Thursday, June 30, 2011

Consequential (Northern Arcadia)


Polar hares

          While chatting, the huntsmen, now converted to naturalists, continued on their way, and reached a sort of vale, without surrounding hills, at the bottom of which snaked a more or less unfrozen river;  because of its southern exposure there grew some vegetation on the banks and a certain way up the slopes.  The ground displayed a veritable desire to be fertilized;  with a few inches of topsoil, it would have asked for nothing better than to produce.  The doctor pointed out these manifest tendencies.

        ‘Look, couldn’t a few enterprising settlers settle in this valley, if they had to?  With hard work and perseverance, they would transform it; not to a temperate countryside – I wouldn’t go so far – but at least a presentable patch of land.  If I’m not mistaken, over there are even a few four-legged inhabitants!   Such fellows know all the best places.’

Polar hare  

        ‘Goodness, they’re polar hares!’ exclaimed Altamont, loading his gun.

         ‘Wait,’ cried the doctor, ‘wait, you crazy huntsman!  The poor animals aren’t about to flee.  Come on, leave them be;  let them come to us!’

            In fact three or four young hares, gamboling in the thin heather and new moss, were approaching the three men, whose presence they did not fear;  they ran up with beautiful naïve airs, which hardly managed to disarm Altamont.

Arctic fox

           Soon they were between the doctor’s legs, who stroked them, saying:

            ‘Why use shots for those who seek caresses?  The death of these small creatures wouldn’t serve us.’

              ‘You’re right,’ cried Hatteras, ‘their lives should be spared.’

           ‘Like those of the ptarmigans flying toward us,’ exclaimed Altamont, ‘and the sandpipers advancing gravely on their long stilts.’

Arctic Ptarmigan

          A whole feathered race was approaching the huntsmen, not suspecting the danger the doctor had averted.  Even Duke, holding himself back, watched in admiration.

Arctic sandpiper

          It was a curious sight to see the pretty animals running, jumping and leaping trustingly;  they landed on the good Clawbonny’s shoulders; they lay down at his feet;  they spontaneously offered themselves to the unaccustomed caresses;  they did their utmost to welcome the unknown guests;  the many birds, joyously chirping, called to each other and came from all points of the valley;  the doctor resembled a veritable charmer.  The huntsmen continued their journey by climbing up the soggy banks of the stream, followed by this friendly group;  at a bend in the valley they spotted a herd of eight or ten reindeer, grazing on some lichen half-buried under the snow, charming animals to look upon, gracious and calm, the females bearing antlers as proudly as the males.  Their wooly hides were already exchanging wintry whiteness for the brown and dull grey of summer;  they appeared no more frightened and no less tame than the hares or birds of this peaceful country.

Arctic reindeer

          Such must  have been the relationship between the first man and the first animals when the world was young.

Dr. Clawbonny, Duke, Captains Hatteras and Altamont in Northern Arcadia

Text excerpted from:  Jules Verne, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1864).  Trans. William Butcher.  Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.

Mergansers (Poem)


             on their heads

Thoughts on things
      fold unfold
             above the river beds

Poem by: Lorine Niedecker (1967)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Medlar Trees


Medlar trees. 


Top image:  Medlar tree

Fragment No. 75:  Herakleitos (Guy Davenport translation)

Second image:  Medlar pomes and leaves.

Third image:  Medlar blossoms and leaves.

Note:  Images enlarge when clicked.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Guinea Update From The Observer -- 26 June, 2011




Varanus macraei turquoise-blue monitor lizard


Conservationists discover more than 1,000 species in New Guinea

Treasure trove of unknown varieties of animal, bird, fish, insect and plant have been identified in the forests and wetlands of the Pacific island over a period of just 10 years

By Tracy McVeigh, The Guardian (Observer),

Wattled Smoky Honeyeater (Melipotes carolae)

         A new type of tree kangaroo, a 2.5-metre-long river shark, a frog with vampire-like fangs and a turquoise lizard are among hundreds of new creatures found and being documented in a report by conservationists working in the Pacific island of New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea tree kangaroo

        Some 1,060 previously unknown species of mammals, fish and birds have been spotted in the volcanic island over a 10-year period.

        The Final Frontier report, which was put together by WWF as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, marks a brief respite from the escalating rate of animal and plant extinctions which is taking its toll across the planet and has left a quarter of all known mammals on the endangered list.

        The species have all been discovered, at a rate of two each week, in the period from 1998 to 2008 by the various teams and researchers who have visited the region and its extensive forests, waters and wetlands.

Snub-fin dolphin

        One team discovered a new bird, the wattled smoky honeyeater, within seconds of leaving their expedition helicopter.

        Perhaps the most extraordinary freshwater discovery is the species of river shark which, given its size, has done well to evade discovery until now. The shy fish has been named the Glyphis garricki after the New Zealand zoologist Jack Garrick, who identified it. Because of its rarity it has immediately gone on to the endangered list.

River shark

        In the salt waters a snub-fin dolphin that comes in a delicate shade of pink was spotted in 2005 and, after much scientific measuring and debating, now qualifies as the first new dolphin species to be found in more than three decades.

        Dr Mark Wright, conservation science adviser at WWF, said the report was a fabulous reminder that "the world is full of fantastic and fantastical creatures, of quirky and improbable lifestyles. The more we look, the more we find".

Spilocuscus wilsoni cuscus (marsupial)

       But he said that species diversity was rich the world over. "Perhaps it is so commonplace we ignore it, or maybe we've forgotten how to look. Let's take flies. Britain is home to more than 5,000 species of fly, and these are not everyone's favourite, but flies represent 5,000 entirely different responses to life's challenges.

        "For instance, the holly leaf miner, whose nondescript larvae cause leaf blotching at this time of year – their entire world is limited to that tiny strip between the top and bottom of a single leaf. Those same life processes that we go through – feeding, growing, breathing – are still acted out, but now crammed into a creature far smaller than a grain of rice."

Orange snail

        New Guinea is in an area known as the "coral triangle", a region with the most diverse marine eco-systems on Earth. In the 10-year period in question, 33 new fish species have been found in the waters around the island, including the damselfish, a strikingly brilliant blue wrasse and seven species of zig-zag rainbow fish, an 11cm-long creature which lives in shallow waters. In all, 218 new kinds of plants – including a flesh-like orchid, 43 reptiles and 12 mammals, 580 invertebrates, 134 amphibians, two birds and 71 fish have been found.

        "It is precisely that endless variety of form and function that enthralls me, but this exuberance of nature is under threat," said Wright. "Despite the best efforts of groups like WWF, it is clear that we will not save all we would like to.

        "Forest will continue to be felled, rivers dammed and coastlines developed. And species will be erased. Some extinction is inevitable – a consequence of Darwin's 'natural selection' – but humans are imposing intense pressures, leading to 'unnatural selection'. Nature is struggling to cope, but we have the ability and power in our hands to forge a future in which the environment is truly valued – we must choose to do so."

      New Guinea is the second largest island on Earth, after Greenland, and is divided between the countries of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It holds the third largest tract of rainforest in the world and is home to around 8% of the world's species.

         But while its relatively low level of human population had protected its species, illegal logging is now projected to strip the island of half of its forest cover by 2020.

Delias duria butterfly

         To support WWF's anniversary report, writer and film-maker Stephen Poliakoff has made a short film which will include footage of some of the new species from New Guinea. Called Astonish Me, the film will be shown exclusively online by the Observer later this summer before being shown in Odeon cinemas as a short feature prelude to major films.

      Poliakoff said that his drama – which stars Bill Nighy – had been inspired by the new discoveries made in the natural world.

Litoria sauroni tree frog

        "What astonishes me is there are so many animals out there we are seeing for the first time from the very colossal squid to the largest insect in the world discovered recently – it's extraordinary in the 21st century that this is still going on. We think we know everything, but we don't," he said.

Carve Your Number On My Wall II -- Existence of 200 ‘Uncontacted’ Tribal People in Brazilian Rainforest Confirmed


(Survival International has released the first, clear pictures of this ancient Amazonian tribe, who grow crops, peanuts, bananas, corns and more. Have a look above and below.)

By International Business Times Staff Reporter 
June 24, 2011 7:01 AM EDT 

        The Brazilian government has confirmed the existence of about 200 unidentified tribal people in the Amazon rainforest.

       Satellite pictures in January revealed this community was living near the border with Peru. A flight expedition over the area in April confirmed that they are about 200 in numbers.

        Along with Survival International (Funai), an organization working for tribal people's rights worldwide, Brazilian authorities found that these people are living in three clearings in the Javari Valley in the western Amazon.

       According to Fabricio Amorim, who led Funai’s overflight expedition, illegal fishing, hunting, logging, mining, cattle ranching, missionary actions, drug trafficking and oil exploration on the Peru-Brazil border area are the main threats to the well-being of this community and their dwellings.

      Brazil follows a policy not to contact these people, instead monitor their land so that they can live without any risk.


        The community and its four straw-roofed huts were spotted in the Javari Valley, which is believed to be hiding around 2000 uncontacted tribes in the world. 

Carve Your Number On My Wall

Had you come some other day, Then

       It might not have been like This.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Diogenes of Sinope -- Fragments 21 and 118

21.  Everything is of one substance.  It is custom, not reason, that sets the temple apart from the house, mutton from human flesh for the table, bread from vegetable, vegetable from meat.

118.  The only real commonwealth is the whole world. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Melinda Laffer (please see [1] below)

[1]  Please see Here.

[2]  And also Here.

President Barack Obama (please see [2] above)

        Reading these news stories early this morning, I found myself thinking of them as two polar, but closely related in dynamic tension, aspects of the Depression being provoked and stoked by the president and his political party.  The first story takes place on Long Island and the second on its (geographically) close neighbor, Manhattan Island.  Unspeakable, unjustifiable in any respect, and horrifying as the Laffers’ actions were, I still find myself thinking about what their wedding pictures might have looked like, wanting to know about the details of Private First Class David Laffer's army service and its aftermath,  and of a time when they had hope.   Discontent though I am these days, these thoughts – all of them, about both stories and their implications (at $35,800 a ticket; that must have been quite a dinner at Daniel for the high-minded and corrupt) -- put my own situation in some limited but salient perspective.

         Thursday I spent a few hours in Manhattan.  My business these days normally seems to take me downtown to SoHo, Greenwich Village and TriBeca, but two days ago I was in the midtown precincts where I worked for so long, where we used to have an apartment and where we were married (oddly, it seems, and coincidentally, in the premises now occupied by Daniel).

Borders store, East 57th Street at corner of Park Avenue, Manhattan (Defunct.  Former site of Le Pavillon restaurant and First Women's Bank).

Left to right:  Liz Carpenter (former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson), Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Betty Furness at the opening of the First Women's Bank, New York City, October 1975

Mary Jane Russell photographed at Le Pavillon by Lillian Bassman.  Harper's Bazaar, 1950

        The day was gray, pleasant and rainy, but Manhattan was like a ghost town.  Everywhere I walked I saw a great deal of "tony" commercial real estate empty and boarded up, including fancy jewelers like Gioia and the lovely large Borders store at East 57th Street and Park (originally home to Le Pavillion, New York's first grande luxe French restaurant, and later to the First Women's Bank, which made a big publicity splash and had "presence" during the Carter years, the time when Ms. magazine was at its commercial zenith).  The long commercial street front at the Trump Plaza apartment complex on Third Avenue is now utterly vacant and the former Loews Tower East cinema just up the avenue is a sad, abandoned wreck.

Trump Plaza apartment complex, Third Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan.  The ground floor formerly contained various prestigious commercial establishments.

Loews Tower East, Third Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan.  Defunct.

          Window-gazing at Daniel Boulud's former place of employment, Le Cirque (now re-relocated to East 58th Street from its original Mayfair House location, which was where Caroline and I were married) said everything.  At 1:15 pm on a weekday afternoon, acres of tables stood empty, adjacent to a desolated bar room populated by only a few jacketless young men in shirt collars with female companions in sundresses.  No barman seemed to be on duty.   Don't get me wrong -- I'm no Nancy Reagan/Betsy Bloomingdale nostalgist and Caroline and I didn't even like our wedding at the old, exclusive Le Cirque. I suppose it's possible that if you live and work in Manhattan every day, you don't notice the decay or you need to shrug it off in order to survive.  To a current New York City outsider, however, but also someone who knows the city well, the scene  was absolutely shocking and the mood reminded me of the days after 9/11.  It was as though someone had dropped a bomb on the city.

         And while most of us spend our 2011 "stay-cations" staying put during what CNBC has dubbed "Stay-cation Summer" (replacing last year's unsuccessful White House "Recovery Summer" offering ), others will "safari" in splendor en (extended) famille in Botswana, experiencing precious moments of personal growth on the public dime.

Two above images:  Le Cirque, East 58th Street, Manhattan.

Current site of Restaurant Daniel; former site of Le Cirque. Mayfair Hotel (formerly Mayfair House), East 65th Street, Manhattan.

Haven Drugs, Medford, Long Island, New York

David Laffer (please see [1] above)

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama with daughters Sasha, 2nd right, and Malia, right (aka "Senior Staff"; see Update below), are welcomed by traditional dancers as they arrive in Gaborone, Botswana, Friday, June 24, 2011.  Charles Dharapak  /  AP

Friday, June 24, 2011

London Review of Breakfasts

The Regency Cafe, Pimlico

"Dinner parties are mere formalities; but you invite a man to breakfast because you want to see him." (Thomas Babington Macaulay)

        I first learned about the London Review of Breakfasts website yesterday morning while enjoying London Daily Photo, which has become a daily ritual with me, and felt strongly that I needed to share this.

        The site is fun and easy to navigate.

        Here is a link to the "Opinions and Eggitorials" page.

        Here is a link to "10 of the best breakfasts available to humanity".

       The Macaulay quote above is borrowed from the site. 

         I hope you enjoy this.   Fun is getting harder and harder to come by, but it's important to eat a good breakfast.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paul Bowles in Istanbul -- Hagia Sophia (Ἁγία Σοφία) and Selim The Grim

 October 6

        Santa Sophia?  Aya Sofya now, not a living mosque but a dead one, like those of Kairouan which can no longer be used because they have been profaned by the feet of infidels.  Greek newspapers have carried on propaganda campaigns designed to turn the clock back, reinstate Aya Sofya as a tabernacle of the Orthodox Church.  The move was obviously foredoomed to failure;  after having used it as a mosque for five centuries the Moslems would scarcely relish seeing it put back into the hands of the Christians.  And so now it is a museum which contains nothing but its own architecture.

Hagia Sophia (top two images)

Selim the Grim (left)  (r. 1512-20) wrote poetry under the name Mahlas Selimi. His arch-rival Shah Ismail I (right) (r. 1501-24) wrote poetry as Khata'i.

October 10

      At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Selim the Grim [1] captured from the Shah of Persia [2] one of the most fantastic pieces of furniture I have ever seen.   The trophy was the poor Shah’s throne, a simple but massive thing made of chiseled gold, decorated with hundres of enormous emeralds.  I went to see it today at the Topkapi Palace.  There was a bed to match, also of emerald-studded gold.   After a moment of looking Abdeslam ran out of the room, where these incredible objects stood into the courtyard, and could not be coaxed back in.  “Too many riches are bad for the eyes,” he explained.  I could not agree; I thought them beautiful.  I tried to make him tell me the exact reason for his sudden flight, but he found it difficult to give me a rational explanation of his behavior.  “You know that gold and jewels are sinful,” he began.   To get him to go on, I said I knew.  “And if you look at sinful things for very long you can go crazy; you know that.  And I don’t want to go crazy.”   I was willing to take the chance, I replied, and I went back in to see more.

Shah Ismail's Throne

[1] Selim I, Yavuz Sultân Selim Khan, Hâdim-ül Haramain-ish Sharifain (Servant of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina) (Ottoman Turkish: سليم اوّل, Modern Turkish: I.Selim), nicknamed Yavuz "the Stern" or "the Steadfast", but often rendered in English as "the Grim" (October 10, 1465/1466/1470 – September 22, 1520), was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520. He was also the first Ottoman Sultan to assume the title of Caliph of Islam. He was granted the title of "Hâdim ül Haramain ish Sharifain" (Servant of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina), by the Sharif of Mecca on 1517. Selim carried the empire to the leadership of the Sunni branch of Islam by his conquest of the Middle East. He represents a sudden change in the expansion policy of the empire, which was working mostly against the West and the Beyliks before his reign. On the eve of his death in 1520, the Ottoman empire spanned almost 1 billion acres (trebling during Selim's reign).

[2]  Shāh Ismāˤil Abū l-Muzaffar bin Haydar bin Sheikh Junayd as-Safawī (Persian: شاه اسماعیل / Šāh Ismā'īl) (July 17, 1487 - May 23, 1524), was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid Empire, which survived until 1736. Isma'il started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1502 as the leader of the Safaviyya, an extremist heterodox Twelver Shi'i militant religious order and unified all of Iran by 1509.. Born in Ardabil in Northwestern Iran, he reigned as Shāh Ismāˤil I of Iran from 1502 to 1524. Isma'il played a key role in the rise of Twelver Islam; he converted Iran from Sunni and Ismaili Shi'i Islam, importing religious authorities from the Levant.   In Alevism, Shāh Ismāˤil remains revered as a spiritual guide.  Ismā'il was also a prolific poet who, under the pen name Khatā'ī ("Sinner") contributed greatly to the literary development of the Azerbaijani language.

Paul  Bowles in Tangier

Paul Bowles excerpts from Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue, Scenes From The Non-Christian World.  New York, Random House, 1963.