Facing Fear

J.B. Mackinnon in Orion Magazine:

ChadFarnesAs a teenager, anxiety overtook me like a metamorphosis, replacing my previous self cell by cell. The term “anxiety” has Latin roots in the verb “to choke,” which captures the internal experience so much better than the put-upon oppression implied by the word “stress.” I developed the notion that I suffered from life-threatening asthma, waking in the night to study my lips in the mirror for any blue hint of oxygen deprivation. I was fine, of course, and when I could no longer believe I had asthma, I moved on to doubting my heart. Cardiologists soon dismissed that concern, too, until at last my fears found their perfect expression: I was losing my mind. No test, no expert, could prove this wasn’t so—in fact, both testing and experts were likely to support the theory. I remember lying in bed with awful stillness, convinced that even a heavy sigh would be enough to snap the thread by which I was clinging to sanity. To this day I can’t be sure what would have happened if I’d simply given in to the gravitational pull toward madness. No one who knew me well at that time had any doubt that I could walk into any psychiatrist’s office in the land and walk out a few minutes later with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and scrip for mood-smoothing drugs. Xanax. Celexa. Beta-blockers. But I never took pills. Instead, the cover of an outdoor magazine changed my life.

The cover photograph featured John Bachar, a rock-­climbing god from California. In the image, Bachar hangs off one arm, his feet plastered to sweet nothings on a near-vertical cliff. Bachar is climbing a route called “Crack-A-Go-Go” in Yosemite National Park, and his blond ringlets are freedom itself, his skin as golden as the stone is gray. He’s climbing ropeless. If he falls, he dies. When I saw that photo on a gas station newsstand, I was in the agonies of a road trip with my mother, convinced that every moment I spent watching her try not to fall asleep at the wheel was one that I would otherwise have passed in the arms of the beautiful girls back home who by now, surely, would have noticed my existence. I knew nothing of rock climbing, the majestic Yosemite Valley, or John Bachar. All I knew was that I wanted to do that, to go there, to be him. Within a couple of years, I—the kid with the stomach butterflies and stress-induced ­hemorrhoids—could regularly be found with my blond hair in the breeze, sunburned skin against pale limestone, climbing ropeless up a cliff face. I had discovered the rock-climbing cure for anxiety disorder.

More here.

A Palestinian poet, an Australian artist, and a Mossad-led assassination in Italy

Family albums have a habit of turning up surprises. When Jesse Cox found a photo of his great aunt, Australian painter Janet Venn-Brown, casually hanging out with the former chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, he was curious to find out more. What he uncovered was a story of love, murder and mystery.

Jesse Cox at the Australian Broadcasting Company:

6416666-3x2-700x467On 16 October 1972, Palestinian writer and translator Wael Zuaiter was assassinated in Rome by Mossad, Israel's secret service.

To this day there remain conflicting theories about why Zuaiter was targeted.

Was he involved in terrorism, or was he becoming too influential in Italian politics, advocating for Palestine? Or perhaps most tragically: was it a mistake, a hastily conceived plan resulting from inaccurate intelligence?

On the evening he was killed, Zuaiter had left the apartment of his fiancée, Australian painter Janet Venn-Brown. Janet is my great aunt and growing up I had heard fragments of Zuaiter's story from my mum.

I remember going to see Stephen Spielberg's Munich with her and watching a dramatised version of Zuaiter's assassination played out on the screen. I became intrigued by how our family had somehow been caught up in this much bigger story.

More here.

Robert Trivers: Vignettes of Famous Evolutionary Biologists

Robert Trivers in The Unz Review:

GouldmismeasureI first met S. J. Gould when he was a freshly minted Assistant Professor in Invertebrate Paleontology at Harvard and I a graduate student in evolutionary biology. Invertebrate Paleontology was well known then as a backwater in evolutionary biology, 80% devoted to the study of fossil foraminifera whose utility was that they predicted the presence of oil. In this environment, it was obvious that Gould would go far. New York City Jewish bright, verbiage pouring from his mouth at the slightest provocation, he would surely make a mark here.

This was not why I was visiting him. I had heard he was an expert in ‘allometry’—indeed had done his PhD thesis on the subject. Back then I wanted to know everything in biology, so I sought him out. Allometry refers to the way in which two variables are associated. It can be 1:1—the longer the fore-arm, the longer the total arm, or it can show deviations. For examples, the larger a mammal is, the more of its body consists of bone. Why? Because the strength of bone only goes up as the square of bone length whereas body weight goes up as the cube—thus larger bodies, weighing more, require relatively more bone. But what about antler size, I wanted to know, why is it that the larger the body size of the deer, the relatively larger his antlers? Why would natural selection favor that?

Gould leaned back in his chair. No, you have this all wrong, he said. This is an alternative to natural selection, not a cause of natural selection. My head spun. Natural selection was unable to change a simple allometric relationship regarding antler size that it had presumably created in the first place? Had it not already done so in adjusting bone size to body size? As I left his office, I said to myself, this fool thinks he is bigger than natural selection. Perhaps I should have said, bigger than Darwin, but I felt it as bigger than natural selection itself—surely Stephen was going for the gold!!

More here. [Thanks to Omar Ali.]

George Packer wants an exciting politics of heroism, sacrifice, war. It’s dead wrong

Corey Robin in Salon:

ScreenHunter_1165 Apr. 28 16.42George Packer is bored with American politics. “The 2016 campaign doesn’t seem like fun to me,” he writes in The New Yorker. Today’s politics “doesn’t quicken my pulse.” It “doesn’t shock me into a state of alert indignation.” The “thrill is gone.”

When George Packer gets bored, I get worried. It means he’s in the mood for war.

Packer claims he lost his passion for politics sometime between Obama’s first and second term. That’s the moment he confronted “the stuckness of American politics,” the moment when he realized that not only were “the same things” happening but that they would “keep happening.” Money would keep pouring in, filibusterers would keep filibustering, extremists would keep getting more extreme. Now he knows “we are paralyzed.” There are no more surprises.

This isn’t the first time Packer’s found himself yawning his way through a campaign. During the 2000 election, he complained that Al Gore was “more a technician than a leader,” whose “campaign slogan might as well have been, ‘First, do no harm.’” It wasn’t just Gore who had lackluster ambitions; there wasn’t “any burning issue galvanizing the electorate” either. Not just in 2000, but pretty much throughout the 1990s. As Packer would write a year later in the New York Times Magazine:

A strange thing happened after the cold war ended: patriotism all but disappeared from American politics. The right and left essentially offered a choice between hedonisms: tax cuts or spending. No one asked for sacrifice; no one spoke to common purpose.

A burning issue, a galvanized electorate, common purpose, sacrifice: that’s what Packer looks for in politics.

More here.

Lincoln’s assassination and the legacy of violence

ConspiratorsJonathan W. White at The American Scholar:

When on March 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address from the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol, the sun broke through the clouds and shone down on him as he called for “malice toward none” and “charity for all.” Lincoln hoped for reconciliation between North and South, asking American citizens “to bind up the nation’s wounds” and to “achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace.”

A few weeks later, when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, cannons boomed in celebration throughout the Union. Four long years of killing and dying were over, and northerners rejoiced at the long-awaited triumph. Many of them welcomed Lincoln’s call for reconciliation. “The hour of victory is always the hour for clemency,” editorialized The New York Times, while Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune headlined “Magnanimity in Triumph” and Henry Ward Beecher preached a sermon in Brooklyn entitled “Love Your Neighbor, the Nation’s Motto.” From ordinary Americans up to the highest councils of the nation, northerners appeared ready to reunite with the South in the spirit of brotherhood. Assistant Secretary of State Frederick W. Seward remembered that the discussion at Lincoln’s final cabinet meeting was focused on “kindly feelings toward the vanquished.”

more here.

how Hitchcock the ham became film’s greatest artist


Leo Robson at The New Statesman:

Of the several-hundred volumes on Hitchcock published over the past half-century, the majority divide into acts of critical exegesis indifferent to his public persona or even his private self and brisk, myth-laden biography in which Hitchcock emerges as a superb technician, the man who invented the inverse zoom, who got Detective Arbogast to fall backwards so brilliantly down Mrs Bates’s staircase.

Peter Ackroyd, a biographer of Dickens, Blake and London, belongs comfortably to the second camp but nonetheless finds himself in a challenging position. He can’t really argue in 2015 that Hitchcock wasn’t some kind of genius, at least not with the hectic casualness that has characterised his recent work, from his ongoing history of Britain to the series of Brief Lives of which this is the latest. On the other hand, he cannot, as a sceptical Englishman, accept the highfalutin terms in which this tickled showman is routinely praised. But his attempt to rebuff this sort of criticism is undone by the impression that he has never read any.

more here.

israel, the land of home and exile

PI_GOLBE_ISRAEL_CO_005Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:

For thousands of years, people have moved in and out and around the land of Israel as if on a cosmic conveyor belt—in, out, around, and also down, deep down into the Earth. In Israel, every bit of wall you can see stands for thousands of years of walls unseen. An anonymous, grassy hill on a roadside is 20 layers or more of competing civilizations in Israel, each layer crushing the other, informing the other, and also protecting each other from the forces of Nature that, eventually, come to erase them all. Israelites overtaken by Persians overtaken by Greeks overtaken by Romans overtaken by Arabs overtaken by Crusaders overtaken by Mamluks overtaken by Ottomans, etc. — and on top of the hill, some grass, maybe a goat. Israel is a story of human occupation and also human abandonment. If Israel could be seen on a map of time, you would see layers of people crashing into each other, collapsing on top of one another, pushing each other out, passing each other by, just missing each other, wandering away from each other, buried upon one another. Israel is thick with the endeavors and failures of people.

Home, in Israel, is unstable and always has been. Israel is forever re-organizing her temples, transmogrifying her language. In Israel, we start to wonder if “home” has ever been a place of respite or peace — if it isn’t, instead, a battle, a battle against Time, an attempt to make sense out of our existence on Earth, which comes out of nowhere and seems to go nowhere.

more here.

The Mr. Mom Switch

Erin O'Donnell in Harvard Magazine:

MomIn the mouse world, virgin male mice are not known as nurturers. They’re aggressive and infanticidal, regularly injuring or killing newborn mice fathered by other males. But research led by Catherine Dulac, Higgins professor of molecular and cellular biology, reveals that these murderous mice can be turned into doting dads simply by stimulating a set of neurons, shared by both males and females, that appears to drive parental behavior. Dulac examines control of instinctive behavior in animal brains, particularly social actions such as courtship and parenting. Previous work in her lab revealed that mouse brains hold circuits that determine whether the animals adopt stereotypical male or female behavior: Dulac discovered that the vomeronasal organ (VNO), a set of chemical-sensing receptors in the nasal septa of mice, dictates which of the two circuits is activated. (Female mice lacking a functional VNO engaged in “very bizarre male-like behaviors,” Dulac reports, emitting ultrasonic vocalizations normally sung by males to attract mates.)

In the most recent research, first described in the journal Nature last year, the investigators set out to learn if male mice had a similar capacity to match females’ parenting abilities. A female mouse that has never encountered a male or babies will nonetheless spring into action if pups are placed in her cage. “She will immediately build a nest, retrieve the pups, groom them, and crouch around them,” Dulac explains. “This is very robust, stereotyped behavior. If you do the same experiment with virgin males, they will immediately attack the pups.” Yet when the researchers removed the VNO of virgin male mice, changing the way they sensed the pups, the normally hostile males became “perfect dads,” Dulac reports. The infanticidal instinct vanished; the males built nests and placed the pups in them, groomed the pups, and huddled by them protectively. These findings, she says, suggest that there are “circuits in the male brain that underlie parental behavior,” but those behaviors are “normally repressed.”

More here.

On Food Labels, Calorie Miscounts

Philip J. Hilt in The New York Times:

CalThe method most commonly used to assess the number of calories in foods is flawed, overestimating the energy provided to the body by proteins, nuts and foods high in fiber by as much as 25 percent, some nutrition experts say.

…An adult aiming to take in 2,000 calories a day on a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet may actually be consuming several hundred calories less, he and other experts said. Calorie estimates for junk foods, particularly processed carbohydrates, are more accurate. The current calorie-counting system was created in the late 1800s by Wilbur Atwater, a scientist at the Department of Agriculture, and has been modified somewhat over the past 100 years. Researchers place a portion of food in a device called a calorimeter and burn it to see how much energy it contains. The heat is absorbed by water; one calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. When experts talk about calories, however, they usually mean kilocalories; one kilocalorie equals 1,000 calories. Those are the amounts you see on food labels.

…Almonds are routinely listed as having about 160 calories a serving, when the real figure is about 120 calories, said Karen Lapsley, the chief scientist at the California Almond Board. Some manufacturers are considering making the change on their labels.

More here.

Tuesday Poem

This one and That one and the Other have families

This one and That one and the Other have families
that are happy and solid, children, grandchildren
even great-grandchildren, who are blonde and study hard,
and verygoodkids, they are good and Christian people
but meanwhile your own children, God of God are
suffering from psoriasis and psychologically
unstable, so why oh God of all the gods of clay
do your children suffer and have tongues of clay?
Your children are your children and seem step-children.
But their children, their grandchildren, their generations
are not like ours this bunch of degenerate
and untouchable fathers and mothers of beggars
yet these your children, God of gods, are still
your children and they recognise you and they do
just what you told them they should do, while they
make the signs, make the sign of the cross, gulp down
hosts like they are dying of hunger (though they are full)
and your priests absolve them, assent and eat with them
oysters and whatever debilities they have,
and they give a blessing to their menstrual women
so that they will bear children and they do bear them,
yet there are hardly any of us, or they die
of natural causes or commit suicide.
Is there a reason why? There is no reason why.
You are the God it occurs to you to be.

by Armando Uribe
from Odio lo que odio, rabio como rabio
publisher: Editorial Universitaria, Santiago de Chile, 1998

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Murder Your Darling Hypotheses But Do Not Bury Them

by Jalees Rehman

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944). On the Art of Writing. 1916

Murder your darlings. The British writer Sir Arthur Quiller Crouch shared this piece of writerly wisdom when he gave his inaugural lecture series at Cambridge, asking writers to consider deleting words, phrases or even paragraphs that are especially dear to them. The minute writers fall in love with what they write, they are bound to lose their objectivity and may not be able to judge how their choice of words will be perceived by the reader. But writers aren't the only ones who can fall prey to the Pygmalion syndrome. Scientists often find themselves in a similar situation when they develop “pet” or “darling” hypotheses.


Goethe's symmetric colour wheel with associated symbolic qualities (1809) via Wikipedia, based on Goethe's theory of color which has not been proven scientifically

How do scientists decide when it is time to murder their darling hypotheses? The simple answer is that scientists ought to give up scientific hypotheses once the experimental data is unable to support them, no matter how “darling” they are. However, the problem with scientific hypotheses is that they aren't just generated based on subjective whims. A scientific hypothesis is usually put forward after analyzing substantial amounts of experimental data. The better a hypothesis is at explaining the existing data, the more “darling” it becomes. Therefore, scientists are reluctant to discard a hypothesis because of just one piece of experimental data that contradicts it.

In addition to experimental data, a number of additional factors can also play a major role in determining whether scientists will either discard or uphold their darling scientific hypotheses. Some scientific careers are built on specific scientific hypotheses which set apart certain scientists from competing rival groups. Research grants, which are essential to the survival of a scientific laboratory by providing salary funds for the senior researchers as well as the junior trainees and research staff, are written in a hypothesis-focused manner, outlining experiments that will lead to the acceptance or rejection of selected scientific hypotheses. Well written research grants always consider the possibility that the core hypothesis may be rejected based on the future experimental data. But if the hypothesis has to be rejected then the scientist has to explain the discrepancies between the preferred hypothesis that is now falling in disrepute and all the preliminary data that had led her to formulate the initial hypothesis. Such discrepancies could endanger the renewal of the grant funding and the future of the laboratory. Last but not least, it is very difficult to publish a scholarly paper describing a rejected scientific hypothesis without providing an in-depth mechanistic explanation for why the hypothesis was wrong and proposing alternate hypotheses.

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Freedom as Floating or Falling

George W Bush with Flagby Claire Chambers

Nine days after 9/11, on 20 September 2001, President George W. Bush responded to the World Trade Centre attacks by addressing a joint session of Congress. He lamented that in the space of a 'single day' the country had been changed irrevocably, its people 'awakened to danger and called to defend freedom'. Out of the painful deaths of almost 3000 people germinates anger and a drive for retribution. The attackers, whom Bush terms 'enemies of freedom', are apparently motivated by envy as well as hatred:

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

In this passage alone, there are four instances of 'freedom', and in the approximately 3,000-word-long speech from which it is taken, 'freedom' is invoked 13 times.

Given that the speech was a major statement of Bush's intent following the wound of 9/11 and that the Statue of LibertyUS government uses the name 'Operation Enduring Freedom' to describe its War on Terrorism, it is clear that freedom is a crucial concept to the US and its allies. This is unsurprising, since the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island off the coast of New York City has long served as a symbol of freedom and the vaunted American myth of social mobility. But what does freedom consist of and is it a universal value? In other words, does everyone – men and women, and people from different classes, races, or religious backgrounds – experience it in the same way?

In 2014, Bangladeshi-origin writer Zia Haider Rahman published his fascinating and very male debut Zia Haider Rahman novel In the Light of What We Know. The book deals in part with 9/11 and its aftermath. One of Rahman's two main protagonists, Zafar, works in Afghanistan soon after the outbreak of war in 2001. He avers that the American occupiers 'justify their invasion of Afghanistan with platitudes about freedom and liberating the Afghani people'. Having studied law and worked for a US bank, Zafar is in some ways part of the American 'relief effort'. And yet he is simultaneously not part of it, due to his Bangladeshi background and brown skin. Because of this, coupled with his working-class origins, he sees through the rhetoric of freedom as platitudinous.

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The Glass Frieze Game

by Jonathan Kujawa

In 1971 H. S. M. Coxeter introduced a mathematical trifle he called “friezes”. At the time they didn't seem like much more than a cute game you can play. In the past decade, however, they've become a central player in a major new area of research. I recently saw an entertaining talk by Peter Jorgensen at the Mittag-Leffler Institute about his work in this area with Christine Bessenrodt and Thorsten Holm. Peter's talk reminded me that I should really tell you the story of friezes. We've all seen friezes such as this one by Caravaggio [1]:

What is a frieze à la Coxeter? It's easiest to show with an example:

As you can see, a frieze is an array of the counting numbers (1,2,3,4,…) where the top and bottom rows are all ones. The dots on the left and right mean that each row continues forever in both directions. The real mystery is the numbers in the middle rows. There is some sort of pattern and symmetry but I, at least, couldn't quite put my finger on it the first time I saw a frieze. The mysterious missing rule is that each diamond of four numbers:


is required to satisfy the equation:

You can check the diamonds in our example frieze and see that the formula always holds true. Notice, too, we can make diamonds on each edge where we know three out of four of the numbers. Using our formula we can solve for the missing number and so fill in missing numbers on each edge. This observation along with the fact that the top and bottom rows are always one means the frieze really does continue forever in both directions and the Rule for Diamonds tells us how to calculate the missing numbers.

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How to Read a Wine

by Dwight Furrow

71It's not like “reading tea leaves”. Fermented grape juice will not foretell the future. But wine does tell a story if you speak its language. Now, I'm not getting all mystical here by attributing linguistic ability to fermented grape juice. The story a wine tells is quite concrete and palpable like mud on the boots and mildew on leaves. The flavors and textures of wine are not merely sensations but qualities that say something about the land on which grapes are grown, the people who made the wine, the world they live in, and the person who is drinking it. Discovering these details gives a wine resonance and meaning that cannot be gained by mere consumption.

A wine has flavor because it is made from a specific grape, from a specific piece of land, and by a winemaker who intended the wine to taste as it does. The winemaking process and decision to plant those particular grapes is a centuries-long process of adapting grapes to climate, soil, and taste preferences. Thus, when you taste a wine you taste the residue of geography and culture. Taste opens up a world with a rich assortment of connections just like any good book.

Of course, anything we consume has a history and a process that produced it. And with sufficient knowledge of how it was produced, we might identify features of that process by attending to its flavor. But wine is unique because when you pay attention and understand why winemakers make the wine they do, the wine says something about them, their family, what they like to drink, and their motivations for making wine. A can of Coke tells you little of importance about the people who make it or the place it comes from. It can be made anywhere by anyone if the price is right. Not so with non-industrial wines. They are inherently artisanal products, and inherently a product of place, and they tell a very human story. Wine is one of the few products where geography, human culture, and aesthetics meet with such intensity, variability, and beauty. It is thus full of meaning waiting to be interpreted.

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The Armenian Genocide: Coming to Terms with History and Ourselves

by Kathleen Goodwin

Kim11e_0The extent of my identification with my Armenian heritage was once dyeing Easter eggs a mottled maroon the traditional Armenian way (with onion skins) with my Armenian grandmother. In high school when learning about the systematic eradication of Armenians during World War I, I didn't feel any sense of personal injustice. By college, when the Kardashian franchise familiarized the American public with the existence of the tiny west Asian country, revealing I was part Armenian “like Kim Kardashian” became my go-to ice breaker when having to share an interesting fact about myself. Truly, I've only come to recognize myself as Armenian-American in the past few weeks as the media has highlighted the century-long struggle of Armenians to have world leaders acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

This past Friday, April 24, marked the centennial of the day in 1915 when approximately 250 prominent Armenian intellectuals were rounded up by Ottoman officials and deported from Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Most of them were eventually killed, along with an estimated 1.5 million Armenians over the course of the next seven years. The Ottoman Turks, which had already lost land they once ruled in the Balkans, feared that the Armenian Christian minority would ally itself with Russia and hasten the destruction of their empire from within its own borders. By the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was disbanded, and the nation of Turkey that emerged in the aftermath was founded by the same Ottoman officials who continued to exile and murder Armenians.

The primary grievance of Armenians today is the refusal of the Turkish government, as well as most other nations including the United States, to acknowledge that what occurred during the fall of the Ottoman Empire should be termed “genocide”. Some Armenians admit that the singular focus on semantics has sometimes reached hyperbolic proportions and keeps Armenians mired in the past, ultimately preventing them from fully thriving in the present. I will admit that I previously thought the obsession with achieving the label “genocide” was misplaced. If the Turkish government had refused to own up to its historic crimes for so long, fighting for its confession isn't worth the time of Armenians who are trying to preserve their culture and move forward with their lives. In some ways it felt like begging the world to acknowledge the genocide continued to hand power to the oppressors, instead of allowing Armenians to take back ownership of their legacy.

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Small Things and Small People

by Madhu Kaza

On the evening of April 13th I heard the news that the Uraguayan writer Eduardo Galeano had passed away. Earlier that day, after work, I had gone to get a manicure at a salon in my neighborhood; my hands and wrist hurt from typing all day and more than new nail polish I wanted a little break. The manicurist was a young woman just three years out of high school. She had been born in Mexico City, and at the age of five she left for New York with her mother and siblings to join her father who had come a few years earlier. She arrived one month before September 11th, 2001. While she filed, soaked and painted my nails the young woman, L, told me about her dog, Amigo, whom she had to leave behind in Mexico, about her sense of loss when she arrived in the United States and her even deeper sense of loss when her mother returned to Mexico a few years ago. “It's been so hard,” she said, “No one gets you like your mom.” L lives on her own, and though she would love to go to college it's beyond her financial means; it's enough for her to manage getting by by working full time. At the end of my appointment when I told her that she had a beautiful name she said, “I'm named after my father.” “What is your mother's name?” I asked. Her eyes brightened as she said, “Maria. But it's very interesting because her name is Maria Herculia – it's like Maria Hercules.”

Ujjwala5-1170x720I was still thinking about L when I heard the news of Galeano's death. Galeano often spoke of his work as a project of writing historical memory; it was an oppositional history of remembrance in the face of historical amnesia. In a 2013 interview with The Guardian Galeano spoke of this amnesia in systemic terms: “It's a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.” The stories that Galeano collected and wrote formed an underside of history, the memory of those who are easily forgotten in the grand narratives of conquest, capitalism and progress. Even as his writing had a broad historical sweep – he wrote histories of Latin America as well as a histories of the world from pre-historic times to the present day—he was interested in the particulars; his works of short prose commemorated and celebrated ordinary people in their labors, their loves and their woes. It was through these stories of individual people and particular communities that Galeano's writing came to life. He noted his interest in “small things and small people.” That night when I learned that he had died, I imagined how Galeano might have delighted in and given shape to the narrative of the daughter of Maria Herculia, whose story contains both the residue of disruptive historical currents and the heroics of everyday life.

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To California, With Love (Homage to Natalia Ginzburg’s, “He and I”)

by Tamuira Reid

She calls me in the middle of the night. I call her when I know she won't be home.

“How many floors are in your building?”

“What? Mom, I'm sleeping.”

“Tell me how many floors!”

“I don't know. Five? Six?”

“Okay good. As long as it's not a high rise. You know, they always bomb the big buildings first. You're better off moving to Brooklyn.”

She is round and smooth and old. I'm younger, harder, meaner. She's the clear blue rock you find at the water's edge, the one that has been caressed by time. I'm the piece of glass that cuts your finger, the broken cola bottle that you mistake for something else.

I still don't know what I want to be. I don't know where I want to live. I don't know if I'll ever make it.

She cries when no one is around. Dreams in private. Wishes things were different.

I smoke too many cigarettes. My mother has never had a single puff. I take long, poetic walks along the Hudson River. Her shoes give her blisters. I read books. She buys the audio. We listened to Sarah Palin's memoir on the way to Los Angeles last summer for my cousin's wedding. Hours of torture. My mother likes to be entertained while she drives.

I've had several boyfriends. She is a serial monogamist. I know when it is time to get out. She forgives too easily.

Mom likes Mel Gibson. A lot. “I can't stand him,” I tell her. “He's racist and conservative. His politics suck.”

“But he has such an amazing handlebar moustache. I love handlebar moustaches.”

“He doesn't have one.”

“Does, too.”

“Mom, you're thinking of Tom Selleck. Magnum PI?”

Lots of facts exist only in my mother's world. She is never wrong in her world. She is never late in her world. She is never depressed in her world.

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