Tuesday Poem

Autumn

They brought me a quilled, yellow dahlia,
Opulent, flaunting.
Round gold
Flung out of a pale green stalk.
Round, ripe gold
Of maturity,
Meticulously frilled and flaming,
A fire-ball
of proclamation:
Fecundity decked in staring yellow
For all the world to see.
They brought a quilled, yellow dahlia,
To me who am barren
Shall I send it to you,
You who have taken with you
All I once possessed?

By Amy Lowell

from No More Masks; Anchor Books, 1973

There is no true war of ideas inside these countries — just a war

Shahid Javed Burki in Dawn:

ScreenHunter_02 Oct. 27 12.29 Let me quote at length from a recent article by the journalist Thomas L. Friedman who has written extensively on the developing world, especially on Muslim countries. ‘In places like Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Pakistan you have violent religious extremist movements fighting with state security services. … And while the regimes in these countries are committed to crushing their extremists, they rarely take on their extremist ideas by offering progressive alternatives. And when these extremists aim elsewhere … these regimes are indifferent. That is why there is no true war of ideas inside these countries — just a war.’

This is a correct and insightful observation. ‘These states are not promoting an inclusive and tolerant interpretation of Islam that could be the foundation of people power,’ Friedman continues.

Pakistan, unlike the countries on Friedman’s list has had a ‘people power’ movement when the lawyers demonstrated that by acting with courage and resolution, they could bring about more than regime change. They could also force a strong executive to begin to show respect to the judiciary and its opinions. The same people power needs to be mobilised to rescue religion from the clutches of the extremists.

More here.

Naked Mole Rat Wins the War on Cancer

From Science:

Rat With its wrinkled skin and bucked teeth, the naked mole rat isn't going to win any beauty contests. But the burrowing, desert rodent is exceptional in another way: It doesn't get cancer. The naked mole rat's cells hate to be crowded, it turns out, so they stop growing before they can form tumors. The details could someday lead to a new strategy for treating cancer in people. In search of clues to aging, cell biologists Vera Gorbunova, Andrei Seluanov, and colleagues at the University of Rochester have been comparing rodents that vary in size and life span, from mice to beavers. The naked mole rat stands out because it's small yet can live more than 28 years–seven times as long as a house mouse. Resistance to cancer could be a major factor; whereas most laboratory mice and rats die from the disease, it has never been observed in naked mole rats.

Gorbunova's team looked at the mole rat's cells for an answer. Normal human and mouse cells will grow and divide in a petri dish until they mash tightly against one another in a single, dense layer–a mechanism known as “contact inhibition.” Naked mole rat cells are even more sensitive to their neighbors, the researchers found. The cells stop growing as soon as they touch. The strategy likely helps keep the rodents cancer-free, as contact inhibition fails in cancerous cells, causing them to pile up.

More here.

Cancers Can Vanish Without Treatment, but How?

Gina Kolata in The New York Times:

Cancer Call it the arrow of cancer. Like the arrow of time, it was supposed to point in one direction. Cancers grew and worsened. But as a paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association noted last week, data from more than two decades of screening for breast and prostate cancer call that view into question. Besides finding tumors that would be lethal if left untreated, screening appears to be finding many small tumors that would not be a problem if they were left alone, undiscovered by screening. They were destined to stop growing on their own or shrink, or even, at least in the case of some breast cancers, disappear.

“The old view is that cancer is a linear process,” said Dr. Barnett Kramer, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health. “A cell acquired a mutation, and little by little it acquired more and more mutations. Mutations are not supposed to revert spontaneously.” So, Dr. Kramer said, the image was “an arrow that moved in one direction.” But now, he added, it is becoming increasingly clear that cancers require more than mutations to progress. They need the cooperation of surrounding cells and even, he said, “the whole organism, the person,” whose immune system or hormone levels, for example, can squelch or fuel a tumor.

Cancer, Dr. Kramer said, is a dynamic process.

More here.

Iran Isn’t The Problem, Stupid

by Evert Cilliers

Godzilla_jpg Problems come in two types: real and BS. Your kid snorting cocaine, that's a real problem. Unless she's living in your house, having a mother-in-law is not a real problem: it's a BS problem.

BS problems can infect entire nations, because they roam wider than herpes. Take illegal immigration. Perfectly natural: we've got work for people, Mexicans come over to do it, Americans pay them for it: no problem. However, some Americans don't like those Mexicans and some politicians want the votes of those Americans, so they make illegal immigration a BS problem. You want a real problem? One out of four kids don't finish high school. Solving that would be change I can believe in.

Internationally, real and BS problems contend like Tokyo and Godzilla, too. Real: Americans die every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Ask any politician this Tuesday, and they'll give you a reason. Ask them next Tuesday, you'll get a different reason. Whatever: the American penchant for sticking our nose in other people's business is a hellhole of hubris that makes a Greek tragedy look like a sitcom. Removing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan so they don't die there like lab rats would be a change I can believe in, Mr. Babyface Barack.

Now for some BS: Iran. The problem? Iran is supposedly thinking of making supposed nuclear bombs. It's no problem that America, Russia, Britain, France, Israel, India, China and Pakistan actually HAVE the bomb, it's only a problem that Iran MAY get it. Talk about the pot calling the kettle a 100% saturated black.

What would be the problem if Iran had the bomb? Israel would squeal like an insurance company faced with a major surgery claim. Big deal. Israel actually has from 200 to 400 nuclear bombs, but we don't seem to mind, even given their record of bombing everyone around them. Iran has a record of not bombing anyone around them for thousands of years, except once when Saddam Hussein attacked them. Israel having the bomb is way scarier than Iran getting it.

Read more »

‘War on Terror’ II

1256054448-large Julian Sanchez on the depressing reauthorization of the Patriot Act:

We know the rules by now, the strange conventions and stilted Kabuki scripts that govern our cartoon facsimile of a national security debate. The Obama administration makes vague, reassuring noises about constraining executive power and protecting civil liberties, but then merrily adopts whatever appalling policy George W. Bush put in place. Conservatives hit the panic button on the right-wing noise machine anyway, keeping the delicate ecosystem in balance by creating the false impression that something has changed. We've watched the formula play out with Guantánamo Bay, torture prosecutions and the invocation of “state secrets.” We appear to be on the verge of doing the same with national security surveillance.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed to abandon hope of bringing any real change to the Patriot Act. A lopsided and depressingly bipartisan majority approved legislation that would reauthorize a series of expanded surveillance powers set to expire at the end of the year. Several senators had proposed that reauthorization be wedded to safeguards designed to protect the privacy of innocent Americans from indiscriminate data dragnets–but behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Obama administration ensured that even the most modest of these were stripped from the final bill now being sent to the full Senate.

Seeding bhasa

From Himal Southasian:

Kripa_mother_father_flat The interaction of English and the languages of Southasia is often lamented for having led to a deterioration of the latter. But focusing on this alone misses out on what has been accomplished through this linguistic collision.

The encounters between local languages and English the world over have generally given rise to two kinds of stories. One, spawned under colonialism, has been elegiac. It has mourned the encounter, in which English has come out a winner at the expense of the native tongue. The Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o represents this first type, having written extensively about how his native Gikuyu wilted under the onslaught of English. The linguistic battle, he warns, is a reflection of the wider struggle between traditional communities and the powerful colonial social engine.

The second kind of story also has a melancholy beginning, thanks to its colonial origin, but it also attempts to move further by recognising the interactions that take place between languages. The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe falls in this category. In his novel No Longer at Ease (1960), for instance, the linguistic battle (in this case between English and his native Ibo) is projected onto the domestic sphere in the form of a division between an instinctual, oral space and a rational, practical space – which Achebe further distinguishes as maternal and paternal, respectively:

More here.

The final twist in Nabokov’s untold story

From The Guardian:

Nab Vladimir Nabokov, the acclaimed author of Ada, Pnin, Pale Fire and that transgressive bestseller Lolita, is a writer whose imaginative mastery continues to torment successive generations. Behind the imminent publication of his posthumous 18th novel is an extraordinary story, a literary magician's spell.

On 5 December 1976, the New York Times Book Review published a pre-Christmas round-up in which a number of famous writers selected the “three books they most enjoyed this year”. Vladimir Nabokov's response to this routine inquiry was at once moving and mysterious. Having revealed that he was seriously ill, he listed “the books I read during the summer months of 1976 while hospitalised in Lausanne”: Dante's Inferno in the Charles Singleton translation, The Butterflies of North America by William H Howe (Nabokov was a world-famous lepidopterist) and, finally, The Original Of Laura. This, he wrote, was “the not-quite-finished manuscript of a novel which I had begun writing and reworking before my illness and which was completed in my mind”.

With artful cunning, Nabokov proceeded to reveal a mystery that is only now, 33 years later, on the brink of being solved. “I must have gone through it [The Original of Laura] some 50 times,” he confided, “and in my diurnal delirium kept reading it aloud to a small dream audience in a walled garden.”

Who could resist such entrancing fabrications ?

More here.

Life is lived under the umbrella of moods and feelings

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Morgan Meis I am talking, here, about the weather. That most banal of conversation topics. The weather is superficiality at its essence. Except that the weather matters. It is the fundamental tool by which nature adds flavor, color, mood to the variety of our daily experience. Nature is mechanistic in its functioning, tied to the laws of physics that give it rules. But it speaks to us in feelings. The light of a day is “like this.” The shadows of winter make the world one way: brittle maybe, precise. The angle of the sun makes the world of summer another way entirely: smeared across the afternoon, vibrating.

That's why so many Romantic artists like the weather. They know that the weather does not make the world, but it does make the world “what it's like.” So, the Romantics enjoy writing about the weather, and they enjoy painting the weather. They are cloud watchers and rain walkers. They wait for the light to be just so.

Take “Sunrise with Sea Monsters” by J.M.W. Turner. Painted in 1845, it looks like it could be a work of 20th-century Expressionism. The main difference being that Expressionists aimed to express something inner, something subjective. Romantics like Turner look at things the other way round. They show us nature as a force that determines feelings in us. They show us nature as a communicative beast, framing our experience at every moment. The weather makes us, we do not make the weather.

More here.

Sunday Poem

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

by Robert Frost