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For the lore, lure, and love of language

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — this is / was all written on 29th (“today”), but has been tidied up before posting late today, really a rich day! ]
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Today has been a rich day for me for language, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve found. I’ll use a series of my own tweets for this purpose, since the tweets include both the particular phrases or sentences that caught my eye, and links and images I’d otherwise have to fish for, giving you an idea of the articles themselves in which I found the items of interest..

This one’s pretty fabulous, with plants living inside animals — I suppose we are fauna with flora inside us too, though, but the coral instance really hit home:

That was the first one that really delighted me, this one cinched (clenched?) the deal:

The bird snaking (its neck), which caught my eye as a companion to the coral (animal) planting (inside its cells), I noted in the tweet, making these two taken together a DoubleTweet. What I didn’t mention was the positively Homeric echo in “reshuffles her storm-cloud-gray wings”..

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which leads me inevitably to my other Homeric finds today, with both the Odyssey:

and Zeus..

And that’s enough for now!

Sunday surprise, the selfsame song

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — whether willed by the brain or torn from the heart, the one, same cry for mercy — in chant, by Bach, and by Ray Charles & BB king ]
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A stranger in my Twitter-stream just tweeted a link to a current Australian report on an opening window for rescue operations for the boys trapped in that cave in norther Thailand, two and a half miles under ground:

[ the video in this tweet is from a continually updated news feed — at time of writing, the rescue op was just beginning ]

Fate may be fate, prayer may or may not influence events — perhaps prayer may only help us, the watching world ouiside that cave, those circumstances, that peril — the urge to pray is no respecter of particular religions, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, we all may feel the instinct to pray.

The prayer is the most basic cry, as we shall see in three versions: the timeless Gregorian chant, the beauty of the Erbarme Dich from Bach‘s Matthew Passion, and that selfsame song as Ray Charles sings it with BB King.

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Gregorian chant:

Kyrie XI [ Lord, Have mercy ] from the choir of St Pierre de Solesmes, my favorite haunt when I was seventeen, with the greatest chant scholars and choir in the world:

That floating, swooping melody is characteristic of the chant.

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Erbarme dich, mein Gott [ “Have mercy Lord, My God, for the sake of my tears” ] by JS Bach

If we lose have mercy, Lord from our conceptual vocabulary, we lose a higher octave of hope, of the necessity of surrender.

Erbarme Dich may be the single sweetest moment in Bach‘s The Matthew Passion, itself arguably the greatest piece of church music ever written — a monumental, gloriously beautiful, grief-stricken work.

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Pure blues: Sinner’s prayer, Ray Charles and BB King:

If neither Bach nor the chant speak to you, perhaps the blues will — and if all three touch you, how wonderful the variety of expressions of the one prayer:

Lord please have mercy .. have mercy if you please..

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Footnote: Other unforgettable versions:

  • JS Bach, Kyrie from the B Minor Mass
  • WA Mozart, Kyrie from the Requiem Mass
  • **

    Lord have mercy on the boys in the cave — knowing that the rescue task will be arduous, we ask mercy with hope and a readiness to surrender, to greet whatever outcome with our hearts flung open to grief or joy as the case may be.

    “They” are taking over, are they?

    Sunday, March 11th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — might be of interest to John Robb & Adam Elkus ]
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    Whoever “they” may be, they’re taking over all over:

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    Sources:

  • Washington Post, MS-13 is ‘taking over the school,’
  • South China Morning Post, Wild boars are taking over Japan’s small towns
  • **

    Two things:

    One. In each case, we have a well-studied context — education, Japanese urban living — invaded by an unexpected “alien” force — a virulent gang, wild boars — which will easily blindise students of the context, resulting in unanticipated consequences..

    And two. there seems to be enough parallelism between the two instances on “taking over” that we should be able to abstract a rule from the pair of examples — though I’m terrified to think what the implications of such a rule might be..

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    Also:

  • Global warming may be a factor in the exploding Japanese wild boar population
  • Some of the wild boar in Japan are radioactive thanks to Fukushima
  • **

    Pamplona, the Running of the Bulls; Tokyo, the Running of the Boars:

    Voluntary (above); involuntary (below).

    The not very evenly distributed future

    Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — feeling a little more Bladerunner, are we? ]
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    Here are a couple of tweeted news stories with relevant quotes below each of them, from one day’s mid-morning twitter feed — with thanks to fine scholars Stephen O’Leary, master of apocalyptic rhetoric, and Thomas Hegghammer, master of Jihadist culture and folkways:

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    One: Nature

    After Hurricane Maria, 300,000 Puerto Ricans fled to Florida, and disaster experts estimate that climate and weather events displaced more than 1 million Americans from their homes last year. These statistics don’t begin to capture the emotional and financial toll on survivors who have to dig through ashes and flooded debris to rebuild their lives. [ .. ]

    Climate change is going to remap our world, changing not just how we live but where we live. As scientist Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, puts it, “There is a shocking, unreported, fundamental change coming to the habitability of many parts of the planet, including the U.S.A.”

    In the not-so-distant future, places like Phoenix and Tucson will become so hot that just walking across the street will be a life-threatening event.

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    Two: Culture

    In large cities, hospitals report armed confrontations in emergency rooms, and school administrators say threats and weapons have become commonplace. Last week two men from Uppsala, both in their 20s, were arrested on charges of throwing grenades at the home of a bank employee who investigates fraud cases. [ .. ]

    Illegal weapons often enter Sweden over the Oresund Bridge, a 10-mile span that links the southern city of Malmo to Denmark. When it opened, in 2000, the bridge symbolized the unfurling of a vibrant, borderless Europe, but in recent years it has been more closely associated with smuggling, of people, weapons and drugs.

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    Are these two tweets, taken together, the encerroaching wave-front of William Gibson‘s “future already here — just not very evenly distributed” beginning to distribute itself a little more evenly?

    Let’s backtrack forty years, with benefit of hindsight:

    Water, water everywhere

    Friday, March 2nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — when a city hits water zero, & when a vast aquifer is up for commercial grabs ]
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    I would like to scare you two ways:

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    The Guardian’s Cape Town headline (upper panel, above) alerts us to the imminent failure of the first major global city’s water supply:

    The head of Cape Town’s disaster operations centre is drawing up a plan he hopes he never has to implement as this South African city on the frontline of climate change prepares to be the first in the world to turn off the water taps.

    “We’ve identified four risks: water shortages, sanitation failures, disease outbreaks and anarchy due to competition for scarce resources,” says Greg Pillay. “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.”

    Anarchy due to competition for scarce resources — would you care to say more about how virulent that strain of anarchy might be, and how its epidemiology would intersect with those of water shortages, sanitation failures, and disease outbreaks?

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    The lower image, above, shows the extent of the Guarani aquifer — water supply for the vast lands above it, and the fauna, flora and humans who inhabit those lands.

    What’s the problem?

    As a Canadian government page puts it, Barlow warns Nestle is seeking control of the Guarani aquifer in South America:

    Mint Press reports, “A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.”

    Cash would dance in the heads of the relevant CEOs — “including Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris” — while guns would no doubt protect their “rights”.

    We’ll copyright it, we’ll patent it, no, we’ll — bottle it!

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    Justice William O Douglas in A Wilderness Bill of Rights, argued the need for a “Bill of Rights to protect those whose spiritual values extend to the rivers and lakes, the valleys and the ridges, and who find life in a mechanized society worth living only because those splendid resources are not despoiled.” In his now celebrated dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, he suggested the courts should give standing “in the name of the inanimate object about to be despoiled, defaced, or invaded by roads and bulldozers and where injury is the subject of public outrage.”

    In the High Country News article, Should nature have standing to sue? from which I’ve taken those quotes, we discover:

    Douglas’ views were inspired by his own experiences in the wild. He grew up in Yakima, Washington, hiking the foothills and peaks of the Cascade Range, and he sang the praises of nature throughout his life. “When one stands on Darling Mountain, he is not remote and apart from the wilderness; he is an intimate part of it,” he wrote in a typical passage from his memoir, Of Men and Mountains. “Every ridge, every valley, every peak offers a solitude deeper even than that of the sea. It offers the peace that comes only from solitude.”

    Solitude. Can you believe it? Such a value!

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    Douglas:

    Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation

    Let therefore the Guarani aquifer have standing to sue for all the inhabitants of the lands above it, else — in the prescient words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, speaking in the parched, blistered voice of an Ancient Mariner:

    Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.

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    Afterthought:

    Oh aye, they play soccer, the Guarani —

    — and are warriors in protection of their native forests:

    Brazil, Guaraní tribe attacked by ranchers who want their land.

    Attacks on indigenous people by armed gunmen working for ranchers continue: a slow genocide, the result of the occupation of indigenous ancestral lands.

    A slow genocide.. As above, so below.


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