Thursday, February 28, 2008
Each day we wake up. We run to work and school, sweating and stressing, dragging our feet cursing Monday morning. Please, take a little time to slow it down, and simply enjoy life. Remember your blessings and be thankful for what you have. Do not allow life to consume you. We at the English Majors office would like to invite you to take time off to sit and explore our blog. Remember to relax and be true to yourself. Be like the people in this Georges Seurat painting and enjoy some leisure.
This week Micheal Bronner shares the culture of Djibouti
Nestled tightly in the eastern horn of Africa is the country of Djibouti. Slightly smaller than Massachusetts at 8,950 square miles, Djibouti is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remaining border is the Red Sea, which serves as a main crutch to the country’s economy. As well, Djibouti is a mere 12 miles across the sea from Yemen.
Immigrants from Arabia migrated to what is now Djibouti in about the 3rd century B.C. Their descendants are the Afars of Ethiopia, one of the two main ethnic groups that make up Djibouti today. The other group, the Somali Issas, arrived thereafter. Islam came to the region in 825. Djibouti was among the first regions in Africa to adopt Islam as a religion, which remains the majority amongst its people today at 94%. It had been ruled by the sultan of Raheita, Tadjoura and Gobaad until the mid 19th century when French interest in the area led them to acquire it.
Djibouti was acquired by France between 1843 and 1886 through treaties with the Somali sultans. The French purchased the anchorage of Obock in 1862 and eventually expanded it to a colony called French Somaliland with essentially the current boundaries. The administrative capital was moved from Obock in 1896. The city of Djibouti, which had a harbor with good access that attracted trade caravans crossing East Africa as well as Somali settlers from the south, became the new administrative capital. Djibouti remains the modern capital and Obock one its 5 regions. In July of 1967, a directive from Paris formally changed the name of the region to the French Territory of the Afars and Issas. In 1975, the French Government began to accommodate increasingly insistent demands for independence. In June 1976, the territory's citizenship law, which favored the Afar minority, was revised to reflect more closely the weight of the Issa Somali. The electorate voted for independence in a May 1977 referendum, and the Republic of Djibouti was established on June 27th that same year. Hassan Gouled Aptidon became the country's first president. Aptidon resigned as president 1999, at the age of 83, after being elected to a fifth term in 1997. His successor was his nephew, Ismail Omar Guelleh who remains President till this day.
Djibouti’s ties to France remain strong to this day. French, along with Arabic are its official languages. France has thousands of troops as well as warships, aircraft and armored vehicles in Djibouti, contributing directly and indirectly to the country's income. The US has also stationed hundreds of troops in Djibouti, its only African base, in an effort to counter terrorism in the region. For the most part, Djibouti’s economy functions in this manner. As a barren country which has been ravaged by drought for the past 3 years, Djibouti grows very little domestic product, and is highly reliant on trade to sustain itself. According to the CIA World Factbook, Djibouti has only .04% arable land with 0% percent permanent crops. Djibouti's location is its main economic asset. The capital handles Ethiopian imports and exports. Its transport facilities are used by several landlocked African countries to fly in their goods for re-export. The only products that are not re-exported from other countries are hides and skins, and coffee beans. President Guelleh has promised to tackle the country’s dependence on foreign food in his most recent election.
Though it is a very small country, the spirit of the people is larger than life. Being a people of oral tradition, most of their artwork is passed down through song. They dance and act out a story while they sing. Djiboutian instruments include the tanbura, a bowl lyre. Djiboutians are also fond of poetry. "Miniature poetry", invented by a truck driver named Abdi Deeqsi, is well known in Djibouti; these are short poems, mostly concerning love and passion.
This week Mohan Bell shares a novel by Jamaica Kincaid
Last summer, I decided to read a novel named Lucy, simply because I felt guilt over only reading one of Jamaica Kincaid's works (Annie John). I did not expect anything more than a good nice pleasant read. I shared this small novel with my mother and sister, who started to share it with their friends. Based loosely on her life as a young Au Pair moving to America, it could be considered a coming of age novel, as well as a transnational work that speaks about living in a new world, much removed from the one accustomed to.
The protagonist, whose name we do not learn until the end of the novel, moves to America to work as an Au Pair in the home of a rich, white, Manhattan family. She thus becomes the outside spectator, looking into a perfect marriage falling apart. She also contends with her own blooming-out-of-sexual repression, while dealing with the painful emotions she feels towards her mother.
This novel means alot to me because it gives a viewpoint of the Caribbean that I knew as a child, as well as verbalize the opening up of ones self when you enter a new world with lifestyles far from your own. I would implore anyone to read this book to get a coming of age story that is nothing like the generic ones usually given, but filled with life, vibrancy and mature emotions. This book also has a voice, spoken in the first person, that is smooth and convincing. It takes a true master to use the voice of a normal person to speak and still maintain the dignity of their own artistic voice.
Manga Me a Sandwich
In Tokyo, a new craze has sprung up based around the culture’s obsession with Manga (Japanese comics). Small eateries with role playing servers dish out food and fantasy to their customers in environments straight out of their favorite mangas. For
example, Edelstein Café, a boarding school themed restaurant greets their customers with effeminate male student servers who make small talk about their studies. The restaurant is a “boy-love” restaurant targeted towards women in their 20's-30's who like to read boy-boy romance mangas. While many restaurants in Japan are targeted at “otaku” (often geeky, obsessive fans of anime and manga), Edelstein Café is the first one to target “fujoshi,” female otaku who have an obsession with boy romance. Boy romance mangas often involve dreamy slender young males with soft features being placed in homoerotic situations. Now, working women can enjoy their manga pastime during their lunch break.
America has similar institutions to these, like Area 51 or Jekyll and Hyde’s, or something like Jack Rabbit Slim’s from Pulp Fiction. However, they are not as sexually oriented as the cafes in Japan. Do you think that restaurants based on American comics would ever become popular? That is to say, not in a very cheesy way, but a professional, accommodating way, one which would satisfy children and adults? Can something like this really exist based off of American comics even though they are more fantasy based with special powers and abilities? If they did, would you eat there more than once? I do not personally believe that America’s economic climate can support restaurants like those in Japan, but it would certainly be interesting to see someone take a shot at it.
- Michael Bronner
Amnesty International Calls Upon Iran
The human rights group Amnesty International has called upon Iran to
stop intimidating and imprisoning Iranian female activists who have
been trying to improve women's rights. While Amnesty acknowledges that
Iranian women have benefited in some way since the Islamic revolution
of 1979, they also recognize that women are being persecuted for
trying to end gender discrimination. Many women are being imprisoned
for participating in public gatherings, or for merely collecting
signatures for a petition. Ronak Safarzadeh has been incarcerated since October for participating in a meeting to collect signatures. A women's magazine was also closed down earlier this year for allegedly "engendering the spiritual, mental, and intellectual health of its readers." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
disregarded these claims by saying that women in his country are treated better than women anywhere else. It is not surprising that Ahmadinejad is unresponsive to this request considering he also asserts that the entire Iranian population is heterosexual.
Turkey has decided to do what millions of people could disapprove of:
revise the Hadith. The Hadith, considered to be the second most sacred
book in Islam, is a collection of sayings that reputedly come from the
Prophet Mohammad. It is used extensively in interpreting the Quran,
the holiest Islamic text, and is the foundation for Sharia law. By
revising it Turkey is, effectively, altering the religion – and the
Sharia Law. They call it modernizing, sifting through the thousands of
sayings, dismissing those that were not said by the Prophet, and
adjusting and reinterpreting what was. The only question that now
remains is what effect will this have on the Muslim community and is
Turkey making a big mistake taking this international subject into
their own hands?
-Amina H. Tajbhai
Hope For Type 1 Diabetes
Diabetes is a terrible disease that affects thousands of people every
year. The illness is complicated but the basics, of both Type 1
Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes, are a high level of blood sugar and an
abnormal response to insulin. Type 1 Diabetes is when the body starts
destructing the insulin it is creating. Type 2 Diabetes is more
metabolic and is just a resistance to the insulin. Type 2 can be
helped with diet and exercise, while closely watching one's sugar
intake, while Type 1 needs to be helped with daily shots of insulin.
Though both types are dangerous, Type 1 is more worrisome because it
can become lethal quicker than Type 2.
Doctors have been searching for cures for both types, yet the focus
for scientists at Harvard University has been Type 1. Previously they
had been able to use a concoction of drugs to help mice with Diabetes
stop destructing their insulin. However, it was not until recently,
with the addition of a fourth drug, that they were able to help these
mice make insulin also. They have figured out a way to cure lab mice
of their Type 1 Diabetes. They have yet to test on humans, because
they still have to watch the mice to make sure they respond well to
treatment, but they are hoping for the best.
With the testing of mice being successful, do we see the long struggle
of Type 1 Diabetes coming to an end in the somewhat-near future?
Though it sounds too hopeful to be true, it could help a lot of
people. However, there are many who believe that a mouse's body is
different from a human body (and that testing for diabetes should not
happen to animals), so these lab tests could only tell us we can cure
diabetes in mice. As I am no scientist, I can not say whether or not
this will take effect in the future, I can only hope that this is a
sign of good things to come. Do you think testing on animals for the
cure of human diabetes is fair? Do you think our scientists are
merely wasting time and money on something that will not work?
This week Emily Carman and Dominique Gauvard asked BC students and faculty, Most people know that "The Big Apple" is a nickname for New York City. Although there are nicknames for the borough of Brooklyn, there isn't one nickname that's more popular than the rest. What do you think Brooklyn's well known nickname should be?
"'The Big Cheesecake' because of Junior's."
"'The Place Where Steve Buscemi Hangs his Hat'. I love him, and he lives right by me!"
"The Beautiful Borough."
"Brooklyn is well known for so many things. It has good pizza, Grimaldi's, Coney Island, Prospect Park, and gorgeous brownstone neighborhoods. I think it would be difficult to give it one single nickname."
Monday, February 25, 2008
Living in the modern world can be tough. But there are some bright spots in twenty first century life. The above picture shows the New York Philharmonic entering Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, a closed nation that can't be seen from the air at night due to lack of electricity and that suffers under the hand of a despotic ruler. Through music, the cultures of two very different worlds are being brought together, showing us that peaceful interaction between peoples, no matter what the conflict between their governments, is possible. The world of art - a world to which literature belongs - is a vital forum for this type of peaceful exchange.
Here at the English Majors’ Counseling Office, we hope you continually explore and contribute to all the realms of creative human expression.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Nothing Funny about Facebook
A spoof on the popular social network, Facebook, has now left a 26 year old Moroccan man with a three year jail sentence as well as a $1,300 fine. After setting up a Facebook account under the name of a member of the royal family, Prince Moulay Rachid. Fouad Mourtada, a Casablanca court has charged the man with identity theft. The royal family was obviously not amused. We may have differing opinions on this case, but it is important to ask what is the meaning of privacy and how is it changing in a world that possesses such a thing as the internet?
- Mohan Bell
Flying High on Coconut and Babussa Nuts
Virgin Atlantic has sent up the first commercial flight powered partially by biofuel. Made entirely from coconut and babassu nut extracts, the biofuel supported the Boeing 747’s flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam. Sir Richard Branson calls the flight a “vital breakthrough for the airline industry,” announcing that it will enable the continued research and development of future alternative fuels. While Sir Branson seems confident and hopeful in the implications of this “breakthrough,” environmentalists are not sharing in his enthusiasm. According to Kenneth Richter of Friends of the Earth, Sir Branson’s biofuel powered flight was a “gimmick” which took away from the focus on the real issues affecting climate change. He believes that biofuels do not do much to reduce emissions and also worries about “…the impact of the large-scale increase in biofuel production on the environment and food prices worldwide.”
Kenneth Richter is not the only environmentalist opposing Sir Branson’s fuel alternative. Greenpeace’s chief scientist Dr. Doug Parr states that “Instead of looking for a magic green bullet, Virgin should focus on the real solution to this problem and call for a halt to relentless airport expansion.” I must admit I do not know much about alternative fuels, but I do have one suggestion for Sir Branson. Rather than spend all this time developing an alternative fuel that, apparently, may possibly freeze at high altitudes, how about you focus on ensuring that Virgin Atlantic does not leave its passengers’ luggage on one side of the world while they’re heading to the other.
- Aisha Douglas
Obama's Oratorical and Olfactory Brilliance
While recently giving a speech at the Reunion arena in Dallas, Texas, Barack Obama received a huge round of applause from an audience of 17,000 people - for blowing his nose. The young senator from Illinois, often praised for his brilliant stump speeches and inspired addresses has also, as of late, been accused of selling hope and not much else. While a quick look at Obama's career and record prove that he has plenty of substance, applause for a sneeze makes one wonder whether his audience is really listening to his message or is simply entranced by a man who seems to be the next coming of Bobby Kennedy. Hopefully his next symptom of an upper respiratory infection won't earn him a standing ovation.
- Nicole Lebenson
This week Emily Carman shares a poem by Wislawa Szymborska.
I chose this poem because it is haunting, poignant, and sincere. Szymborska describes the desolation and death of an abandoned war zone once the conflict is over, and the media has lost interest in the suffering of the civilians. All that is left are corpses, remnants of a destroyed civilization, and “rust-eaten arguments” that are slowly disinterred during the rebuilding process. I feel that this poem reminds you of the horrors of war, for a war can have negative effects long after the victor has been named.
Wislawa Szymborska was born in Kornik, Poland on July 2, 1923. From 1945 to 1948, she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. She published her first poem, “I am Looking for a Word” in the Polish newspaper “Dziennik Polski” in March of 1945. Since her debut, she has published sixteen collections of poetry, and has worked as a poetry editor, columnist for a literary magazine, and translator. She has won the Goethe Prize, the Herder Prize, the Polish Pen Club Prize, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996.
The End and the Beginning
by Wislawa Szymborska
After every war
someone has to clean up.
straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons can pass.
Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
and bloody rags.
Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.
Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.
Again we'll need bridges
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.
From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
and carries them to the garbage pile.
Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.
In the grass which has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out,
blade of grass in his mouth,
gazing at the clouds.
This Week Rida Bint Fozi and Amina Tajbhai asked BC students and faculty,if you had the opportunity to explore a writer's office/living space, whose would you pick and why?
Dean Koontz. His writing is so crazy and amazing, and I'd want to see the environment that he writes in, see what influences his thoughts. But honestly, I think I'd rather watch him work than see where he works.- St.Clair DeShong
I would go to the office/lab of Isaac Newton. In 1686, Newton published his Principia Mathematica, which was so revolutionary--it's like he copied God's copyright for the universe. His writings are still used today, three hundred years after his death. I love Newton because he was a visionary, taking Copernican ideas of heliocentrism, Kepler's explanation of elliptical orbits and Galileo's observations and using those to explain why heavenly bodies are set in motion the way they are. How insane was his genius, that he invented calculus to explain his other theories!- Mamunur Rahman
Truman Capote. I became interested in him after reading In Cold Blood, and I would want to see his notes on the Clutter family deaths and possibly learn more about the character of Perry Smith. I'd want to see if there were any transcripts of conversations between him and Smith, just to gain a better perspective on why he paints him as a character to be sympathized with.- Sarah Fozi
Erin Courtney. She's ridiculously creative. I'd love to see what her house/apartment looks like, just to see how that creativity translates into a certain lampshade or a color of paint or, perhaps, a choice of toothpaste.- Rida Bint Fozi
Frank O'Hara. Legend has it that he used to hide poems in kitchen drawers and people would find them in the couch cushions or in other places around the house. I would want to find the hidden poem.- Matthew Burgess
I would want to visit Philip Pullman's apartment in order to find out what shape his daemon is in the form of and to seek Dust in his living quarters. I remember reading his mystery novels when I was a kid, (i.e. The Ruby in the Stone) and being thrilled by his narrative, but never was my imagination stretched as far as it was when I embarked on the journey of reading The Golden Compass trilogy (i.e. Amber Spyglass; forgot the name of the third book). Just imagining a parallel universe and world existing along the present one is awesome. I wonder where such ideas come from and what strikes and influences Pullman's creativity. I mean, who would imagine a human living with mammoth-like creatures with wheels as feet and communicating with them? I guess then my intent in visiting Pullman's quarters would be to search out the root and the growth of his imagination .- Diana Kuruvilla
I would like to visit Paul Bowles' office or studio because he lived in Tangiers. (Bowles is the author of The Sheltering Sky, Let it Come Down, and many, many, many short stories.) Bowles expatriated from the US in the 1950s. He helped Burroughs come up with the cut up style there. And Ginsberg wrote there as well. It would be really cool to see how an American lived in Tangier at that time.- Daniel Cohen
I would visit the home of Langston Hughes because I have a slight obsession with almost anything from the 1920s and I just think he's pretty awesome. He's probably the best.- Dominique Gauvard
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Now that we've passed that crucial winter landmark - Valentine's day - the sun seems to shine a little brighter, the air seems to be a little warmer (but not quite warm enough), and one can't help but think about the fast approaching spring or the warm air of faraway places. So, if your significant other didn't get you that all inclusive, weekend getaway trip to the south of France this year, take a trip around the world through our blog, where this week we discuss everything from beautiful Sarajevo to Sydney.
Here at the English Majors’ Counseling Office, we wish you happy intellectual travels.
The capital city of Bosnia, Sarajevo, stands out to many Americans as the site of a brutal years-long siege waged during what has been erroneously called the "Bosnian civil war." Some people fortunately also remember the Sarajevo of 1984 when the Olympics made their home in the Golden Valley. But aside from these two vastly different events, one threatening to tear a country up and the other bringing the world together, Sarajevo remains somewhat mysterious in the general psyche. Sarajevo is nestled inside a valley of the Dinaric Alps. The mountains create a sense of comfort as the arms of a mother cradling her child. They were in use for the 1984 Olympics and some of them have recently begun sprouting ski resorts in order to attract more tourism. Sadly, in the war, the valley proved to be a disadvantage to Sarajevans as the surrounding hillside was used as crucial attack points. Access to the city was made easier this way for enemy forces. However, Sarajevo has persevered through it and is slowly on its way to recovery and the continuation of its long and rich history.
Sarajevo was born centuries ago as an Ottoman stronghold. Under Turkish rule, it grew and matured over the years and went through its puberty when the Austro-Hungarian empire flew in, bringing modernity and high culture along with it. Consequently, Sarajevo now boasts buildings and structures that hearken back to both eras of its history. The Turkish influence is most felt in the Old Town, or Bascarsija, where the streets resemble a sort of market square, somewhat akin to that seen in Disney's Aladdin—a poor analogy, but one that seems to fit the best. No cars are allowed to pass down its cobblestone streets which are usually packed with people shopping, meeting friends, or eating outside in the many courtyards. There is a mosque in the center, its minarets towering over the rest of the Old Town. One of the most important sites in Bascarsija happens to be the fountain that flows from the side of the mosque's exterior wall. It is said that those who drink from it will never leave Sarajevo again. The water is so cool and delicious that one taste of it can make you think that maybe the myth really is true. The other buildings of Bascarsija, all interconnected, stand squat, like hunched over grandmothers. Their roofs angle into the street. Along the side streets, various small shops sell brass cookware and platters, particularly those used in the preparation and serving of Turkish coffee—a strong presence in the Bosnian culture. A strong nightlife scene also flourishes in Bascarsija. Manyrestaurants and bars pump loud music into the streets on weekend
evenings. Some of them have specific themes and décor to match. There are also various bars and clubs strewn throughout the rest of the city, even one dedicated to Marshall Tito, the former leader of Yugoslavia.
Culturally, Sarajevo is home to many museums and hosts various events throughout the year. Each summer, the city hosts its annual Sarajevo Film Festival, an event which has been going on since 1995—while the siege was still in effect—and continues to this day. Each year more and more people come to the festival and it is slowly gaining momentum in the film world. It has attracted notable figures from all around the world and even some American actors have served as jurors. Another famous festival is the Jazz Festival, which happens during the winter months, a time when the so-called Sarajevo Winter is in effect. Sarajevo Winter takes place during the entirety of the winter months and helps to keep the intellectual world alive with stage performances, concerts, and art exhibitions. Acting as a sister to the Sarajevo Winter festival is Bascarsije Nights, centered in the Old Town during the entire month of July. During the Nights, many cultural events are offered for free: plays, ballets, and even concerts of some mainstream artists. A popular ex-Yugoslav singer, Djordje Balasevic, who tends to sell out at his concerts, held a free concert in 2005 in front of a large crowd of admirers. Sarajevo has become the place to visit in recent years. It is still reconstructing after the war but has done a great job thus far in rebuilding. Its people are loveable and charismatic, and contrary to misguided belief, they generally get along. For centuries, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews have lived together in this wonderful city and hope to continue on doing so.
This week Carolina Alvarado shares a collection of letters by Rainer Maria Rilke.
Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" is a difficult read to write about. The first time I read Rilke's letters to a young man who solicited his advice, I immediately disagreed. Rilke seemed to be urging him on into the kind of self-inflicted solitude and suffering that so many aspiring young poets cater to in their obsessive vulnerability. Having read his devotional poems to God in the "The Book of Hours," I dismissed his advice, judging by their disclaimer of God's existence, as the work of his naive youth. Yet so much did the letters affect me that two months later, a week ago, I couldn't resist but revisit Rilke's letters. His thoughts now seemed wholly different from what I remembered. The confusion was unsettling enough that I read it over, and then over, and then over, and am still somewhat unclear as to what exactly the lifestyle Rilke recommends entails, as his own uncertainties seem to come across at times.
After my first reading, before sleep, I wondered whether my "deepest consciousness," demanded that I write, as Rilke said it should. It didn't. Perhaps his advice was just not meant for me, I thought. Perhaps that's why I don't agree. Perhaps, I just don't qualify. How could I agree with such reasoning as, "And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to move out of it... it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it," as Rilke writes in his sixth letter? I told myself that however much yearning I could any day have I would never consider the lifestyle I thought Rilke insisted upon-- one of solitude and unnecessary difficulty-- a fair enough price to pay for a few poems. Until a better piece of advice came along I'd take my own, and wallow for as long as the world permits it hedonistic in the easy company of all the books I enjoy-- immersed in life as intensely as Whitman-- if not a better poet then at least a happier one.
Though at times his reasoning is still troublesome for me to follow without the subjectivity my own self-preserving instincts compel me to take, on a closer look, lines like "its growing is painful as the growing of boys and sad as the beginning of spring. But that must not confuse you. What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours - that is what you must be able to attain," shed a completely different light on Rilke's advice. "To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours," seems a much more admirable objective, once you consider it a kind of enlightenment, a growing into adulthood, or blooming into spring, attained from a kind of solitude that urges you to explore your own silence without the white noise of other selves. He goes on, "Only the individual who is solitary is placed under the deepest laws like a Thing, and when he walks out into the rising dawn or looks out into the event-filled evening and when he feels what is happening there, all situations drop from him as if from a dead man, though he stands in the midst of pure life." To be filled with the "deepest laws," to walk or look "into" things, to stand in the "midst of pure life," are the driving purpose behind Rilke's advice, even if it somehow along the way gets tangled with what may seem like suffering for sufferings' sake arguments.
"Letters to a Young Poet," moved me enough to make me think and realize, as it hopefully will you, how vague my own convictions were. It gave me, more than just the motivation, the actual need to figure out on just what principles I live my life. Reading and rereading it has been a pleasure, one I'm sure I'll relive many more times. Rilke's prose is poetic and and his imagery serene. His writing gives you the sense of meditation and peace his advice is meant to help you attain, which I now realize, after much thought and turmoil, was stated so simply in the very first letter. "So, dear Sir," Rilke wrote, "I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows..."
Suicide Bombings on the Rise Again
After staying under the radar for some time now, the Taliban is back to their usual diabolical mischief. On Monday February 18, 2008 a suicide bomber struck in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The attack was made near the Pakistani border on a bridge in the town of Spin Boldak. Assadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar, revealed to the press that the suicide bomber attempted to kill a group of Canadian Soldiers, who were under the command of NATO;instead, the attack killed thirty seven civilians, critically wounding four.
The Taliban revealed the bomber's name, Abdul Rahman. This man not only killed thirty-seven civilian but ten foreign and several other Afghani soldiers. Although 50,000 foreign troops along with 140,000 Afghan troops are doing their best to protect Afghanistan from a second coming of Taliban rule, it seems as though their efforts are falling short, seeing as 11,000 people have been killed in the last two years.
This act of terror on a foreign military convoy is a follow up to the attacks that took place just a day prior, where 100 people were killed, while watching a dog fight. This deed is said to be “the deadliest suspected suicide raid since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001.” Because of the severity of these terrorist acts many countries such as Germany are being coaxed into sending in more of their troops to relieve some of the pressure that the Taliban is putting on Afghanistan. Seeing the effects of these suicide raids many countries are calling in for reinforcements, will this act encourage more suicide bombings or deter them, and how so?
- Austin Noel
Car of the Future Runs on Air
In an era where the world of science is overshadowed by the debate on global warming, and the imminent ice age as a result thereof, a French engineer seems to have found the answer we have all been looking for— a compressed-air car.
For over a decade, inventor Guy Negre has worked on a car model that will function on air power. The OneCAT, as he calls it, will use compressed air to push and pull pistons that normally run on gasoline. Short trips with the OneCAT will essentially be made without the use of any liquid fuels, severely limiting the amount of harmful gas and oil emissions on everyday runs. Longer trips can be accommodated for with the help of a fuel burner, which will add increased pressure on the pistons and allow the car to travel longer. Terry Spall of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers hopes that Negre will succeed in what he refers to as "a brave experiment in producing a sustainable car."
Negre's hopes for the car are not limited to the environmental realm alone. The OneCAT is currently priced at a little under $5000 USD, an incredible bargain in the automobile industry. Tata, the Indian sector group that has endorsed the OneCAT, and which Negre has licensed to sell the car, operates only in India and therefore will not be selling the car elsewhere. Negre could rake in millions by working from a central location where the car would be exclusively produced and then shipped out to the rest of the world; however, his real dream is for investors to create local factories and work with primarily locally sourced materials. This move would omit the use of a third party that would only serve to raise the price of the model across the globe.
While the OneCAT model may still be years from finding its way into the US market, the question of the contribution of Americans to the effects of global warming still remains. Maybe it really is time we started placing more emphasis on the fate of our planet than on the number of luxury SUVs we can afford. While the OneCAT has yet to be tested for consumer safety and appeal, maybe it is time we took one giant leap towards a concept car that would ultimately provide for a cleaner future.
Rida Bint Fozi
Australia Apologizes to the Aborigines
Australia has finally apologized to its Aboriginal population for their “past mistreatment.” In a formal apology televised all around the nation, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd placed special emphasis on the suffering of the Stolen Generation—Aboriginal children who were torn from their families from 1915 to 1969, and allocated into white homes in an effort by the government for the assimilation of the Aboriginal and white populations of Australia. Though the Stolen Generation’s request for a reparation fund of an approximate 870 million dollars was rejected, the Aboriginal community was for the most part accepting of the apology in which Rudd said, “For the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”
The Aboriginals of Australia, numbering about 460,000 people, make up a 2% of the population, yet have no representative in the Parliament, and surprisingly enough, were not counted in the national census until 1967. The country has a long way to go to fulfill the ideals of social integration for the Aboriginal group, “a future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve, and mutual responsibility,” as Rudd said. In a significant first step, the indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin claims the money which would have gone into a reparation fund will instead be used to better Aboriginal health and education, particularly to “close the gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians,” which is currently 17 years.
This week Mohan Bell shares a poem by Judith Cofer Ortiz.
I came across Judith Cofer Ortiz by chance, and was immediately blown away by the way she used language to created images that remain vivid within your brain. She uses her poetry to tell a story, involving all your senses along the way. She was born in Puerto Rico in 1952. She then immigrated to the United States living in New Jersey with her family. She earned a B.A. at Augusta College in 1974 as well as a M.A. at Florida Atlantic University. Her body of work includes novels, short stories and a vast amount of poetry. She lives in Georgia and teaches at the University of Georgia. I feel this poem is a perfect example of the style and talent of Judith Cofer Ortiz.
How to Get a Baby
by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Go to the sea
the morning after a rainstorm,
fresh from your man's arms -
the waiwaiwa are drawn
They are tiny luminous fish
and blind. You must call
the soul of your child
in the name of your ancestors;
Come to me, little fish, come
to Tamala, Tudava, come to me.
Sit in shallow water
up to your waste until the tide
pulls away from you like an exhausted lover.
You will by then
be carrying new life.
Make love that night,
and every night,
to let the little one
who chooses you know
she is one with your joy.
This Week Austin Noel and Ingrid Feeney asked BC students and faculty,if you were trapped on a island for 50 years and you could only have 1 book with you, what would that book be?
" Well if the book is for enjoyment I would have to say Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen."-C.R.S.
"I would have to be religious about it and say the Ku'ran."- Younis Ali
"How to Escape a Desert Island For Dummies"- Jenna Romany
"Being on a Desert island for 50 years would be lonely so I would take with me one of those huge playboy Books, you know the ones that cover the past 25 years or something."-Anonymous
"To keep my sanity on that island for 50 years I would want to have the book 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' by Ken Kesey." - Anonymous
"Moby Dick. I read a short story by Melville once, it took me eight long hours. Moby Dick should last a while."- Jessica Welton
"Leaves of Grass---- the only choice" - Claudia Pacheco
"Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks or End of America by Naomi Wolf. I would probably die all alone on a desert island but at least I would be safe from zombies or fascists. Or fascist zombies." - Benjamin Levi
"The Divine Comedy, or perhaps A Critique of Pure Reason." - Glendon S.
"How to Build a Wooden Boat" - John Bonvini
"Notwithstanding the survival guide, if it were an idyllic island, a lengthy and marvelously illustrated children's book detailing the heroic deeds of beautiful and brave lords and ladies."- Amy Weaver
Monday, February 11, 2008
For some, Valentine’s Day is about love and romance. For others, it’s about finding the perfect card, chocolate, or bouquet to keep the one you love happy. For the rest, it’s a consumerist holiday that either reminds you that you’re single, or one that gives you an excuse to do something nice for the person you care about. No matter what your take is on the holiday itself, in the words of Mother Teresa, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
Here at the English Majors’ Counseling Office, we wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Somewhere north of Spain and south of France, nestled deep among the conifer-covered slopes of the Pyranees mountains, lies Basque Country. This verdant, hilly territory has been home to the same enigmatic people for several thousands of years. The Basques are culturally, genetically, and linguistically distinct from all other Europeans, and, as far as is apparent, from all other people the world over. The name Basque derives from Medieval French and ultimately from the ancient tribe of the Vascones, first described by the ancient Greek historian Strabo.
In an effort to explain the origins of the Basques, quasi-anthropologists and linguists have postulated many things, including that the Basque people are the living descendants of the people of the lost city of Atlantis. In an effort to quell the fiercely independent spirit of the Basques, politicians have accused them of being many things---traitors, militants, rebels, extremists, and terrorists. In fact, they are not descended from a submarine-dwelling mythological race of enlightened humanoids, but are direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon people. As for their being rebels, since Basque cultural and linguistic identity has always been distinct from that of all other Europeans, many of them feel that political autonomy is deserved despite the fact that modern geopolitical delineations split Basque Country between Spain and France.
The original name (which is still used in the native tongue) of the Basques, is 'Euskera.' Though there are some modern words that have been assimilated into English, Spanish, French, and East Indian, the Basque language is entirely different from any other language ever seen or recorded. In the region's schools, the language that is now being taught is the "Unified Modern Basque Language." The language is called Euskadi (sometimes Euskari), and a Basque person is known as a Euskaldun.
The Euskera have been known historically as superior herders and fishermen. The modern use of the sheepdog is thought to have been pioneered in Basque country, and the Royal Basque Shepherd is a breed prized for its vigor and superior intelligence. Evidence suggests that Euskera fishermen discovered the American landmass long before Columbus, but opted to keep it a secret so that they could continue to take advantage of the plentiful codfish population found along the shores of what would come to be known as the New World. The Basques were insulated from the widespread miseries of the Dark Ages and the second pandemic of the bubonic plague (the Black Death) because of the wealth generated by their monopoly on salted cod.
With the dusk of the Middle Ages came the allocation of Basque territory between France and Spain. The power struggles that followed continue to this day. The Euskera are a fiercely nationalistic people. In addition to having their own language and culture, they have their own flag, national anthem, and their own separatist political movements. The Basque Nationalist Party was founded in 1895 with the goal of an autonomously governing Basque state which would be called Euzkadi. The Spanish republic granted self-government to Catalonia ,which also had a strong nationalist movement and its own linguistic and cultural identity, in 1931. The Basques had to wait several years longer, until the Spanish Civil War was underway, to be belatedly granted the autonomy that they desired. The majority of the Basque people sided with the leftists and against Francisco Franco's regime during the Spanish Civil War. Because of this, Franco ordered the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica (a town of no military import but great historical significance)---an event that was forever immortalized by Picasso's famous painting of the same title.
The Basque Autonomous Government surrendered to Franco in 1937 and remained under his rule until his death in 1975. During this long period of cultural oppression, an even more vehement nationalism brewed surreptitiously, fueled by a strong resentment of the corrupt dictatorship. It was then that the new separatist movement, Basque Country and Freedom (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), better known by its Basque initials ETA, was formed.
Between 1979 and 1983, the Spanish government granted the Basque Autonomous Community limited self-governing powers including its own elected parliament and control over taxation. These were part of the self-rule "package" the Spanish government agreed to hand over to the Basques, but twenty-five years later, Madrid has yet to deliver other promised powers that formed part of the agreement. As a result, ETA carries out car-bombings and other attacks on Spain's capital, while the Spanish central government represses (often violently) even the most peaceful of protests carried out by non-militant Basque separatists.
Despite the unresolved political issues that shape much of the Basque identity, Basque Country (or País Vasco, as it is referred to in Spain) is still a safe and beautiful travel destination. The staggering natural beauty of the Pyranees mountains and the coastline of the Bay of Biscay, countless festivals unique to Basque tradition, and the new Guggenheim museum in Bilbao (Basque Country's capitol city) are among the reasons that visitors are now flocking to the region. For more information on visiting País Vasco, see http://www.basquecountry-tourism.com/cult_fiestas.php
- Ingrid Feeney
The Struggle Between Secularism and Religious Freedom
On Wednesday, February 6, 2008, Turkey’s Parliament voted on whether or not to ease the ban on women wearing headscarves on university campuses. The ban was implemented by the Turkish military in 1980 due to fears of the over-involvement of Islam within Turkish government and politics. But in Turkey, where the population is predominantly Muslim, about two-thirds of women wear headscarves and have out of strong religious belief, refused to attend university because of the ban.
The ban itself has caused controversy, but the recent vote on easing the ban has as well. “This step will encourage radical Islamic circles in Turkey, accelerate movement towards a state founded on religion, lead to further demands against the spirit of the republic,” said Hakki Suha Okay, member of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP). CHP also plans to potentially challenge any amendments made on the ban at the constitutional court.
Those who have seen the dangers of religion in politics fear that easing the headscarf ban will pressure more women to wear them and de-modernize an advancing Turkey. But the many Muslim women of Turkey, who wish to devoutly follow their religion and receive a college education, must unfairly sacrifice one of those things.
As America has long ago wisely created a separation between church and state, Turkey is also trying to do the same thing by banning headscarves in universities. But, how far can secularism go? Should people not be allowed to practice their religion as well as attend university if they wish? It is not as simple of an answer as it is in the U.S., where there is a separation between religion and politics (to some degree), yet a free practice of religion. The major difference is that Turkey is largely Muslim, and so easing the ban may have a different effect. Perhaps what Turkey should consider most in making its decisions is how easing the ban or simply letting it be, might influence the nation’s potential membership in the European Union.
Petroleum Possibly Not a “Fossil Fuel”
Traditional petro-geologists posit that the oil that powers our cars and lubricates our economy is a "fossil fuel", derived from decayed organic matter such as plankton, trilobites, debris from ancient forests, and perhaps even dinosaurs. However, according to a study published on February 2nd in Science Magazine by Giora Proskurowski of the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle, petroleum oil could be the product of abiotic chemical processes that take place in the Earth's mantle.
In 2003 and again in 2005, Proskurowski and his team descended in a scientifically-outfitted submarine to collect liquid bubbling up from sea vents on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Proskurowski found hydrocarbons containing carbon-13 isotopes that appeared to be formed from the mantle of the Earth, rather than from biological material settled on the ocean floor. Carbon 13 is the carbon isotope scientists associate with abiotic origin, compared to Carbon 12 that scientists typically associate with biological origin. "Our findings illustrate that the abiotic synthesis of hydrocarbons in nature may occur in the presence of ultramafic rocks, water and moderate amounts of heat," Proskurowski wrote. Although this discovery backs a theory favored by a distinct minority in the scientific community, it has immense socioeconomic implications that will doubtlessly be discussed for years to come.
Source: Information Liberation
The Euro's Covert Op: Taking over the States
The US economy totters on a precarious edge and the dollar finds itself trailing behind the new coin in town, the euro. The creation of the EU and the introduction of its currency brought a threat to the dollar, even at its inception. Now the threat proves to be a fairly formidable one, so much that in some New York City stores the euro flies in as much as its older, but much less cultured, monetary brother. Business owners who have begun accepting this new form of payment allege that the change came about because of the recent proliferation of European patrons. New York traditionally attracts European tourists, particularly in the fashionable areas of the city. The rise can be attributed to the lowered value of the American dollar, allowing the Europeans to buy more for less.
The businesses also accept other foreign currencies, the British pound and Canadian dollar included—both of which carry more weight than the American dollar. Do you think this new trend foreshadows a new global economy? Do these business owners know something we don't? Let us know what you think by posting a comment.
This week Aisha Douglas shares a poem by Wallace Stevens.
Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879. He attended Harvard University from 1897 to 1900 after which, he wrote for the New York Herald Times. Stevens then attended New York Law School, graduating with a law degree in 1903.The very first time I read this poem I remember being haunted by the images for days after, which immediately made it one of my favorites. I have always been a fan of poetry that describes an entire emotional experience using images, and very few I have encountered have accomplished this as amazingly well as Stevens has. “More than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination.” Domination of Black describes the stifling feeling of fear and the invasive sense of doom that comes along with it. Stevens’ use of a drifting leaf and the sound of peacocks crying capture that feeling brilliantly. While Stevens is considered one of the major American poets of the century, he did not become recognized as such until he published Collected Poems in. Stevens died in Hartford in 1955.
Domination of Black
At night, by the fire,
The colors of the bushes
And of the fallen leaves,
Turned in the room,
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
Yes; but the color of the heavy hemlocks
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.
The colors of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind.
They swept over the room,
Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
Down to the ground.
I heard them cry—the peacocks.
Was it a cry against the twilight
Or against the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
Turning as the flames
Turned in the fire,
Turning as the tails of the peacocks
Turned in the loud fire,
Loud as the hemlocks
Full of the cry of the peacocks?
Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?
Out of the window,
I saw how the planets gathered
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
I saw how the night came,
Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks.
I felt afraid.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.
This Week Dominique Gauvard and Emily Carman asked BC students and faculty, What's your favorite romantic scene from a novel?
"Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights--when they die."
- Irena Bruza
"There's this scene in my favorite contemporary romance/coming-of-age novel, Anthropology of an American Girl by H.T. Hamann, where the protagonist is walking out of the garage and sees the guy she's falling for standing out in the rain. They hardly know each other and she's seeing someone else, so there are many boundaries to be crossed. No words are exchanged. Longing hangs in the air. He walks into the doorway of the garage, soaked to the bone. She wants him to make the first move, but he's too virtuous to touch her. Instead, he hands her a flower then walks back into the rain. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines in a movie, "What's better than kissing on the first date? Almost kissing on the first date." It gets to me every time."
- Maria Elizabeth Rubio
"In Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, when Rhett is so stricken with grief at his daughter's death that the whole town is cloaked in his sadness and everybody grieves for one little girl. It is such a touching scene, but oddly comforting to know that a bond of love can run that deep."
- Krishna Sury
"At the end of Ann Beattie's novel Chilly Scenes of Winter, Charles' ex-girlfriend Laura says that she will make him his favorite dessert. It's not your typical "Hollywood" ending, it's unconventional, yet optimistic."
"In Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ... When Jesus reflects on what his marriage to Mary Magdalen would be like. I found it romantic seeing a man weigh his love for a person versus his love of god or his father."
- Pietro Scorsone
"I know it's not necessarily romantic, but in Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man when he sees the Muse..."
- Ilana Zaken
"When Achilles killed Hector in Homer's The Iliad and dragged his dead body around for three weeks because he killed Achilles' 'man-friend' Patroklos."
- Emanuel Bennett
"When Noah and Allie go on their first date in Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook."
- Jennifer Sternberg
"When Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy get together in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice."
- Shawn Simpson-Smith
Monday, February 04, 2008
The concept of change embodies both creation and destruction. Oftentimes we are wary of change because it indicates the passing of time, the transformation of a familiar way of life, or the end of valued relationships. However, in order for new and better things to emerge, one must relegate the past to memory and accept what the future brings. While the Boylan Blog staff writers are sad to bid farewell to Krishna, Maria, Nick, and Nitzan, we are excited to welcome seven new writers to our team.
Here at the English Majors’ Counseling Office, we hope you are eager to hear the voices of our new writers: Aisha, Amina, Austin, Carolina, Ingrid, Irena, and Rida.