three new birds found in the world every year," Donegan told the Associated Press. "It's a very rare event."

    And the discovery of what researchers believe to be a rare bird got a conservation boost in the nick of time. Only a few months before the new brush finch was confirmed, the Colombian government had designated much of the bird's habitat as the Serranía de los Yariguíes National Park, a 193,698-acre (78,387-hectare) expanse of protected grasslands and mountain forests.

    "The new protected area," Donegan and Huertas wrote in their Bulletin paper, "should assist in conserving [the Yariguíes brush finch] and other threatened species."

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Please do not mix

    Here's our latest Nuclear proliferater.

    For your mental health do not mix these two things.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006


    I at least try to stay up to date with the world news, but for some reason I haven't paid nearly enough attention to the conflict and subsequent genocide in Darfur. Maybe I just didn't want to hear more bad news, but not knowing was making me feel worse. The death toll is estimated at 200,000 people right now, this includes murder, starvation, and illness all caused by the conflict. The BBC news has good coverage of the situation. Here is an overview of how the problem started and where it stands. And here is their main page on Darfur.

    Amnesty International's page has many personal stories of the conflict.

    And here are a few maps to get you placed.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

    Just got my copy of "The Road" by McCarthy and read it in one sitting, finishing at 3 this morning. All I can say is WOW!!! Probably one of the most intense experiences I've ever had with a novel. I just read the New York Times review by Janet Maslin and thought it was right on the money. Maslin writes, "'The Road' would be pure misery if not for its stunning, savage beauty." This is true, but the beauty doesn't reside only in the language and description, but in the relationship between the father and son (the two main characters).

    If you've read Blood Meridian or Suttree you'll know that McCarthy's language is usually thick. I remember the first time I read Suttree I was looking up words often. This novel is stripped down to meet the needs of the situation. And what is the situation? Well, the U.S., and seemingly the world, has been pretty much destroyed by nuclear war. In our post cold war, pre 9/11 haze this might have seemed a quaint idea for a novel, not that it would have been, but the days of "The Day After" and nuclear drills in school seemed like the distant pass. Of course we knew after the genie was let out of the bottle there was never any chance we could put it back. "The Road" has lost all notions of genies or books or TV. The world is hunger, shelter, survival. Would a person want to live in this world? Without the human connection between the boy and his father the answer is no. Even with the connection the question is up for debate.

    There is hope in this novel, but you better not blink because you might miss it! I copied the NY Times review below. If you think you might read the book I wouldn't read the review. It is much better to accumulate the knowledge, given you in the review, as you read. I also put the very last paragraph of the novel at the bottom because I wanted to have it. It is unbelievably gorgeous. It doesn't really give any plot away, but it is an ending that is earned, both by the reader and the author. So I have warned you!

    The Road Through Hell, Paved With Desperation


    In “The Road” a boy and his father lurch across the cold, wretched, wet, corpse-strewn, ashen landscape of a post-apocalyptic world. The imagery is brutal even by Cormac McCarthy’s high standards for despair. This parable is also trenchant and terrifying, written with stripped-down urgency and fueled by the force of a universal nightmare. “The Road” would be pure misery if not for its stunning, savage beauty.

    This is an exquisitely bleak incantation — pure poetic brimstone. Mr. McCarthy has summoned his fiercest visions to invoke the devastation. He gives voice to the unspeakable in a terse cautionary tale that is too potent to be numbing, despite the stupefying ravages it describes. Mr. McCarthy brings an almost biblical fury as he bears witness to sights man was never meant to see.

    “There is no prophet in the earth’s long chronicle who is not honored here today,” the father says, trying to make his son understand why they inhabit a gray moonscape. “Whatever form you spoke of you were right.” Thus “The Road” keeps pace with the most enterprising doomsayers as death and desperation manifest themselves on every page. And in a perverse miracle it yields one last calamity when it seems that things cannot possibly get worse.

    Yet as the boy and man wander, encountering remnants of the lost world and providing the reader with more and more clues about what destroyed it, this narrative is also illuminated by extraordinary tenderness. “He knew only that the child was his warrant,” it says of the father and his mission. “He said: if he is not the word of God God never spoke.”

    The father’s loving efforts to shepherd his son are made that much more wrenching by the unavailability of food, shelter, safety, companionship or hope in most places where they scavenge to subsist.

    Keeping memory alive is difficult, since the past grows increasingly remote. It is as if these lonely characters are experiencing “the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.” The past has become like a place inhabited by the newly blind, all of it slowly slipping away. As for looking toward the future, “there is no later,” the book says starkly. “This is later.”

    The ruined setting of “The Road” is strewn with terrible, revealing artifacts. There are old newspapers. (“The curious news. The quaint concerns.”) There is one lone bottle of Coca-Cola, still absurdly fizzy when all else is dust. There are charred corpses frozen in their final postures, like the long-dead man who sits on a porch like “a straw man set out to announce some holiday.” Sometimes these prompt the father to recall “a dull rose glow in the windowglass” at 1:17 in the morning, the moment when the clocks stopped forever.

    “The Road” is not concerned with explaining what caused this cataclysm. It is more abstract than that. Instead it becomes a relentless cautionary tale with “Lord of the Flies”-style symbolic impact, marked by a dark fascination with the primal laws of survival. Much of its impact comes from the absolute lawlessness of its backdrop as it undermines the father’s only remaining certitude: that he must keep his boy alive no matter what danger befalls them.

    As they move down the metaphorical road of the title, father and son encounter all manner of perils. The weather is bitter, the landscape colorless, the threat of starvation imminent. There is also the occasional interloper or ominous relic, since the road is not entirely abandoned.

    The sight of a scorched, shuffling man prompts the boy to ask what is wrong with him; the father simply replies that the man has been struck by lightning. Spear-carrying marchers on the road offer other hints about recent history. Groups of people are stowed away in hidden places as if they were other people’s food supply. In a book filled with virtual zombies and fixated on the living dead, it turns out that they are.

    Since the cataclysm has presumably incinerated all dictionaries, Mr. McCarthy’s affinity for words like rachitic and crozzled has as much visceral, atmospheric power as precise meaning. His use of language is as exultant as his imaginings are hellish, a hint that “The Road” will ultimately be more radiant than it is punishing. Somehow Mr. McCarthy is able to hold firm to his pessimism while allowing the reader to see beyond it. This is art that both frightens and inspires.

    Although “The Road” is entirely unsentimental, it gives father and son a memory to keep them moving, even if it is the memory of how and why the boy’s mother chose to die. She was pregnant when the world exploded, and the boy was born a few days after she and the man “watched distant cities burn.”

    Ultimately she gave up and took a bullet: “She was gone and the coldness of it was her final gift.” In a book whose events are isolated and carefully chosen, the appearance of a flare gun late in the story is filled with echoes of her final decision.

    The mother’s suicide is one more reason for astonishment at Mr. McCarthy’s final gesture here: an embrace of faith in the face of no hope whatsoever. Coming as it does after such intense moments of despondency, this faith is even more of a leap than it might be in a more forgiving story. It adds immeasurably to the staying power of a book that is simple yet mysterious, simultaneously cryptic and crystal clear.

    “The Road” offers nothing in the way of escape or comfort. But its fearless wisdom is more indelible than reassurance could ever be.

  • Village Voice Review

  • "Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains.You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow.They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Notes From A Bottle Found On The Beach At Carmel

    Here are a few excerpts from Evan S. Connell's book "Notes From A Bottle Found On The Beach At Carmel."

    They are called silos, because they resemble
    those towers in which fodder, grain, and other foods
    are stored. But there is only the windy sky
    around them, broken rocks, sand, weeds,
    and a few burned and blasted roots. Animals,
    even the smallest, will not come near this place.
    It is as though they have sensed the purpose of
    these objects, and comprehend them far better than we.


    Laplace was of the opinion that a comet struck the earth
    during some remote era, reducing the human population
    to a few individuals who lived in a primitive state
    for countless centuries, occupied by the problems of
    survival, until they had lost all memory of the arts;
    and not until these wants were felt did they begin again,
    as if Man were but newly born.


    I could distinguish boats in the harbor below. It was
    late afternoon when I flew over. I could visualize
    those men preparing to quit work. I could imagine myself
    in their position—I, too, have a wife. It was not that
    I eagerly did what you know I have done; it was,
    to put the matter in the simplest terms, a function.
    Do you understand? I was merely handed my orders.
    In fact, I never had seen the young man who approached,
    saluted, and gave me the envelope I was expecting.
    What should I have done but accept? Should I have
    woodenly remained where I was, protesting to superiors . . .


    Someone has said that on the 15th day of August
    a boy in a Japanese city deliberately burned to ashes
    the one thing that had not been taken from him,
    which was a schoolbook he found while sifting the ruins
    of his father’s home. In this book were several poems,
    and exercises in the art of reading. No one thus far
    has explained his act. But is it not clear to everyone?
    The boy had perceived the absurdity of such things.


    Things that remained are not diminished by time
    are whichever live in men's hearts or have fallen
    or have been thrown into the sea.


    Descartes was preparing to issue his pamphlet on the
    Nature of the universe when he was informed of the fate
    of Galileo, which is the reason he locked up his thesis
    in a desk. It was not published until fourteen years after his death.

    I am like a deaf mute with a message
    of the utmost importance
    addressing someone ignorant of my fantastic language,
    who must resort to a frightful pantomime
    of sighs and gestures.
    Laboriously, I am transcribing reality.

    The Eskimo have twenty words
    to express the conditions of snow.
    The Tokelau Islander
    has nine words for the ripeness of coconut.
    I have not one word
    to express my longing.


    A toucan is reported, more than a century old,
    which lives in the jungle and had belonged to Indians
    and learnt their language. Now this tribe is extinct,
    so that of all things on earth there is only this bird
    which can speak the words these people spoke, and has
    no idea of their meaning.


    Nothing existed before me; nothing will exist after me.

    Because it is possible to have intuitive knowledge
    of things which do not exist
    our vision is absolute, distant in place and subject
    from our object; and therefore visions remain,
    as we witness a multitude of stars that have gone.


    The depression I felt since yesterday has gone. I
    will sit up tonight, until dawn, to meditate.
    I feel strangely sensate, and wakeful.
    My life is not half so worthless as I had imagined.
    I shall not decay, I shall not give myself over to the worms.
    I shall not witness corruption within my heart.
    I shall have my being, I shall live and germinate;
    and I shall wake up in peace. The shape of my vision
    endures, after the form of my countenance is taken.


    To think deeply right now would terrify me.


    Each life is a myth, a song given out
    of darkness, a tale for children, the legend we create.
    Are we not heroes, each of us
    in one fashion or another,
    wandering through mysterious labyrinths?


    No count was possible at Hiroshima; consider the centuries
    and keep silent.


    I remember a woman of San Ildefonso,
    reputed to be more than a century old, who offered me
    a bowl polished with obsidian stones. I accepted
    this bowl in both hands, and observed it was uneven,
    as are all things. When I had placed it down
    so that it rested between us, it appeared symmetrical
    and was filled with beauty.


    Of what use are words, however fateful and oracular,
    if they fail to move and horrify the listener.


    Just now I have heard someone say that many neglect
    to discover what gives them pleasure.

    It is said that certain savages of the New World,
    when they had been persuaded to give up their convictions,
    plucked wild roses which they bound to the Crucifix
    as a means of indicating their adoration.
    But when the Spaniards discovered what they have done
    their villages were burnt and the inhabitants massacred.
    In a similar fashion, we have proceeded on our way.


    Thirteen years since the war.
    Already it as though it never occurred.


    I mention at this point the log of the Yankee whaler
    Monongahela, together with the testimony of
    Her captain, Jason Seabury, and of the men who sighted
    And chased and struck with two harpoons
    a plesiosaur that had survived from the Jurassic era.
    These sailors measured he carcass,
    Finding it to be one hundred and three feet in length,
    And seven inches; after which they stripped off
    its meat and saved its oil, bring this to port
    to sell, because they were practical men.
    Numerous sermons could abide in this.