Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The News from Pakistan

New York Times, 20 March 2007

"At least 46 people died in the fighting between militants and tribesmen on Monday and Tuesday, the military official said without elaborating.

The two officials, speaking in Islamabad, said the clash was between pro-government tribesmen and foreign militants. However, a local intelligence official said the fighting was part of a feud among rival militant groups."

Is it still about Israel, or can we give that up now?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Maybe it isn't. The one customer review of this thing says that it is just a reprint of a not very good book published in 1930. The original covered only French gargoyles and was not well laid out, poorly researched, and badly written. I have sent for it and a few others with the word 'gargoyles' in the title. I may yet become an itinerant
photographe living in a gypsy van. I will know in a few days. It might even provide a place to start and plagiarize from using better modern technology. It might be that the main significance of this thing is that somebody at Dover Press recently thought that a book of photographs of gargoyles was worth publishing.

A day late and a euro short

The project I have been planning to spend about a year of my life doing, has been done. I have been obsessing on the right lens, the right camper-van, and the right season for photographing Europe's gargoyles for a coffee table book. Out of an abundance of caution I checked on Amazon this morning. I was and am aghast that the book, vaguely in mind for more than fifteen years (since Carcassonne with Patty, whenever that was), has been done. And only last August. The Gargoyle Book: 572 Examples from Gothic Architecture (Paperback). I am undone. I literally don't know what to do with myself.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

from Arches National Park, Utah

The subject here is sandstone, all the marvels, antiquities, colors, and layers of it, the things ancient seas have built and wind and water have carved of it Arches National Park is not misnamed. Among its other wonders and glories, great sandstone arches abound.

I am going to write Ellen Tauscher, my congresswoman, to ask, nay demand, that something be done about the names perpetuated by the Park Service. I demand that Double Arch be renamed Petrarch and Beatrice Arch, Turret Arch must become Plutarch. In honor of Utah's own Brigham Young, Landscape Arch must become Heresiarch. West Window and East Window must become Patriarch and Matriarch. My demands go on and on, but those are the non-negotiable ones.

I hiked up to Heresiarch today, the extraordinary long narrow one on the cover of flyers about the park. Part of it fell down in 1991 which made it still longer and narrower. There were people under it at the time but they ran away upon the initial rockfall and no one was hurt. There is even a picture of the rock falling. The Park Service has now gone the Forest Service one better by closing off the area underneath for fear of Hazardous Arch Failure.

When I was at Balancing Rock it occurred to me that though the thing has been where it is for tens of thousands of years, it must eventually fall. One would have to be a schlemazzel on a cosmic scale to have Balancing Rock fall on him. But we all have to go sometime. I think it would be good to go in a way so innately preposterous that there would be an inkling of laughter at the last. But later. Much later.

Reading about and seeing geology, deep time, and uniformitarianism is always relieving. I consider the layers in the sandstone as I walk over them. Each tenth of an inch thick layer is a year's cycle of seasons and there are miles and miles of them as I walk, and more miles and miles of them that eroded away long ago. Life seems less serious and compelling then.

Friday, March 09, 2007

News from the Middle East

Would like to hear the bad news first and more bad news second, or the other way around?

That the agreement between Hamas and the Fatah arranged at Mecca brokered by Saudi Arabia ended the fighting between them is well known. Less well known are the terms. One of them is that Fatah agreed to PA schoolbooks teaching that the destruction of Israel is a religious duty, not just a nationalist obligation. A nationalist obligation can be negotiated about, however insincerely. A religious struggle (Ribat) cannot. http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=1908 has quotes.

The other not so good news is that an American Jewish group, Brit Tzedek vShalom, has already come to the defense of the new textbooks. They wrote a letter to Senator Clinton who had publicly criticized the new textbooks, asking her to reconsider, claiming the new textbooks "encourage a peaceful resolution of the conflict" and "endorse democracy".

Saturday, March 03, 2007

For the Record

America's "newspaper of record" as it calls itself, has long been considered to be the New York Times. It isn't. The Washington Post recently ran an investigative series on the treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital which resulted in the dismissal of the Secretary of the Army and the commander of the hospital followed by the dismissal of his appointed successor. This is the highest and best tradition of journalism, both as reporting and as uncovering. The Washington Post, not the New York Times, a generation ago did the investigative series that led to the undoing of the Nixon Administration.

The New York Times has stumbled from internal scandal to internal scandal and its reporting has been locked into an ideological rigidity of that kind often characterized as "mediocre". The New York Times seems to have little to recommend it beside the identification with New York. Reading an account of events in the New York Times leaves me wondering what actually happened. Reading one in the Washington Post leaves me thinking that that is probably what happened.