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Lake Victoria Dreaming

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Luo People Fishing.jpg

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Here are some stats to accompany the above dream-like photo: Africa’s Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world, is also the second largest lake in the world by surface area (only Lake Superior is larger). The lake is famous for its large number of cichlid species, these fish having adapted to the lake’s numerous ecological niches–but many have been driven extinct (or nearly so) by introduced exotic fish species, and in particular, the Nile perch.

The Lake Victoria basin is one of the most densely populated rural areas in the world, and raw sewage dumped into the lake poses a significant threat. LV supports Africa’s largest inland fishery. In 2006, the lake produced a harvest of Nile perch valued at U.S. $250 million. In 2004, the fishery employed in excess of 150,000 fishermen.

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PhotoLuo People Fishing in Lake Victoria (2009). Author: DancingPope. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.

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RT’s Finest Posts, 2013 (Part 1)

December 24, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Make-do Dolls For Christmas- Wartime Recycling, 1943 D17282.jpg

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Tis the season, and RT has a lot to choose from this year; in fact, he’s overwhelmed by his output in the first half of the year. Count ’em, baby, count ’em: 138 posts in January and February 2013 alone! With such an abundance to choose from, RT has thought it wise to offer a selection from the year’s first two months by itself, then move farther into the year in his next post. He’s got a range of material, and hopes everyone enjoys his choices!   RT

January

1) Scottish Gaelic, Manx, and the Crawling of Crabs. Ned Maddrell’s take on the importance of speaking Manx, along with other reasons to respect (and learn) a minority language.

2) Look at Me (a poem). An intense encounter of the romantic kind.

3) Dr. Michel Royon: Uncovering the Beauty of Nature. Two simply amazing photographs of seashells; Royon’s work takes the genre to a new level.

4) More Than a Pretty Face. Beauty can take us by surprise.

5) A Finch’s Mandible and the Intimate Life. Further speculations on the origins of language and its connections with place. (Or, What Did He Say?)

February

1) Denis Diderot and the Book that Changed the World. Think intellectuals are wasting their time, engaging in belly-button staring and whatnot? Here’s one who rocked the world to its foundations.

2) Louise Duttenhofer–Cut Paper Artist. A wonderful artist, pretty much unknown in America–and an article translated from German with many an assist from Google Translate. Wow!

3) Szechenyi Thermal Bath. A slice of life with a healthy dash of humor.

4) Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys. More humor, an excellent book review, and a resource for finding great small-press books.

5) Letterform–Three Characteristics. Three ways of looking at an alphabetic letter.

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And how could RT end this post without a stocking stuffer?

1) The Vogels: Collecting Art as if Your Life Depending on it. A New York City couple who, on a distinctly limited income, became patrons of avant-garde art.

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Image: Make-Do Dolls for Christmas–1943. Author: Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer. WikiCmns. Public Domain.

The Cambridge Ancient History–The Pleasures of Reading History

December 21, 2013 4 comments

796px-1865_Spruner_Map_of_the_World_under_the_Assyrian_Empire_-_Geographicus_-_OrbisTerrarumAssyrii-spruner-1865--WikiPD

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Out of the organic soup of his mind, RT has recently retrieved a powerful memory: of spending an afternoon at the Arlington County Library, engrossed in browsing through the Cambridge Ancient History He was entranced by the fine writing and descriptions. Here is a passage from volume 1:

“Still more than the contract tablets the private letters give us the daily life of the people…Even a love letter from Sippar is extant, dating back to the First Dynasty. ‘To Bibiya say: thus, Gibil-Marduk. May Shamash and Marduk give thee health for ever for my sake.  I have sent (to ask) after thy health; let me know how thou art.  I have arrived in Babylon and see thee not; I am very sad.  Send news of thy coming that I may be cheered; in the month of Markheswan thou shalt come.  May thou livest for ever for my sake.'”

Perhaps this isn’t the sweetest love letter ever penned, but at least it’s honest (and quite ancient): Gibil-Marduk’s health (and perhaps even his life) depends on Bibiya’s attentions. Whether this is true or not, Bibiya must decide. Nothing much has changed.

We live for such encounters with other people’s spirit and lives, and a powerful fascination is added when the information comes from our past, however distant. In addition, this sample from the CAH offers the beautiful prose of its authors and the careful attention to detail invested in its preparation and printing. We are dealing with a rare book, informative, entertaining, and plainly (and elegantly) written. The authors never allow their erudition to cloud their meaning.

RT is working his way through Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, another marvelous history, this time the work of an independent scholar. Comparing these books gives the reader some idea of how individual an author’s approach to history can be.

The writing of history is a much maligned art: history books are supposed to be pedantic and filled with trivialities. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the great historians never lose sight of style and entertainment as they present intricate tapestries of humanity’s past. Since writing was invented, human nature hasn’t changed. We study the past to learn ourselves.  RT

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Map:  Spruner Map of the World Under the Assyrian Empire (1865). Karl Spruner von Merz. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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The Great Rhythms

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

800px-Picture_of_moon_dark--WikiPD

RT is no stranger to the Winter Blues; he’s dealt with them off and on since he was a teenager. For whatever reason, this year the arrival of winter has struck him a little more deeply than most changes of the season. But not to worry: RT has been taking steps to deal with blah feelings and is doing better.

But this particular episode has reminded RT that our lives ride on profound currents of energy and mood. Women are traditionally supposed to be the moodier gender, but the tides of emotion that run through men are all the more powerful for being hidden under still waters.

And the currents that everyone deals with do not necessarily dissipate in a few months or even years. These are the great rhythms, which flow through us for decades and must be regarded with the utmost respect. Swimming down into their pull and struggling to change and understand them is a part of every health life. Feelings have to be processed, and in a busy life these can accumulate until they overwhelm us. We need time to assimilate, to explore, and to grow more skillful.    RT

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Photo: Picture of the moon dark. Arjun. WikiCmns. Public Domain.

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