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Pairings

I read a lot, and things always remind me of other things, so here are some recent readings and the memories of other things they triggered.

Jean Lafitte, LaIn the New York Times, John Schwartz and Kevin Sack provide an in-depth look at how Jean Lafitte, a small fishing village in Louisiana, is threatened by the rising, shifting tides of the Mississippi Delta, as politics, engineering, commerce, and conservation intermingle to create both problems and solutions. This article was given its own separate section in the Sunday paper, with large double-page layouts, but it is even better online. Pair this with an article from 1987: “The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana, and it could not have done so by remaining in one channel.” That sentence is from John McPhee’s classic New Yorker article about that other channel, “Atchafalaya,” which is also collected in his excellent book, “The Control of Nature.” The Atchafalaya is Cajun country, where my uncle and cousins lived, so I know how it’s pronounced, uh-CHAFF-uh-Lie-uh.

This recent article by Joshua Rothman goes deep into copiers: “Why Paper Jams Persist” looks at the journey of the sheets of paper in modern copiers, as they are rolled, flown, blown, sucked, charged, heated, and stacked at speeds up to 150 pages per minute. Pair this with another classic, David Owen’s 2004 book “Copies in Seconds,” the story of Chester Carlson and the birth of Xerox. But why do we copy so much? Weren’t computers going to provide us with the paperless office? Consider reading Edward Tenner’s great book, “Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences.”

Minizaitunya Ibyatullina, 102As we approach the centennial of the Russian Revolution, another recent NY Times article sent Karl Ove Knausgaard on “A Literary Road Trip Into the Heart of Russia,” in which he explores a rural area almost untouched for the last century. This amazing photo is by Lynsey Addario, showing a 102-year-old woman holding a photo of her husband, who died in the war in 1943. Pair this with the always wonderful Ian Frazier, who has visited Russia many times and wonders “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?” in the Smithsonian. Frazier wrote a book about his earlier journeys exploring the Eastern wilds in a van, “Travels in Siberia,” which reminds me of my two other posts on this subject: the most exciting nonfiction book I’ve ever read, John Vaillant’s “The Tiger,” and another about the story of the Siberian woodsman Dersu Uzala.

Kuwait images #4: KFAS workshop & dinner

Here are the folks I worked with, which I post to give a sense of the variety of styles of dress. Women wore hijabs, or they wore stylish Western clothes. Men wore dishdashas with and without headgear, or they wore business casual. The two groups hold name cards are the teams I coach.

The bottom picture is our gala dinner at the JW Marriott, in which all the men wore traditional clothing — some of them uncomfortably — because it was a fancy event. (At the center table is the US ambassador and other distinguished guests.)

Kuwait images #3: Around Kuwait City

With apologies to my wonderful hosts, Kuwait does not bowl you over with its attractiveness. The skyline is a careless mix of modern, mismatched skyscrapers and blocky, undistinguished buildings. I was told that some building still show damage from the war with Iraq, but I couldn’t tell those from ones that were under construction or were perhaps just deteriorating.

At bottom is the only graffiti I saw — an Arabic phrase followed by @FarFeeling, which leads to an anime character image! So, perhaps not a political or social statement.

Kuwait images #2: Souq Al-Mubarakiya

We visited the 200-year-old Souq Al-Mubarakiya, a must-see item for any tourist and an popular destination for locals. Souks are the original malls, a series of stalls and stores in a maze of passageways selling everything from clothes to groceries. the long halls are covered passageways that make the area feel more indoors than outside. There are specific sections for gold, perfumes and incense, meats, fish, vegetables, and even beads.

At the bottom is the “cane man,” who is holding a cane with a snake-eye head to the light, so I can see it light up. (The photo is a clumsy panorama of two images.) Note the beads and the brocade-covered goods that cover the walls and counters.

 

  

 

Kuwait images #1: Kuwait Towers, Fish market, and The Avenues mall

I’m doing a workshop in Kuwait, and we’ve had a chance to visit some sights, souks, and markets.

Kuwait Towers. The men are Omani (note the headgear, the man on the right is taking a selfie).

Fish market.

Nuts and more in a stall.

Fishing supplies.

The Avenues, a big big mall. That’s a Cheesecake Factory on the left.

Another view.

We are here on Earth to fart around

I was reminded of this quote by Kurt Vonnegut from this interview, so I share it here:

I work at home, and if I wanted to, I could have a computer right by my bed, and I’d never have to leave it. But I use a typewriter, and afterward I mark up the pages with a pencil. Then I call up this woman named Carol out in Woodstock and say, “Are you still doing typing?” Sure she is, and her husband is trying to track bluebirds out there and not having much luck, and so we chitchat back and forth, and I say, “Okay, I’ll send you the pages.”

Then I go down the steps and my wife calls, “Where are you going?” “Well,” I say, “I’m going to buy an envelope.” And she says, “You’re not a poor man. Why don’t you buy a thousand envelopes? They’ll deliver them, and you can put them in the closet.” And I say, “Hush.” So I go to this newsstand across the street where they sell magazines and lottery tickets and stationery. I have to get in line because there are people buying candy and all that sort of thing, and I talk to them. The woman behind the counter has a jewel between her eyes, and when it’s my turn, I ask her if there have been any big winners lately. I get my envelope and seal it up and go to the postal convenience center down the block at the corner of Forty-seventh Street and Second Avenue, where I’m secretly in love with the woman behind the counter. I keep absolutely poker-faced; I never let her know how I feel about her. One time I had my pocket picked in there and got to meet a cop and tell him about it. Anyway, I address the envelope to Carol in Woodstock. I stamp the envelope and mail it in a mailbox in front of the post office, and I go home. And I’ve had a hell of a good time. I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We’re dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go do something. [Gets up and dances a jig.]

Balls Balls Balls

Balls Balls Balls

Balls Balls Balls

Ricki’s Trio, “One Winter’s Night”

Here’s my 4:24 of fame on Sunday, June 11, 2017.

Ricki’s Trio, “One Winter’s Night”

Ricki Shore, fiddle
Steve Edlen, guitar
Scott Underwood, bass
Ricki is  in my bluegrass class, and she asked me to accompany her for a single song at the Manning Music student concert at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. This is my favorite place to see music, so I was thrilled to be onstage. I played with another group three songs after this, but I don’t think there’s a video.

UIO

Unidentified Israeli Object: my mother-in-law had this amongst her stuff. She travelled a lot, but never to Israel, though her husband one did.

In any event, my Israeli friend tells me Arad is a town in the south of Israel and it was a former Roman site. This thing appears to be a tourist geegaw, but I’m not sure if the coin is real — were there so many, they sold them as keepsakes? Is it Roman, or Byzantine, or just what?

   

Leon in Lima

My friend and partner Leon Segal decided to greet the crowd outside our hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima, Peru.

 

Okay, they were being nice. The reason all these young girls are here is because the hotel is also hosting the star of Soy Luna, a popular kids show on Disney Latino.