BREYDON’s been reading
Thursday 11 August 2022.
Updated 05 March 2023.
Informal lit‐talk dating from late 2021, on.
- Background to this document
- Ratings, roughly
- General posts
- 1. [B] Svetlana ALEXIEVICH, translated from the Russian by Bela SHAYEVICH, Secondhand Time: the last of the Soviets (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2016)
- 2. [B] Monica ALI, Love marriage (London: Virago Press 2022)
- 2.1. of dried sage leaves
- 2.2. telling us we have to go private
- 2.3. as if there was still a chance that he would never
- 2.4. a false word she will know
- 2.5. took hold and stood there uncertainly
- 2.6. quite literally disintegrate, just deliquesce in his arms right there and then
- 2.7. a train jogged along
- 3. [D] Miles ALLINSON Fever of animals (Brunswick, VIC and London: Scribe Publications 2015)
- 4. [D] Wes ANDERSON (director), The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (Searchlight Pictures and Indian Paintbrush 2022), D.V.D. video
- 5. [F] Neal ASHER, Jack Four (London: Tor 2021)
- 6. [A] Ed AYRES, Whole notes (ABC Audio 2021), audiobook download
- 7. [C] Bien‐dire : le français par la culture 142 (mai–juin 2022)
- 7.1. [B] Camille LARBEY ‘Lacoste ou l’élégance d’un crocodile’
- 7.2. [C] Marie LEMARCHAND ‘Le tennis à l’heure de la francophonie’
- 7.3. [C] Waléry DOUMENC, ‘Roland‐Garros, sport business ou sport passion ?’
- 8. [E] Tim BOUVERIE Perfect Pitch: 100 pieces of classical music to bring joy, tears, solace, empathy, inspiration (& everything in between) (London: Short Books 2021)
- 9. [C] Kate BRADBURY, The bumblebee flies anyway: a memoir of love, loss and muddy hands (London: Bloomsbury Wildlife 2019)
- 10. [C] Becky CHAMBERS, A psalm for the wild‐built (New York: Tom Doherty Associates 2021)
- 11. [D] Greg CHIVERS The crying machine (London: HarperVoyager 2019)
- 12. [C] Noam CHOMSKY, Failed states: the abuse of power and the assault on democracy (Allen & Unwin 2006)
- 13. [B] Andrea Long CHU, Females (London and New York: Verso 2019)
- 14. [A] Emily COATES & Sarah DEMERS, Physics and dance (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2019)
- 15. [D] Craig CORMICK & Harold LUDWICK, On a barbarous coast (Allen & Unwin 2020)
- 16. Mya‐Rose CRAIG, Birdgirl
- 17. Blake CROUCH, Recursion (London: Macmillan 2019)
- 18. [E] Eliazar Parra Cárdenas, Toki Pona in 76 Illustrated Lessons (2009)
- 19. Marwan DARWEISH & Carol RANK (editors), Peacebuilding and reconciliation: contemporary themes and challenges (London: Pluto Press 2012)
- 20. [C] Jenny DEAN, Wild colour: how to make and use natural dyes (Mitchell Bleazley 2018)
- 21. [C] Kerri NÍ DOCHARTAIGH, Thin Places (Edinburgh: Canongate 2022)
- 22. [C] Reni EDDO‐LODGE, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race (Bloomsbury Circus 2017)
- 22.1. if white extremism the bar
- 22.2. humanity coded as white; blackness considered the ‘other’
- 22.3. like they all learn the lines from the same sheet
- 22.4. race consciousness is not contagious, nor is it inherited
- 22.5. politics strangled, stoppered, and hindered by whiteness
- 22.6. true tolerance
- 22.7. who want to skip are not really affected
- 22.8. racism suffocates kindness, and generosity, and potential
- 22.9. broadly, fine
- 23. [A] Bianca ELKINGTON, Moana JACKSON, Rebecca KIDDLE, Ocean Ripeka MERCIER, Mike ROSS, Jennie SMEATON, & Amanda THOMAS, Imagining decolonisation (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books 2020)
- 24. [B] Michel FANTON & Jude FANTON, The seed savers’ handbook: a permaculture seed (Byron Bay: The Seed Savers’ Network 1993), third “updated reprint” (2022)
- 25. [B] Karen E. FIELDS & Barbara J. FIELDS, Racecraft: the soul of inequality in American life (London and New York: Verso 2022)
- 26. [C] Tim FLANNERY, The climate cure: solving the climate emergency in the era of COVID‐19 (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2020)
- 27. [E] Mirrah FOULKES (director), Judy and Punch (2018), D.V.D. video
- 28. [A] Masanobu FUKUOKA, translated from the Japanese by Larry KORN, The dragonfly will be the messiah (Penguin Books 2021)
- 29. [B] Gardening Australia August 2022
- 29.1. [A] Jenny BALDWIN [EDITOR’S LETTER] ‘Welcome’
- 29.2. [B] AB BISHOP ‘Winter wow’
- 29.3. [A] Leonard CRONIN ‘Life in the canopy’
- 29.4. [A] Phil DUDMAN ‘Get your spring vegies going’
- 29.5. [B] Phil DUDMAN ‘Protein from the patch’
- 29.6. [B] AB BISHOP ‘Re‐pot a dwarf banksia’
- 30. [A] Amitav GHOSH, The nutmeg’s curse: parables for a planet in crisis (London: John Murray 2021)
- 30.1. mute resources metaphysical leap
- 30.2. onslaught cooling
- 30.3. invasion as structure
- 30.4. to which the whole creation
- 30.5. kilowatts differing
- 30.6. liberatory potential of renewable energy for countries
- 30.7. three‐million‐fold
- 30.8. militarisation of civil society skills
- 30.9. visibility within the circles that wield power
- 31. [A] Amitav GHOSH, Uncanny and improbable events (Penguin Books 2021)
- 32. [B] Julia GILLARD & Ngozi OKONJO‐IWEALA, Women and leadership: real lives, real lessons (Penguin Random House Australia Audio 2020), audiobook download
- 33. [B] Stéphanie DI GIUSTO (director) The Dancer (Les Productions du Tresor, Wild Bunch, Orange Studio, Les Films du Fleuve and Sirena Film 2016), D.V.D. video
- 34. Priyamvada GOPAL, Insurgent empire: anticolonial resistance and British dissent (London and New York: Verso 2020)
- 35. [D] Laurent GOUNELLE L’homme qui voulait être heureux (Paris, Pocket 2010)
- 36. [C] Phil GRABSKY (director), Matisse: from MoMA and Tate Modern (2014), D.V.D. video
- 37. [B] Grass roots: sustainability and self‐reliance no matter where you are! 271 (Jun/Jul 2022)
- 37.1. [B] Luke ARMSTRONG ‘The Peaks Cheese’
- 37.2. [C] Pam THODAY ‘Setting up the pantry’
- 37.3. [A] Malcolm HAINES ‘Mixing it up’
- 37.4. [A] Megg MILLER ‘Ranging fowls’
- 37.5. [E] Isabelle & Georgiana SEABROOK ‘Guinea pigs’
- 37.6. [B] Megg MILLER ‘Growing seed we need’
- 37.7. [D] GR TEAM ‘Single use plastic options’
- 37.8. [B] Ian GASKING ‘Rakes, reels & handy tips’
- 37.9. [A] Angela FRY ‘Strip grazing cattle’
- 37.10. [A] David MURRAY ‘Bean seed shortages’
- 37.11. [D] Suni MILLER ‘Down home on the farm’
- 38. [C] Green 78 (2021)
- 39. [B] Green 82 (2021)
- 40. [B] Green 86 (2022)
- 40.1. [D] ‘Upfront’
- 40.2. [D] Phoebe COUYANT ‘Richly layered’
- 40.3. [A] Karen SUTHERLAND ‘Permaculture Tips’
- 40.4. [B] Ellie KEFT ‘Remaking the land’
- 41. [D] Green 87 (2022)
- 42. [D] The Guardian Weekly (26 Aug 2022)
- 43. [E] Jonathan HAIDT, The righteous mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion (London: Penguin Books 2013)
- 44. [D] Tom HEAP, 39 ways to save the planet: real world solutions to climate change — and the people making them happen (London: Witness Books 2021)
- 45. bell HOOKS, All about love: new visions (William Morrow 2001)
- 46. Phil JAMISON, Hoedowns, reels, and frolics: roots and branches of southern Appalachian dance (University of Illinois Press 2015)
- 47. [C] Simon JIMENEZ, The vanished birds (New York: Del Rey 2020)
- 48. [B] Micaiah JOHNSON, The space between worlds (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2020)
- 49. [C] George M. JOHNSON, All boys aren’t blue (Penguin Random House Children’s UK 2021), audiobook download
- 50. [A] David JONES & Barbara JONES, Native plants of Melbourne and adjoining areas: a field guide (Hawthorn, Victoria: Bloomings Books 1999)
- 50.1. through no fault of their own
- 50.2. destruction and relicts
- 50.3. by attaching
- 50.4. resembles a duck
- 50.5. bookmarked portrait @ page 53
- 50.6. widely distributed by Chinese diggers
- 50.7. pollinated by male thynnine wasps
- 50.8. feathery seed‐heads
- 50.9. themselves to form bushy clumps
- 50.10. leafless terrestrial, cultivation impossible
- 50.11. delicately hinged
- 51. [D] Hayley KATZEN, Untethered: a memoir (Sydney: Ventura Press 2020)
- 52. [A] Robin Wall KIMMERER, Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants (London: Penguin Books 2020)
- 53. [B] Robin Wall KIMMERER, Gathering moss: a natural and cultural history of mosses (Allen Lane 2021)
- 54. [D] Landscape architecture Australia 175: Matters of Time (August 2022)
- 54.1. [C] Emily WONG ‘Perspective: Making time for reflection’
- 54.2. [A] Daniel Jan MARTIN & Liam MOURITZ ‘An issue on time’
- 54.3. [A] Kaylie SALVATORI ‘Look to the Skies, think like an Ancestor’
- 54.4. [B] Daniel Jan MARTIN ‘Ancient landscapes, remnant landscapes’
- 54.5. [D] Catherin BULL ‘An unfolding landscape: South Bank’
- 54.6. [C] Alice FORD ‘Centring ecological regeneration: APACE’
- 54.7. [C] Scott HAWKEN ‘Outback ecologies: Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden’
- 54.8. [C] Martí Franch Batllori, interviewed by Alex BREEDON and Liam MOURITZ ‘Lo‐fi landscapes: Estudi Martí Franch’
- 54.9. [D] Matthew GANDY, interviewed by Julian RAXWORTHY ‘Notes from the margins’
- 54.10. [B] Adrian MARSHALL ‘Slow growth: Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton’
- 54.11. [C] Jess STEWART ‘Making time in practice’
- 54.12. [C] Rosie HALSMITH ‘Remaking lost connections’
- 54.13. [B] Joe BEAN ‘Wonder of time’
- 54.14. [D] Alexander J. FELSON ‘Re‐envisioning climate futures’
- 54.15. [C] David WHITWORTH ‘Between action and forgetting: Balls Head Reserve’
- 55. [C] Hervé LE TELLIER, translated from the French by Adriana HUNTER, The anomaly (Michael Joseph 2022)
- 56. [C] Cixin LIU, translated from the Mandarin by Ken LIU, The three‐body problem (Leicester: W F Howes Ltd 2016)
- 57. [A] Nic LOW, Uprising: walking the Southern Alps of New Zealand (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2021)
- 57.1. there’s a name for that
- 57.2. old people places
- 57.3. reading is moving through the landscape
- 57.4. too precious to rush through @ page 54 of 384
- 57.5. cleave to the land
- 57.6. faced with the landscape itself
- 57.7. near Nōti Raureka visibility dropped
- 57.8. some thickening of time
- 57.9. scrambled raw matter
- 58. [A] Scott LUDLAM, Full circle: a search for the world that comes next (Carlton: Black Inc. 2021)
- 58.1. tractable and neat; the wrong horizon
- 58.2. demands a certain tonnage
- 58.3. to move so as to stay an equal distance
- 58.4. and yet … she’s trying to find food
- 58.5. a squishy little bow
- 58.6. six euros at a time, the median voter can suck it
- 58.7. the Nyiting
- 58.8. a remarkably faint pulse to power such an astonishing collective
- 58.9. we come across a family of horses
- 58.10. we will fight, but we have no experience
- 58.11. the kind of thing a bunch of aristocrats and monarchs would come up with
- 59. [B] Robert MACFARLANE, Underland: a deep time journey (London: Hamish Hamilton 2019)
- 60. [D] Stefano MANCUSO, translated from the Italian by Gregory CONTI, The nation of plants: a radical manifesto for humans (Profile Books 2021)
- 61. [E] Sarah MARQUIS, Sauvage par nature: 3 ans de march extrême en solitaire de Sibérie en Australie (Paris: Pocket 2015)
- 62. [D] Ian MCEWAN, The cockroach (London: Jonathan Cape 2019)
- 63. [E] Ian MCEWAN, Machines like me: and people like you (London: Jonathan Cape 2019)
- 64. [B] Anika MOLESWORTH, Our Sunburnt Country (Macmillan Australia 2021), audiobook download
- 64.1. language-subtag-registry
- 64.2. uneasy attribution
- 64.3. better @ 35%
- 64.4. to speak of time was to assess the condition of the natural world
- 64.5. acquisition of some new knowledge can test mental resilience
- 64.6. we become encompassed and carried by love
- 64.7. doing something is my only option
- 65. [B] The Monthly 190 (July 2022)
- 66. [D] Janelle MONÁE, The memory librarian: and other stories of dirty computer (London: HarperVoyager 2022)
- 67. [B] MUSEUM VICTORIA, Melbourne’s wildlife: a field guide to the fauna of Greater Melbourne (Melbourne: Museum Victoria and CSIRO Publishing 2006)
- 68. [B] Sequoia NAGAMATSU, How high we go in the dark (London & Dublin: Bloomsbury Publishing 2022)
- 69. [B] Maggie NELSON, On freedom: four songs of care and constraint (London: Jonathan Cape 2021)
- 69.1. tentative, curious nestle
- 69.2. means
- 69.3. art as transmission
- 69.4. giant corporations in disguise
- 69.5. calcified conviction of power
- 69.6. analogising mothers
- 69.7. disorienting intergenerational conversation
- 69.8. porousness to people
- 69.9. wherein waving to others is somehow irresistible
- 69.10. deep‐time–burning movement freedom
- 69.11. dropping story
- 69.12. what kind of body
- 70. [C] New Scientist 3357 (23 October 2021)
- 71. [C] New Scientist 3373 (12 February 2022)
- 72. [C] New Scientist 3382 (16 April 2022)
- 73. [B] New Scientist 3384 (30 April 2022)
- 74. [C] New Scientist 3387 (21 May 2022)
- 75. [C] New Scientist 3396 (23 July 2022)
- 75.1. [B] Carissa WONG ‘Impact of covid‐19 on sperm’
- 75.2. [A] Annalee NEWITZ ‘This changes everything: The curious case of the AI and the lawyer’
- 75.3. [C] Liz ELSE ‘Time to savour some science’
- 76. [B] New Scientist 3397 (30 July 2022)
- 77. [C] New Scientist 3402 (03 September 2022)
- 77.1. [C] Matthew SPARKES ‘Conservative party’s online vote is vulnerable to hackers’
- 77.2. [B] James DINNEEN ‘Bacteria seep out from cracks in the sea floor’
- 77.3. [B] James MCCONNACHIE ‘A future for climate refugees?’
- 77.4. [B] Simon INGS ‘The film column: Taking direction’
- 77.5. [D] Caroline WILLIAMS ‘Taming the menopause’
- 77.6. [C] Colin BARRAS ‘The search for Ancestor X’
- 78. [D] New Scientist 3403 (10 September 2022)
- 79. Karlie NOON & Krystal DE NAPOLI, Astronomy: Sky Country (Thames and Hudson 2022)
- 80. [C] Jason OM, All mixed up (ABC Audio 2022), audiobook download
- 81. [B] Olivette OTELE, African Europeans: an untold history (New York: Basic Books 2021)
- 82. Stephen PAGE and Greg BARRETT, Clan: Bangarra Dance Theatre (Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin 2013)
- 83. [A] Shelley PARKER‐CHAN, She who became the sun (London: Mantle 2021)
- 84. [C] Annie‐B PARSON, The choreography of everyday life (London and New York: Verso 2022)
- 85. [D] Bruce PASCOE, Dark emu: black seeds: agriculture or accident (ABC Audio 2017), audiobook download
- 86. Bruce PASCOE & Vicky SHUKUROGLOU, Loving country: a guide to sacred Australia (Bolinda Publishing 2020), audiobook download
- 87. [C] David PEARSON Books as history: the importance of books beyond their texts (London & New Castle: The British Library and Oak Knoll Press 2011)
- 87.1. bookish conversation
- 87.2. patterns of ownership
- 87.3. to the framework within which meaning is constructed
- 87.4. the codex format
- 87.5. imaginative book art
- 87.6. multiplicity, and uniform identity
- 87.7. errata slips and cancels
- 87.8. handle on the vagaries
- 87.9. surrogate‐irreplaceable
- 87.10. sequence of squib and counter‐squib
- 87.11. they may mark for editions which may not have come
- 87.12. commonly issued in a range of binding choices
- 88. [D] Michael PEMBROKE America in retreat: the decline of US leadership from WW2 to COVID‐19 (London: Oneworld 2021)
- 89. [D] Ciel PIERLOT, Bluebird (London: Angry Robot 2022)
- 90. [D] Michael POLLAN, The botany of desire: a plant’s‐eye view of the world (London: Bloomsbury 2002)
- 90.1. noughties surprises hanging @ page 86
- 90.2. genes are archives of cultural information
- 90.3. artificial as in artifact: a thing reflecting human will
- 90.4. the redemptive American ground
- 90.5. Lâle Devri imperial gardens
- 90.6. tulips as commodities, color breaks destroyed
- 90.7. American jurisprudence, medieval animism
- 90.8. forgetting is a mental operation
- 90.9. jealousy guard the borders
- 90.10. short‐circuits the metaphysics of desire
- 90.11. for every ecological niche
- 90.12. thoughtlessly chalking
- 91. [A] Nina Mingya POWLES, Small bodies of water (Canongate Books 2021), audiobook download
- 92. [D] Leah PURCELL, The drover’s wife: the legend of Molly Johnson (Hamish Hamilton 2019)
- 93. Queer Out Here Issue 00 (29 November 2017), audiozine download
- 94. [B] Claire RATINON & Sam AYRE, Horticultural appropriation: why horticulture needs decolonising: a conversation in the gardens of West Dean (Wendover: Rough Trade Books 2021)
- 95. [C] Guillaume ROGER, On the grid: Australian electricity in transition (Clayton: Monash University Press 2022)
- 95.1. [D] David HAVYATT, Chapter 1 ‘History of electricity reform in Australia’
- 95.2. [B] Stephen P. KING, Chapter 2 ‘How not to reform electricity transmission: lessons from Australia’
- 95.3. Orrie JOHAN, Gordon LESLIE, Tom MEARES and Russell PENDLEBURY, Chapter 4 ‘Prospects for battery investment under more spatially granular electricity spot pricing’
- 95.4. Steven CALLANDER, Chapter 3 ‘Backsliding in Australian energy deregulation: lessons from the past and recommendations for the future of reform’
- 96. [B] Arundhati ROY, Capitalism: a ghost story (London and New York: Verso 2015)
- 97. [D] John RUTHVEN The whale in the living room: a wildlife documentary maker’s unique view of the sea (London: Robinson 2021)
- 98. [A] Garry SANKOWSKY, A field guide to butterflies of Australia: their life histories and larval host plants (Sydney and Auckland: Reed New Holland Publishers 2020)
- 99. [A] Rob SCOTT, Neil BLAKE, Jeannie CAMPBELL, Doug EVANS, & Nicholas WILLIAMS, Indigenous plants of the Sandbelt: a gardening guide for South‐eastern Melbourne (Melbourne: Earthcare St Kilda 2002)
- 99.1. plants as expression of geology
- 99.2. ferns of Swamp Scrub
- 99.3. cliffs removed
- 99.4. salt‐prune dependence
- 99.5. nutrients‐ soils
- 99.6. mulch–weed edge‐over
- 99.7. difficult choice need
- 99.8. first metre or so retained
- 99.9. imagine you are the sun
- 99.10. ‘pests’ best
- 99.11. 600m in a morning
- 99.12. arthritis centella
- 99.13. untidy falling
- 99.14. karawun
- 99.15. interesting Philydrum
- 99.16. a lovely grass
- 99.17. Themeda emerald
- 99.18. climbers grown together
- 99.19. Cranbourne Local‐Tragic
- 99.20. Cassinia arcuata curry scent
- 99.21. acacia‐gum glue
- 99.22. bursaria‐leaf sunscreen
- 99.23. Sandbelt Eucalyptus camaldulensis limbs
- 99.24. mature Eucalyptus melliodora specimens
- 99.25. detecting vegetation community
- 99.26. staging densities
- 99.27. layer‐delaying
- 99.28. shared Heathy Woodland / Sand Heath strata
- 99.29. native fauna interacts with weeds
- 99.30. revegetation supplement, not substitute
- 99.31. friends of the urban forest
- 99.32. a grounded grounding
- 100. [A] Azfar SHAFI & Ilyas NAGDEE, Race to the bottom: reclaiming antiracism (London: Pluto Press 2022)
- 101. [A] Rubika SHAH (director), White riot (Smoking Bear 2019), D.V.D. video
- 102. [D] Merlin SHELDRAKE, Entangled life: how fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures (Vintage 2021)
- 103. [E] Will STORR, The Status Game (London: William Collins 2021)
- 104. [F] Max TEGMARK, Life 3.0: being human in the age of Artificial Intelligence (Allen Lane 2017)
- 105. [D] Márcia TIBURI, The psycho‐cultural underpinnings of everyday fascism: dialogue as resistance (Bloombury Academic 2022)
- 106. [C] Miriam TOEWS, Women Talking (London: Faber & Faber 2018)
- 107. [D] Jeff VANDERMEER, Dead Astronauts (London: 4th Estate 2021)
- 108. [A] Erna WALRAVEN, Care of Australian wildlife: for gardeners, landholders and wildlife carers revised edition (New Holland 2010)
- 109. [C] WIENER PHILHARMONIKER Neujahrskonzert 2011 (Decca 2011), D.V.D. video
- 110. [C] Raynor WINN, The wild silence
- 111. [A] Tyson YUNKAPORTA, Sand talk: how Indigenous thinking can save the world (Bolinda Publishing 2022), audiobook download
Some potentially distressing content (within the notes below) is preceded with a hash symbol and quick statement as to its nature. So too is the occasional spoiler. But far from everything of concern is marked in this way.
Background to this document
The public face of been reading is automatically generated from a file that I use to keep track of library loans and which quotes or notes I have posted on social media.
The books among these are for my BookWyrm profiles firstname.lastname@example.org (pre‐2023), which is no longer even loosely in synch; and email@example.com (subsequent reads).
Some of the borrowed items were assigned to me, rather being than of my particular choosing.
Neither reference nor quotation, and not even ranking, equate to endorsement.
“F”s seemed almost pure harm and were poorly written. “E”s were slogs and wastes. “D”s I would have refused publication pending thorough rounds of redrafts, reframing, and/or reresearch. “C”s read neither fantastically nor awfully, or they did both just enough that it cancelled out — unless they delighted but I barely began, so couldn’t reliably say. “B”s held something, substantial, of distinct interest or especial enjoyment, which might richly reward a deliberate revisiting. “A”s may not ring perfect to me, but I would gift or receive with unhesitating gladness.
These designations were derived from an old podcast prioritisation scheme of mine, which asked:
How keen was I on this?
- A ★★★★★
- top priority
- B ★★★★‒
- fairly worthwhile
- C ★★★‒‒
- almost missable
- D ★★‒‒‒
- only bother if extremely convenient
- E ★‒‒‒‒
- F ☆‒‒‒‒
- don't dare
The two systems don’t completely align. I often forget which one I’m using, and how they relate — so don’t trust small differences in grade to be meaningful! Especially when it comes to magazines and novels, these rankings are haphazard.
@wrul (they, iel, etc) set a goal to read 11 books in 2023
If any quantified BookWyrming aim, I suspect mine should be to post far fewer quotes! I have such a swathe of magazines to sort my way through before the next library day, too. So consider this a book limit: five more finishes this month. (Given three are pretty near, that makes round two and a half books total. Mooore than enough for these nine odd days.)
raised to nineteen [comment]
I dawdled slightly too much to choose my own February loans — gosh they are on the ball, the choosers of items; sometimes ready weeks in advance! — but I would like to return three to eight more library books before reserving something special for March. Let us pretend my goal/limit has been raised to nineteen!
1. [B] Svetlana ALEXIEVICH, translated from the Russian by Bela SHAYEVICH, Secondhand Time: the last of the Soviets (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2016)
- Took notes in August 2022.
1.1. chase the catastrophe into the contours of the ordinary
I want to know about […] the myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. It’s the only way to chase the catastrophe into the contours of the ordinary and try to tell a story. Make some small discovery. It never ceases to amaze me how interesting everyday life really is.
⸻ pg. 7, ‘Remarks from an Accomplice’
1.2. people no longer earned money
After perestroika, no one was talking about ideas anymore — instead, it was credit, interest, and promissory notes; people no longer earned money, they “made” it or “scored” it.
⸻ pg. 8, ‘Remarks from an Accomplice’
2. [B] Monica ALI, Love marriage (London: Virago Press 2022)
- Took notes in July 2022.
2.1. of dried sage leaves
More than once Yasmin had witnessed an exhausted wife or husband or daughter slide into sleep and then onto the floor. The walls had the colour and texture of dried sage leaves, as if they might crumble at any moment.
⸻ pg. 52
2.2. telling us we have to go private
He’d told her about the fourteen‐year‐old girl he’d seen in the clinic that morning. The girl was worried that her privates looked funny and her mother agreed she didn’t look right. Women worried about their labia because they compared themselves to what they saw in porn. But this girl was fourteen! The GP hadn’t convinced the mother there was nothing wrong with her daughter. When Joe reassured them that the girl was perfectly normal, she definitely didn’t need an operation to reduce the size of her labia, the girl burst into tears and the mother said, You’re telling us we have to go private, that’s what you mean.
⸻ pg. 61
2.3. as if there was still a chance that he would never
#class, migration, anxiety
Whenever Yasmin thought about how her father’s life had begun she experienced a swell in her ribcage, pride of course, but also fear, as if there was still a chance that he would never escape the jaws of poverty, as if he might never embark on the long and difficult journey, or might travel but never arrive.
⸻ pg. 75
2.4. a false word she will know
The blank page is maddening. She raises her head and looks once more in the mirror. She has chosen to sit at her dressing table because when she writes a false word she will know it from the look on her face.
⸻ pg. 92
2.5. took hold and stood there uncertainly
‘Nathan!’ Harriet rose to greet a willowy young man, both hands outstretched. He took hold of them and stood there uncertainly, not knowing what to do with these dazzling gifts.
⸻ pg. 120
2.6. quite literally disintegrate, just deliquesce in his arms right there and then
She’d cried. Of course she’d cried. He held her and she thought she would quite literally disintegrate, just deliquesce in his arms right there and then. But soon she stiffened. Her ear pressed against his bare chest and the steady beat of his heart filled her with rage.
⸻ pg. 137
Someone’s read a bit of Rushdie back in the day; back of the mind, there it is seeping up.
2.7. a train jogged along
‘Adventure playground?’ said Rania. ‘Look, there’s nobody there.’
They veered left and stared down the far slope towards the pirate ship and the high walks and the orange climbing nets. A train jogged along the tracks at the bottom, a stubby Sunday train of four carriages, pausing a while, waiting for three fluorescent jackets to cross the tracks and signal the all‐clear. Bonfire smoke twised lazily from a back garden. A crow hopped ahead on the grass.
⸻ pg. 165
3. [D] Miles ALLINSON Fever of animals (Brunswick, VIC and London: Scribe Publications 2015)
- Took notes circa November 2022.
3.1. from the turtle
[My mother and I] were both a bit sick of each other after those [table tennis] games and we took long walks in opposite directions along the beach. Once, I saw a huge, dead turtle. It seemed ancient and noble. Its eyes had been pecked out by crows, and a kid was poking at it with a stick. From the turtle you could still make out the white apartment blocks of the resort in the distance, their windows blank and bright in the sun. […]
⸻ pg. 21
FROM THE TURTLE!
Best three words of the (first half of the) book! Possibly of the whole thing, but I have not read far enough yet to confirm.
3.2. around each doorway, even along the floor
There is one other disconcerting feature of this apartment: the heavy, dark wooden frames that run around each doorway, even along the floor, so that I am constantly tripping over. More alarmingly, this wooden lip has the effect of making each doorway seem like a mirror that I have to pass through in order to change rooms, and in which I keep failing to appear. On more than one occasion, I have caught myself needlessly arranging the face I adopt whenever I look in the mirror.
⸻ pg. 153
The protagonist has arrived in Cluj, Romania. He has been dawdling around Europe to ruminate expensively on the unexplained disappearance of a local painter and fret at the abandonment of surrealism.
In isolation, tricks like this are fine. Sadly, the book is terribly heavy handed, and this is about the least superficially it ever approaches its own core obsessions (whether bereavement and mortality; pretty girls; artistry, expatriation, masculinity and identity; or the main character).
3.3. Elwood ennui
[18 January 2023, Boonwurrung Country]
These remarks seem more review, I suppose, than close reading. So have a rating: straddling the slog of a one and the old two for well, I would not publish it, myself, in this state.
Allinson studs his book, very sparely, with breathtaking twists of phrase. The surrounding text is meticulously crafted also, and, I found (especially in the cases of the absolutely agonisingly autobiographically pitched Parts One and Three), disengaging.
It’s a multilayered grief text, but heavily filtered through themes of middleclass masculinity. Cultural cringe, even. The narrator is occasionally transposed to some other voice (slightly older Miles! slightly younger Miles! art critic Miles! potted historian Miles! translated scrap of this or that secondary source in the sole possession of Miles! gonzo journo Miles! Miles as Miles imagines his girlfriend would word him… travelogue Miles: miles of Miles…), without straying towards much of a range of perspective.
The Mileses into whose (un)confidence we are dumped are petulant in romance (we can only hope poor Alice, the ex, was not drawn from real life), and pretentious about art, with both aspects exquisitely, even just excruciatingly rendered. Indeed, the entire novel makes for a masterful character portrait overall, and is sincerely impressive.
However, the narrator’s personal relationships are too neatly mirrored by those of the obscure surrealist with whom he has become obsessed. The parallels are exhausting, if not exhaustive. They compound the time‐hopping, dream‐ridden fixation on reiterating the same kernel of a story. The tellings over are largely and unfortunately vacuous — more so than perhaps intended.
If you are into its particular cohort of navels, you will probably adore it. This feels a bit like reading Garner, I thought, a few pages before Allinson toasted Helen Garner. It is almost a Brow piece; (albeit) thirty times longer than it had to be, but for determination to impose a mood. This thing plods. With restrained power and precision.
3.4. carrying around myself a circumference of silence or danger
I keep walking. According to all the ghost stories, nothing lives in this forest except wild boars and foxes, but somewhere in the distance the trees are full of bird chatter. Wherever they are — those birds — I can’t seem to get any closer to them. It’s as if they are afraid, as if I am carrying around myself a circumference of silence or danger[…]
⸻ pg. 167
3.5. they are, themselves, souls
#violence; abandonment and deaths of dogs; a sort of diasporic sadness; a flash of patriarchal language ‐picking
There are stories of roaming dog packs, of random dog‐killings, dogs found knifed in backstreets, but I have seen none of this. As far as I can see, the Romanians are especially fond of dogs. Alina Bafdescu, apparently, was overwhelmingly distraught when the family dog finally died. She wrote a long, almost delirious letter to her brother in Paris, announcing the news. Bafdescu responded by way of consolation some weeks later:
> You asked me if I think animals have souls. Animals are not in need of souls. They are, themselves, souls. It is we who need souls.
Today, the wild dogs of Bucharest are accepted and sometimes cared for, and at traffic lights they stand in the cool of our shadows waiting to cross the road with us. It is said that they are the distant relatives of the family pets who were evicted when the communists moved everyone into tiny communist flats — there was no room for the dogs and so they were turned out into the street. An emigration often takes a number of generations to complete, Alice once told me, speaking about her mother, who was born in Serbia and came to Australia as a fifteen‐year‐old girl. Perhaps the same is true of the street dogs of Bucharest. They look so mournful, like abandoned family pets, like rain dogs who have lost the scent and, as in some fairy‐tale, are condemned to wander, generation after generation, looking for a home that does not exist anymore.
⸻ pg. 173
3.6. long‐distance psychoanalysis
What does this mean? What did Bafdescu think it meant?
And is there anything more dubious than long‐distance psychoanalysis?
⸻ pg. 204
Wish I’d made some scratch of a note while it was fresh in my mind why, precisely, I’d marked some of these passages in books now finished weeks ago, what I’d meant maybe to say about them, to say them about. Point made, I guess.
4. [D] Wes ANDERSON (director), The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (Searchlight Pictures and Indian Paintbrush 2022), D.V.D. video
- Took notes in February 2023.
5. [F] Neal ASHER, Jack Four (London: Tor 2021)
- Took notes in February 2023.
5.1. again stopping reading regret
Again, it is often I regret acknowledging sci fi without (enough) qualifiers in my home library service application form.
6. [A] Ed AYRES, Whole notes (ABC Audio 2021), audiobook download
- Took notes circa May 2022.
6.1. as musicianship and earnest engagement in the trials of living deserve
Whole Notes imparts the cosiness and charm of a dream first formal lesson on an orchestral instrument.
This book also represents a profound reservoir of careful contemplation, speaking, though primarily of the Western classical tradition and midlife gender transition, quite broadly to how practical musical understanding applies across peoples’ lives. The surface is tickled with cheeky humour, always friendly. In the spaces formed around the contours of his manner, one could almost hear delighted young students’ laughter bouncing along strings, grazing their instruments’ f-holes, or see the tension pouring out of the nervous adult beginner as they ready to take up their bow.
But more importantly, Ayres communicates in waves of understated sensuality, sharing a wealth of pedagogical wisdom (from a variety of teachers-and-learners), quiet courage, and at times a light, resonant awe.
To the audiobook recording, he brings every last mole of his broadcasting aplomb and finesse (if, perhaps, along with an occasional tendency to sustain a pace just slightly more at home in music-radio–length segments — or should that be shortth?). The excellent standard of spoken performance leaves me uncertain as to whether I would like the book so much if it gazed silently at me in print. Nonetheless, I very much hope to leaf through a paper edition, at very least to better absorb a few standout remarks — and loan it on.
7. [C] Bien‐dire : le français par la culture 142 (mai–juin 2022)
A very respectable C; simply lacks the depth to go for B without hesistation. But I would be eager to browse recent ones of these again; interesting selections made (lots of little ecological news items I enjoyed in this issue), smooth thematic associations, and faintly irritating but worthwhile repetition of some highlighted vocabulary. Probably not a bad basis for earnest language study, either, for those with the time to dwell more closely.
7.1. [B] Camille LARBEY ‘Lacoste ou l’élégance d’un crocodile’
Article on pages 12–13.
7.1.1. tennis tenace
Sur le court de tennis, le « frenchy » est tenace.
⸻ pg. 12
Ça veut dire René Lacoste, quand il jouait à la coupe Davis de 1923.
And this writer is a menace! Delightful.
7.1.2. la pastille antivibrations
[René Lacoste] invente la pastille antivibrations pour le cordage des raquettes. Celle‐ci permet d’augmenter le confort de jeu et de diminuer les risques de douleurs au coude.
⸻ pg. 13
7.2. [C] Marie LEMARCHAND ‘Le tennis à l’heure de la francophonie’
Article on pages 18–19.
7.2.1. la réussite n’est pas qu’une question de capacité purement tennistique
État des lieux
Pourquoi le tennis africain est‐il si peu représenté ? Le manque d’infrastructures et d’investissements publics en est la principale cause. En 2020, la Fédération internationale de tennis (FIT) ne dénombrait que treize mille courts sur tout le continent africain. Du reste, ceux‐ci sont le plus souvent situés dans des résidences privées ou des complexes touristiques. […]
Ces lacunes ont des retombées sur la carrière des joueurs. Alexis Klégou, joueur franco‐béninois anciennement classé grand espoir du tennis africain, confie que la réussite à haut niveau « n’est pas qu’une question de capacité purement tennistique. Il faut toute une équipe autour de soi, des objectifs clairs et réalisables et, surtout, des moyens financiers qui correspondent aux exigences du haut niveau ».
Même constat pour l’entraîneur français Jacques Hervet, qui a parcouru l’Afrique pour le compte de la FIT : « Le tennis est un sport très difficile dan la mesure où, contrairement au football, il n’y a peut‐être que cent joueurs dans le monde qui vivent convenablement de ce sport, tellement exigeant sur le plan financier, en termes de dépenses individuelles, avec les salaires des entraîneurs ou les voyages. »
7.3. [C] Waléry DOUMENC, ‘Roland‐Garros, sport business ou sport passion ?’
Article on pages 34–35.
7.3.1. tout est chronométré
[…] Pour le moment, les Jeux olympiques et le Tour de France échappent à la loi du sport business et sont encores diffusés gratuitement, mais jusqu’à quand ?
Les règles du jeu [du tennis] évoluent, elles aussi, pour convenir au format télévisuel : le tie‐break a ainsi été inventé au milieu des années 1960 pour raccourcir les matchs de tennis, jugés trop longs pour être diffusés. Depuis 2018, tout est chronométré ou presque pour ne pas dépasser les créneaux horaires : l’échauffement (cinq minutes) à l’issue duquel les joueurs ont soixante secondes pour commencer le match, et le temps entre deux points (vingt‐cinq secondes au maximum).
⸻ pg. 35
How long were they prior to the sixties, then?!
8. [E] Tim BOUVERIE Perfect Pitch: 100 pieces of classical music to bring joy, tears, solace, empathy, inspiration (& everything in between) (London: Short Books 2021)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
8.1. a full opera @ page 18?
Somebody inform Tim Bouverie and maybe more to the point the team at Short Books that a “full opera” is not an accessible, snippet‐a‐day “piece”, and, while recommending a whole album is lovely, specifying particular tracks only on Spotify is neither really making a playlist “available” nor at all living up to the book subtitle. And Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is only “piece” one! Of a hundred!
No, don’t worry — I hate to even imagine the snobby feedback publishers of this sort of text risk. The book is chipper and very clear about trying not to declare a canon though, so hopefully it has been received in kind. I expect, however, to most likely find a deference to certain ideals, in and and its posh Englishness, unbearable.
Bring it, silently, on.
9. [C] Kate BRADBURY, The bumblebee flies anyway: a memoir of love, loss and muddy hands (London: Bloomsbury Wildlife 2019)
- Took notes circa August & November 2022.
10. [C] Becky CHAMBERS, A psalm for the wild‐built (New York: Tom Doherty Associates 2021)
- Took notes September 2022.
11. [D] Greg CHIVERS The crying machine (London: HarperVoyager 2019)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
11.1. attentive to a ubiquity of pulse, to its small, rolling effects
#squinting at shades of the far right? bigotry or something
You expect to toss it back to the questionably curated library within a few pages. You expect some puffer‐fish–tough‐guy toying with dodgy ethnic stereotypes frantically trying to signal cosmopolitanism. You expect, somehow, the text to get better; there to be some richness cracked open any paragraph now, like a high‐school lit class revelation from some presumed bore you’d’ve never touched on your own — until, before very long at all, the author has written himself into a corner; multiple, varied narrators’ idiosyncrasies bled together before they’ve the chances to influence each other with such precision inside the story. Conspicuous things cropping up in common. Strictly reliable (except where blatantly not, in the tortured wind up to a twist).
Time gets measured in numbers of heartbeats, counts upward unmoored, tickings from clocks; but mainly the heartbeats. Not chunky, amped up thriller pumping, this. Quiet statement, matter of fact, attentive to a ubiquity of pulse, to its small, rolling effects, as though observed by a yogi, or a practised gun‐clutcher.
Characters drift about, paper thin, like phantoms peeled off the Murdoch press on its higher brow days. (Published by Harper, perhaps they already are)? The core “science” to the fiction is cable telly, mysteries of the ancients woo. Flick to the bio: ah — two decades producing Pay T.V. “documentaries” with titles and channels that sound like the sorts to have helped groom many a Neo for Naziing.
All very unnoteworthy.
Come for the cursory taste‐test. Linger for the mild disbelief. Pivot away at the resolute tedium. Stay the course to witness the… Inyaface queerfest?
Figures, really, now I’ve put it like that, elevated those above strains like that. (And) how(,) in this novel there’s such an obsession with the genderlessness of civilisation‐upending mechanical hordes who sabotage themselves sickly to reject conventional human forms and, somebody concludes, concomitant sex. Scrutinising a chubby nun’s haircut and coming up, first of all, “sexual deviant”. Periodic no‐homo moments from nowhere, though not one habibi in these cod Arabian bromances, man. An absent but read‐into camp signifying civic rot.
Still, I was repeatedly surprised how much the text clambered in over itself to fold in certain themes. Sometimes it brought to mind snatches glimpsed of Mieli’s theories. And the pull to read those towed me through to the back.
11.2. one of those guys at the pipe
‘[…] One of the regulars saw her at the Mission. Looks like she’s working there now.’
I look over my shoulder at where the three old guys are still taking turns sucking at the pipe. ‘One of them? I didn’t realize they ever moved.’
‘You’re a piece of work, you know that, Levi? Old Yash has been scoring his dinners at the Mission ever since his wife died.’
‘Hold on a minute. Are you telling me one of those guys at the pipe is a different person than was here when I left?’
‘And you’re supposed to be the sharp one. You think I only have three paying customers? How do you think my business works?’
⸻ pg. 31
Bartender Yusuf and young dropkick Levi in one of only a couple of instants the setting teased like it might build to subvert its own pat exoticism — only to collapse into a gag outta old Hollywood. After that, it would dust itself off and play the next umpteen pages straight.
11.3. convenience noir
‘Those machines are on 24/7, and they are noisy motherfuckers.’ The rumble beneath my feet bears testament to the truth of his words. I’m used to the noise after a few minutes of standing here, but it’s still there, enough to fox any sound detector. He keeps talking, but from this single clue the rest fits itself together. Those washers and dryers rotate constantly, at slightly different, unpredictable speeds. Metal rotating within metal — it’s like the Earth’s core, a battery of machines generating electromagnetic waves at fluctuating frequencies. To anyone attempting sonic or microwave surveillance it’s like trying to pick out a tune when someone’s shouting in your ear, and they can’t even filter it out because the shouting changes all the time.
‘That’s … incredible. You worked this out on your own?’
‘And the rest of it. that sign outside …’ He gestures to the pink and blue at the window. ‘Anyone trying a visual scan through my window is gonna have contrast issues. It’s like we’re standing behind the sun … OK, maybe not the sun, but you get the idea.’
I crouch and clear a space in the neon‐lit clutter beneath the window frame. ‘I’m sleeping here.’
He shrugs, palms up. The only way I’m leaving is if he kicks me out, and right now I’m too valuable an asset for him to take that risk. No bedroll, no covers, but for me, as long as my partner in crime can cope with a housemate, this might just be the safest place in Jerusalem.
⸻ pg. 92
Levi and former almost robot soldier Clementine in a flat above a laundromat. Convenience noir.
11.4. covered with cartoon vegetables
She leads us outside, where there’s a van waiting for us. The sides are covered with cartoon vegetables. If I have any street‐cred left, it’s gone as soon as someone sees me in this thing.
⸻ pg. 180
Nother nun Ludmila (complement to Mother nun Hilda) smuggling Levi off farmland.
11.5. a jutting invitation to nobody
#the transphobic, addict‐dismissive, etc. etc. school of cop shop window dressing
A square‐jawed man wearing a tight gold dress winks at me. His red lips kiss the air in the wake of a tired officer dragging a junkie across the antiseptic green linoleum floor. The cloying chemical fug of detergent does not quite conceal the whiff from the previous night’s donations of vomit and urine. From somewhere echoes the sound of a woman wailing about a child, real or imagined. The transvestite’s eyes follow the unhappy duo of cop and criminal through the sliding door that leads to the custody suites and then fix upon mine. Ludmila ignores him. His/her theatrics seem invisible to everyone but me. He tuts and turns around to lean against a chest‐high L‐shaped desk that divides the room, his muscular bottom a jutting invitation to nobody. A sagging man in the uniform of a police sergeant sits on a high stool behind a desk. He does not respond to my presence, even when I stand directly in front of him.
⸻ pg. 211
Narrator Clem but who cares by now.
So maybe you read those last few quotes and get the impression aww it’s all just throw‐away capers; or a few pages that happen to keep the various authorial antagonisms to a simmer and aw maybe you’ve been reading too much into ⸺ Nup.
12. [C] Noam CHOMSKY, Failed states: the abuse of power and the assault on democracy (Allen & Unwin 2006)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
12.1. the narrow US political spectrum
This stand has long been conventional, even at the liberal end of the narrow US political spectrum […]
⸻ pg. 87
That a statement such as this could be applied to so many issues constitutes part of the backdrop against which The righteous mind of Jonathan Haidt was doomed to incoherence.
Anyway in this case, Chomsky’s referring to the political elite of the United States of America asserting rights to unilateral exercise of power internationally.
12.2. therefore the damage
#Nakba, judicial justifications
[Akiva] Eldar and [Idit] Zartel also stress the “particularly sad harm caused by the judicial authorities.” They review shocking racist court judgements — among them very light sentences for the brutal murder of Arab children, and even court refusal to pass sentence on Jews by appeal to the saying that “you should not judge your neighbor unless you are in his place.” Such stands have been “destroying the entire basis of the judicial system,” Eldar and Zartel write. “It is only against this background,” [Reuven] Pedatzur adds, that one can comprehend the decision of occupation authority official Pliya Albek, who, with the support of the courts, rejected the appeal of a Palestinian man for compensation after the border police had killed his wife, on the grounds that he “only gained from his wife’s death because when she was alive he had to support her, but now he does not, and therefore the damage to him is at most zero.” Benny Morris writes that “the work of the military courts in the territories, and the Supreme Court which backed them, will surely go down as a dark age in the annals of Israel’s judicial system.”
⸻ pg. 188
A dark age destroying a basis, sure, that’s an angle… Courtesy of Reuven Pedatzur in Ha’aretz 21 February 2005, reviewing Akiva Eldar and Idith Zertal’s אדוני הארץ (Kinneret, 2005), and Benny Morris writing or speaking in who knows which of several possible attributions crammed into Chomsky’s messy endnotes. Adonei Ha’aretz was later published in English as Lords of the Land (2009?).
12.3. the boomers were once children
The propaganda image is that the retirement of “baby boomers” is going to crash the system; as repeatedly pointed out, their retirement had already been financed by the Greenspan‐led increase in payroll taxes in 1983. That aside, the boomers were once children, and had to be cared for then as well. And we find that during those years there was a sharp increase in spending for education and other child care needs. There was no crisis. If American society was able to take care of the boomers from ages zero to twenty, there can be no fundamental reason why a much richer society, with far higher output per worker, cannot take care of them from ages sixty‐five to ninety. At most, some technical fixes might be needed, but no major crisis looms in the foreseeable future.
⸻ pp. 248–249
The 0–20 and ~65+ are drawn from government stats comparing “dependents”, defined as of those ages, to “working people”. To me, late teens seems high for an assumed dependent status in that generation? But then what do I know of U.S. demography.
13. [B] Andrea Long CHU, Females (London and New York: Verso 2019)
- Took notes circa July 2022.
14. [A] Emily COATES & Sarah DEMERS, Physics and dance (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2019)
Why I periodically emit variations on “physics and dance!” As, for example in:
- sung not with the mouth but the body
- to move so as to stay an equal distance
- porousness to people
- the world gripped your body
- imagine you are the sun
Also, quoted in flex of a foot or hand.
15. [D] Craig CORMICK & Harold LUDWICK, On a barbarous coast (Allen & Unwin 2020)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
15.1. bones bark bones crevice
These things won’t survive, and if they are our ancestors they need to remember our language, our lore and our hunting skills, or we’ll be carrying their bones in a dupal (basket) made out of bark to hold the bones of our people, which are placed into caves and rock crevices in the mountains.
⸻ pg. 50
Last paragraph of a chapter!
This is a novel in clunky prose, albeit often more subtly so than right here.
15.2. Gandhaarr hunting
Gandhaarr saw that the young mother was beautiful, and he wanted to take her as his dhiiral (wife).
Gandhaarr is the greatest hunter alive, and this time he was hunting a wife.
⸻ pg. 70
Gandhaarr is a crocodile, and the only Guugu Yimidhirr word so far (other than a narrator’s name) to eventually lose the intrusive inline translations.
Would you believe this chapter offers some reprieve from the sexist calamity of the storytelling elsewhere? Despite being a pretty egregious demonstration of it in itself?
(The novelists’ storytelling, I mean, not merely their narrators’).
15.3. bible‐line guns
#killing with firearms
There was another Bible line that I would have liked Sydney bloody Parkinson to explain to me. The one about man having dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. What good did our Biblical dominion do if we couldn’t even catch one of them to eat?
I asked Parkinson one day, as he was warming up for one of his prayers of thanks, if that Biblical dominion even applied here, seeing as the animals were so different from any that were named in the Bible[…]
Every time we heard a musket shot we imagined [the marines] had felled a goodly sized animal of the earth or air. If anyone had dominion over the beasts it was them. A gun gave you dominion over all animals, whether they were named in the Bible or not.
⸻ pp. 134–135
And on the third day, God created the Remington bolt-action rifle, so that man could fight the dinosaurs — and the homosexuals.
⸻ Mean Girls (2004)
15.4. miraculous intervention
[…] and we just followed the instructions given us, shooting glances at each other and wondering if some miraculous intervention might still suddenly save us from all this. Not recognising that this was the miraculous intervention itself.
⸻ pp. 258–259
15.5. skill of emerging
But he [Gandhaarr the crocodile] responded by telling me that I needed to understand the ways of Gandhaarr to better survive in this land. He told me that he could see all different futures and all different pasts and that he would share them with me if I came down to visit him in his underwater domain.
Again I told him he was a liar and that I did not believe him. But Gandhaarr told me that if I learned to burrow into the earth, or into the river, I could learn the skill of emerging into different pasts or futures. I could learn to go deep into the chill darkness and hold my breath for long hours and when I emerged again, the world would be different.
And some days I was sorely tempted to try this, if just to know how other this life might have turned out.
⸻ pg. 275
On a barbarous coast is not without awkward reference to its own historical altenativity jutting out now and then (much like in Ian McEwan’s Machines like me), but this passage surfaced with a smooth elegance.
15.6. British objection
[Joseph Banks] would resolutely intercept the shore party, regardless of the marines raising their muskets at him. He would not falter in his steps. He would raise one hand high and call to them, ‘Don’t shoot. I am a British object!’ — having lost his proficiency with the King’s English.
⸻ pg. 297
An oldie but a canny.
15.7. matters of fluency
Narrative, themes, and mood flow exceedingly well across the scale of the entire novel, while very frequently individual sentences disintegrate. Some short paragraphs are riddled with ridiculous quantities of parenthetical translations that could have been skimmed out, by way of ever so slightly more evocative wording around those terms written in‐Language. Instead, the Guugu Yimidhirr boy’s chapters sputter along, tiresome despite their brevity. Comic timing, for instance, pulls through the prose more intact within the chapters from the perspective of the co‐narrating white man.
And through that boy and that man storms the worst problem: not only does talk of people always wind up actually being of men and boys, but the authors’ extensive and careful planning is built on the same mistake. Women (let alone anyone else) scarcely exist in the worlds of this book, and primarily as leverage for expressions of machismo (or in sometimes backhanded authors’ acknowledgements at the close, where worth is granted to one research contributor only as a proxy of esteemed men???). This monogender may be plausible in the case of a shipwrecked crew of the Endeavour, but reads grossly conspicuous in the lives of the local clans. Even elders always always always denotes only men — what have they been doing to all the aunties?! It would not even take a particularly close reading to see that the excuse of a boy’s‐eye view cannot account for this exclusion. In general, depictions of sexuality and gender fail to come across as convincing, considered, or — frankly — researched. Maybe they were grounded in all that historical scouring the authors’ notes speak of, but there seems to have been no thought to checking for bias.
16. Mya‐Rose CRAIG, Birdgirl
- Noticed circa 2022.
16.1. wanting to read
Cast back to the 30 July 2022 issue of New Scientist — No. 3397 — which mentioned, among others not so, these books of interest:
- The moonday letters received a warm review (from tech and sci writer Sally Adee) for what does sound an intriguing concept. However, the reviewer also endorses right alongside this A prayer for the crown‐shy. Considering that the one Becky Chambers I have read (A psalm for the wild‐built?) gave me the furious creeps, I am slightly distrustful of tastes that would embrace its sequel without alluding to having felt any qualms.
- The elephant in the universe deals with something I (join the club!) would love to know more about: dark matter (or at least, research into it).
- Before the big bang, according to (maybe–maths‐historian?) Michael Brooks’ review, sounds reminiscent of some of the quantum‐wild New Scientist features I read and developed immediate nostalgia for as a kid, blended in with an autobiographical flow that sounds equally interesting.
- Lessons from plants makes for a promising title which, going by the author’s spray‐trigger–happy column on the mid‐Western U.S.A. lawn discussed as though that is pretty much the universal role and context for lawns, could decorate an utter disappointment.
- Community as rebellion, mentioned by biochemist Beronda L. Montgomery (she of the plants), sounds maybe brilliant.
- and can you believe there is a book titled Birdgirl!
17. Blake CROUCH, Recursion (London: Macmillan 2019)
- Took notes January 2023.
17.1. smell without looking back
“I smell your cologne,” she says without looking back.
⸻ pg. 4
Funny, I was just thinking this book literally stinks. (Though more of sweat from someone who’d been breathing ciggie smoke the days before).
17.2. stopping reading regret
It’s often I regret acknowledging sci fi without (enough) qualifiers in my home library service application form.
18. [E] Eliazar Parra Cárdenas, Toki Pona in 76 Illustrated Lessons (2009)
- Took notes in February 2023.
18.1. to re‐member
lawa = head
some of the above words have additonal [sic] meanings
lawa = main, leading, head, control, steer
⸻ pg. 20
I object! Is this not an opportunity to re‐member the body politic, the bodily intuition, the emphases of attentions, the self the surrounds the interplay?
Hoping some of what I am not so into from this book is particular to this book. Reckon, for instance, lot of the genderedness, and perhaps soonness of violence — the early lessons (or grammar points) being heavy with utala and moli and insensitive remarks about people’s bodies — stem from the authorship more so than the original linguistic basis. Sure, useful to have these concepts available to manipulate, but the atmosphere they are being made to form here is not what I’d hoped for in the way of a welcome.
18.2. ona li suwi lili taso toki insa li pana e wawa jaki
sona toki pi jan wan lon lipu toki lili. ona li pana e ken kama sona lili kepeken ala mani. teno pini la mi alasa e ni. taso mi kama wile sama e sona pi jan mute e sona musi.
lipu mute ni li jo e moli mute tan jan. ni li ike tawa mi tan ni: teno pini la jan li toki lon nasi ni: toki pona li sewi e pilin pona.
sitelen li len e lipu. sitelen len li suwi. mi wile mute kama sona e sitelen toki e tawa toki.
mi kin wile lukin e anpa pi supa toki. tan nimi ali li seme? jan li pali e sona sin pi toki pona kepeken open lawa seme?
Despite the publication itself being quite sweet, the expressions inside exude off‐putting vibes.
One person’s idea of the language has gone into a free educational pamphlet, which is what I’d sought. But likewise I desire multiple, enjoyable perspectives.
This book features a lot of killing. This upset me, given toki pona is renowned for prioritising well‐being.
The pages are decorated with pictures. These illustrations are cute. I would prefer to learn the writing systems and signed forms of the language.
I’d also like to explore beneath the surface. What are the reasons behind the lexical choices? (Oh gosh I sure conceived this next notion without thought to cramming it into English…) Using what intellectual bases was the concept devised?
(And look, though for many years I have had a sense of the language and its purpose, the vaguest imprint even of its characteristics, before I read this tiny course — or some other comprehensive summary— I would not have been able to make an attempt to actually use toki pona!)
19. Marwan DARWEISH & Carol RANK (editors), Peacebuilding and reconciliation: contemporary themes and challenges (London: Pluto Press 2012)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
19.1. Chrissie HIRST ‘How has the liberal peace served Afghanistan?’
Paternalistic perspective still. As a result, fairly low on insight.
19.1.1. post‐conflict transformation projects
Mac Ginty describes the ‘near hegemony’ of the ‘liberal democratic peace model’ applied to post-conflict states, arguing that the dominance of this model has had ‘a profound impact on the management of contemporary violent ethnonational conflict in standardising the core elements of peace initiatives and accords and reducing the space available for alternative (non-Western) approaches to peacemaking’ (2006: 33). In his review of the United Nations as one of the key institutions of liberal peace, Chesterman makes further references to colonialism, describing UN transitional administrations as ‘benevolent autocracy’ and post-conflict transformation projects as ‘modern colonial enterprise’. He argues that greater honesty about the motivation behind the international community’s state-building projects would be beneficial for all parties (2004: 47, 127).
Hirst is citing:
- Mac Ginty, R. (2006). No War, No Peace: The Rejuvenation of Stalled Peace Processes and Peace Accords. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
- Chesterman, S. (2004). You, The People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building. New York, Oxford University Press.
19.1.2. negative incentives for peaceful approaches
The distribution of development aid is another vital component of the liberal peace model, and in Afghanistan another example of where external concerns, including military priorities, have taken precedence over longer-term development goals with dangerous consequences. Significant disparities exist in the geographical distribution of aid, often because aid is being used to achieve military or political objectives – rewarding allegiance or complementing the ‘hearts and minds’ campaigning of international troops in the area. With insecure or strategic areas awarded far higher amounts of aid, these disparities have resulted in increased inter-ethnic tension, resentment and negative incentives for peaceful approaches. The establishment of military teams tasked with humanitarian or development activities and funding of ‘quick impact projects’ in key military areas compounds the problem. Aid distribution according to security priorities has actively undermined progress towards achieving security, with communities outside the conflict areas seeing armed violence rewarded with resources.
Note 5 to this chapter reads:
A controversial approach pioneered in Iraq and Afghanistan, the creation of military ‘provincial reconstruction teams’ (PRTs) represent a mixing of security and development activities as military teams, sometimes including civilian advisors. They undertake humanitarian or development activities with the objective of gaining support and demonstrating an ‘instant peace dividend’ (often through ‘quick impact projects’) to the communities in the target area for the military units concerned. The PRT concept has been greatly criticized for contributing to the dangerous blurring of lines between civilian and military actors, and reducing safety for development workers and humanitarian space – as well as for providing poor-quality development programming (BAAG/ENNA, 2008). Subsequent assessments of development progress also point to the PRT model as problematic, noting the ‘fundamental tension’ in military-delivered development assistance (Saltmarshe and Medhi, 2011: 4).
19.2. Gëzim VISOKA ‘The obstacles to sustainable peace and democracy in post‐independence Kosovo’
19.2.1. states within states
Following the war in 1999, Serbs in Kosovo established parallel structures within the sectors of security, education, health and public services, which were supported by and relied heavily on the Belgrade authorities. Created initially to boycott the UN administration of Kosovo, their main function became to resist UN-created, Albanian-led, self-governing local institutions. Belgrade uses these structures to influence local Serbs, to manipulate and destabilize processes in Kosovo, and to retain bargaining incentives for Serbia’s own interests. This creates a volatile environment; the mayor of Mitrovica Municipality (South), Avni Kastrati, described northern Kosovo as a place where the lack of rule of law and the activities of parallel structures and criminal groups result in frequent violent incidents; bombings, attacks against non-Serb citizens and even murder (Gazeta Express, 2010).
As a predominantly Serb area, northern Kosovo is therefore under the de facto control of these Serb parallel structures, which substantially limits the capacity of Kosovar institutions to extend their authority in this part of the country. These structures also constitute a significant obstacle to the representation and participation of Serbs in Kosovar institutions; they constrain the functioning of these institutions within Serb-populated areas and therefore threaten the overall territorial integrity and internal security of Kosovo. In some respects the Serb parallel structures in Kosovo have the attributes of ‘states within states’; micro-entities that can emerge from a secession, protracted civil war or state collapse, which perform revenue collection and extraction, public and service-oriented activities, and challenge the legitimacy and authority of the central government (Kingston and Spears, 2004: 3–7).
What is Kingston and Spears’ work?
- Kingston, P. and Spears, I. (eds). (2004). States Within States: Incipient Political Entities in the Post-Cold War Era. Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave Macmillan.
20. [C] Jenny DEAN, Wild colour: how to make and use natural dyes (Mitchell Bleazley 2018)
- Took notes circa October 2021.
20.1. enthusiastic, but colonialistic
Though I was enjoying how encouraging the opening tone is, the mood and utility of this book suffer heavily from the presumption that all readers are in temperate zones of western Europe, and a treatment of the rest of the present‐day world as mere suppliers of raw materials. Easily mitigated had the subtitle been “A guide to natural dyes for [the intended audience]” or similar; near totally transcended by taking a more global view, in the manner of Susanna Lyle’s tremendous volumes on human‐edible plants. That neither approach was taken for Wild Colour even three editions in (over nineteen years!) makes for a particular disappointment.
21. [C] Kerri NÍ DOCHARTAIGH, Thin Places (Edinburgh: Canongate 2022)
- Took notes in December 2022.
22. [C] Reni EDDO‐LODGE, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race (Bloomsbury Circus 2017)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
22.1. if white extremism the bar
#racism in and ex extremis
Then there’s the glaringly obvious point — if white extremism really is the bar at which we set all racism, why and how does racism thrive in quarters in which those in charge do not align themselves with white extremist politics?
⸻ pg. 63
22.2. humanity coded as white; blackness considered the ‘other’
#racism of representation
When I was four, I asked my mum when I would turn white, because all the good people on TV were white, and all the villains were black and brown. I considered myself to be a good person, so I thought that I would turn white eventually. My mum still remembers the crestfallen look on my face when she told me the bad news.
Neutral is white. The default is white. Because we are born into an already written script that wells us what to expect form strangers due to their skin colour, accents and social status, the whole of humanity is coded as white. Blackness, however, is considered the ‘other’ and therefore to be suspected. Those who are coded as a threat in our collective representation of humanity are not white. These messages were so powerful that four‐year‐old me had already recognised them, watching television, noticing that all the characters who looked like me were criminals at worst, and sassy sidekicks at best.
⸻ pg. 85
22.3. like they all learn the lines from the same sheet
#racism in conversation
I was naive. We had resonated beforehand, so I had good faith in [a white acquaintance’s] humanity, I thought she might be able to accept the structural conditions that allowed a situation like this one to happen. So I tried to encourage her to consider the suspicion and anger of a person who has suffered racism their entire lives. I thought I might be able to persuade her to think outside of herself and question the wider context, but then every sentence she said sounded like every word I’ve ever heard from people defending whiteness. It’s like they all learn the lines from the same sheet.
⸻ pp. 90–91
22.4. race consciousness is not contagious, nor is it inherited
#racism in close personal relationships
In Britain’s biggest cities, mixed‐race friendships and relationships are now routine rather than controversial. But an increasingly mixed‐race Britain makes race relations more complicated, not less. Although nowadays people are much less afraid of living with and loving each other, the problems of racism aren’t going to go away. Despite all of the joys and teachable moments of living cheek to cheek, mixed‐race children are not going to end racism through their mere existence. White privilege is never more pronounced than in our intimate relationships, our close friendships and our families.
Race consciousness is not contagious, nor is it inherited. If anything, an increase in mixed‐race families and mixed‐race children brings those difficult conversations about race and whiteness and privilege closer to home (literally) than ever before. No longer can the injustice be quietly ignored by switching off the news or closing the front door.
⸻ pg. 102
22.5. politics strangled, stoppered, and hindered by whiteness
#racism in feminism
What does it mean for your feminist politics to be strangled, stoppered, and hindered by whiteness?
[White feminism] is a politics which insists that talking about race fuels racism — thereby denying people of colour the words to articulate our existence. It’s a politics that expects people of colour to quietly assimilate into institutionally racist structures without kicking up a fuss. It’s a politics where people of colour are never setting the agenda[…]
[…] White feminism can be conceptualised as the feminist wing of said political consensus.
⸻ pg. 168
“Said political consensus” seems to be referring to whiteness, (although the only other explicit mention of “political consensus” — which fell in the continuation of that middle paragraph — was to “a white‐dominated feminist” one, so I was not eight thousand percent sure about square‐bracketsing in an “[of whiteness]”, even if the alternative is unlikely).
22.6. true tolerance
#racism and assimilation
The children of immigrants have quietly assimilated to demands of colour‐blindness, doing away with any evidence of our culture and heritage in an effort to fit in. We’ve listened to our socially conservative parents, and educated ourselves up to our eyeballs. We’ve kept our gripes to ourselves, and changed our appearance, names, accents and dress in order to fit the status quo. We have bitten our tongues, exercised safe judgement, and tiptoed around white feelings in an effort to not rock the boat. We’ve been tolerant up to the point of not even mentioning race, lest we’re accused of playing the race card. Forget politician‐speak about Britain being a tolerant country. Being constantly looked at like an alien in the country you were born in requires true tolerance.
⸻ pg. 208
22.7. who want to skip are not really affected
#racism in a school forum
‘When do you think we’ll get to an end point?’
I’m at a sixth‐form college in south London, talking to a large group of teenagers about racism in Britain. The question is put to me by a seventeen‐year‐old girl. She’s echoed on this point by her teacher. They’re both white.
‘There is no end point in sight,’ I reply. ‘You can’t skip to the resolution without having the difficult, messy conversation first. We’re still in the hard bit.’
After my talk, a group of black teenagers crowd around me outside, talking excitedly. ‘I think the people who want to skip to an end point are the ones not really affected by the issues,’ says one girl. I’m impressed by her insight.
⸻ pg. 213
That could well be quote of the book, unnamed black teenager.
22.8. racism suffocates kindness, and generosity, and potential
#racism and agitation
So, a word to those who feel the weight of racism, who keenly feel the effects of how it suffocates kindness, and generosity, and potential[…]
[…] Rather than be forced to react to biased agendas, we should outright reject them and set our own.
⸻ pg. 223
The word is a fair bit bigger than this, of course; in this case, my singling out of these couple of sentences was purely for the distinctiveness of their phrasing.
22.9. broadly, fine
Truly, I was content to miss Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, until someone included it in this month’s home library service bag. I appreciated the opportunity to read exactly what Eddo‐Lodge had had to say, although the book mainly echoes things that countless others already had.
The presentation is a hybrid of personal essay and long‐form journalism, which is fine. The standard of writing wobbles a bit, but it’s never inadequate. As a treatment of race and racism, it takes on a soft, popular quality — also fine.
Even necessary. The literature needed it, these sorts of things in this kind of combination. Five stars for canon‐readiness, though that says far more about public discourse of the time than any individual contribution.
There is an underlying sense of urgency siphoning precedence. The book in different respects dilutes and fortifies the blog post from which it begins.
While the extremely simple models of structural racism and white privilege that Eddo‐Lodge sketches out probably leave chunks of genuinely troublesome misconception among the assumptions of those freshest to methodically developing these concepts, presumably such an approach has plenty to offer overall.
Yet there is danger in the avoidance of delving into racism’s construction, and leaning too heavily on summation of its various façades and foyers. This becomes especially evident when Eddo‐Lodge braves a telephone call with Nick Griffin, former leader of the far‐right British National Party. Across the transcript, each participant holds a fairly cogent but almost completely unrelated interview (pp. 123–129). Again — Eddo‐Lodge’s approach to this delicate, treacherous engagement (through which Griffin learns her private contact details) — absolutely fine! Griffin’s — ghastly. Still, it is easy enough to imagine a reader (a variety of readers!) picking up this title, thirsty for an explanatory model of racialised politics, only to find in Griffin’s slime their charismatic first.
Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race is not a book of why is racism. That’s fine! It is more a book of racism is why, and racism is here, and racism is suffocating us.
23. [A] Bianca ELKINGTON, Moana JACKSON, Rebecca KIDDLE, Ocean Ripeka MERCIER, Mike ROSS, Jennie SMEATON, & Amanda THOMAS, Imagining decolonisation (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books 2020)
- Took notes circa March/April 2022.
23.1. the act(s) of knowing
t’acts f’noeg (-T ABGTS -F TPHOEG)
My whānau have felt land injustices first hand. As a child, I grew up knowing that the Public Works Act had directly affected our whānau and whenua. I remember many years ago attending a hui as a young child in our nan’s house with an emerging Māori lawyer, to talk about the different options for beginning the process of reclaiming our whenua. I heard stories of how our land had been used by my koro and his children, and how, although the government of the day had supposedly taken it for state housing, it was never used by them for that purpose but was also never given back.
My auntie fought for more than twenty years and finally, just before she passed away, the land was offered back to our whānau, for a price – despite the method of government acquisition. We paid that price, and now have our land back, on which we will build a papakāinga for our whānau. This story of losing and regaining whenua is not just our story, but the story of many Māori whānau around the country.
The story highlights the intentions the government of the day had to redefine Māori and Pākehā relations. However, colonial influence continues to be felt via systems and legislation that are meant to help and empower Māori through the return of their land. There is much work to do, but when we know more we do more. That knowing to me is an act of decolonisation.
⸻ Bianca Elkington, pg. 12
In the instant of reading, my mind took a wary jump at the potential suggestion of awareness being so close to an end (of doing the “much”) in itself. But on a quick refocus, I found the idea of the act(s) of knowing to be a very interesting one.
23.2. reborrowed swimming cumulative cling
Reborrowed (last week)! Left off further through than I had assumed (even considering what a little book it is), so I might move through a tad more slowly this leg than during the isolated bursts of last time. Then again, I am swimming in loans this month and should probably get Imagining Decolonisation back available to other people by the end of this borrowing cycle, rather than cling for too many more cumulative weeks.
23.3. zoom mark
Or I will zoom through in two very short goes, but mark half the thing for revisiting.
24. [B] Michel FANTON & Jude FANTON, The seed savers’ handbook: a permaculture seed (Byron Bay: The Seed Savers’ Network 1993), third “updated reprint” (2022)
- Took notes circa September 2022.
25. [B] Karen E. FIELDS & Barbara J. FIELDS, Racecraft: the soul of inequality in American life (London and New York: Verso 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
26. [C] Tim FLANNERY, The climate cure: solving the climate emergency in the era of COVID‐19 (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2020)
- Took notes circa December 2022.
26.1. the Great Aerial Ocean
#Black Summer bushfires, COVID‐19 pandemic
Australians and Chinese people had taken to wearing masks, but for very different reasons — Australians because of potentially deadly smoke from the climate‐induced megafires, and the Chinese because of the new respiratory disease. Things that travel invisibly in the Great Aerial Ocean, as I’ve come to think of our atmosphere, represent a particular danger, because the atmosphere links us in the most intimate of ways.
⸻ pg. 5
I don’t appreciate how Flannery writes about people, but as oceanic seems a cool way of interpreting the phenomenon of atmosphere.
26.2. prosperity at terrible cost
#climate disaster, WWII
Australia is a climate paradox, for it is rich in fossil fuels, yet exceptionally vulnerable to a changing climate, and this means that we have purchased our prosperity at terrible cost. Our political struggles to reconcile these facts have become a diamantine version of the more diffuse dilemma the world faces as it deals with the climate emergency. Perhaps as a result, the actions of our politics, citizens and corporations have embodied the best and worst of all climate actions.
The dilemma the nation faces in its relationship with fossil fuels is not new. From the earliest days of European settlement Australia has been a resource economy, and exploiting those resources has always entailed risk. Perhaps the closest parallel to our current dilemma occurred in 1938 when ‘Pig‐iron Bob’, as Robert Menzies became known, insisted on the export of iron to Japan, on the eve of World War II. Menzies, who was attorney‐general in a conservative government at the time, was affronted when trade unionists at Port Kembla refused to load ships with pig iron when they learned that the cargo was destined for Japan, where they feared it would be made into weapons. At the same time, other ships in Melbourne were loading iron bound for Nazi Germany, again with the Australian Government turning a blind eye to the weapons potential of the cargo.
Menzies accused the unionists of trying to dictate Australia’s foreign policy, and he forced them to load the ships with iron that, just a few years later, rained down on the Allied Forces in the form of bullets, artillery shells and torpedoes.
⸻ pp. 21–22 of Chapter 1 ‘A History of Folly’
Targetting the Anzacky crowd, eh? Of all the obvious environmental catast since the very onset of invayzh… Which, fine, this book has its goals.
26.3. staged retreats have had an immense impact
#fossil fuel industry
When it became impossible to deny the impacts of its pollution, the fossil fuel industry changed its line. It admitted the irrefutable — that the climate was changing — but claimed that humans were not responsible. When the human influence on the climate in turn became undeniable, it switched to the line that while we humans might be responsible, the costs involved in fixing the problem were too high. When even that was proved false, it turned to promoting despair, promulgating the idea that it’s too late to address climate change and that nothing can be done anyway. These staged retreats have had an immense impact, their power to disempower and demoralise being a major factor in holding us back.
The most morally repugnant aspect of this litany of misinformation is that the fossil fuel industry has known all along just what the impact of burning fossil fuels would be. In 1982 a simple graph was produced by the world’s largest oil company, Exxon. It projected the increasing concentrations of CO2 that would result from a business‐as‐usual approach if it and other fossil fuel companies were allowed to pollute unchecked. The graph also correlated CO2 concentrations with temperature. Looking at where we are in 2020, Exxon’s prediction has proved to be accurate.
It is shocking to think that the fossil fuel industry had begun planning its war on climate action decades ago, in the full knowledge that it would cost us our world. But that appears to have been what happened.
Learning the truth about the fossil fuel industry is confronting. We buy its products daily, and many of us have some further link with it, either through shares, superannuation or employment. A sense of outrage is mixed with guilt. How are we to respond? Christiana Figueres councils us to forgive, and move on, saying: ‘We must let go of the fossil fuel dominated past without recrimination. The process of letting go is essential, and it must be intentional. The more work we do to let go of the old world and walk with confidence into the future, the stronger we’ll be for what lies ahead.’
Personally, I’m still struggling with the issue of forgiveness, particularly of those who continue to stymie climate action. But I can see that Figueres is right. We will need to reserve every atom of effort for the job ahead to have any chance of success in the battle to stabilise our climate. But as we do so, we must be severe on further efforts to misguide.
⸻ pp. 32–34 of Chapter 1 ‘A History of Folly’
Wonder if Flannery has moonlit on Simple English copywriting. (Here making up for lost vocab, while sustaining rhythm).
And yes, he says “Figueres councils us”.
6 Franta, B., ‘Shell and Exxon’s Secret 1980s Climate Change Warnings’, Guardian, 19 September 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/sep/19/shell-and-exxons-secret-1980s-climate-change-warnings 7 Figueres, C. and Rivett‐Carnac, T., The Future We Choose, Bonnier, London, 2020.
26.3.1. s u b s u p [comment]
Oh darn, BookWyrm swallowed the < s u b > and < s u p > tags.
26.4. company insiders to write legislation
#auspol, corruption, fossil fuel industry
[…] Climate‐change‐denying federal politicians are often part of the ‘revolving door’ pattern of Australian politics, whereby individuals enter as lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry, go on to become government ministers, and then exit politics to become directors of fossil fuel companies.
Both major parties, and even independents, have used this ‘revolving door’. Labor’s Martin Ferguson was minister for resources and energy. A vigorous promoter of fossil fuels as minister, after leaving politics he went on to the board of oil and gas company the BG Group, and to chair the advisory board of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.
The Liberals’ Ian MacFarlane is an example from the other side of the house. He too was the resources and energy minister, and after retirement became CEO of fossil fuel lobby group the Queensland Resources Council. The Independent Clive Palmer was more brazen. He didn’t use the revolving door, but was simultaneously a senator and an owner of coal assets.
But the revolving door is not used only by politicians. Far more insidious, because it is hidden from public view, is the practice of advisors moving between companies, peak industry associations, ministerial staff and senior bureaucratic roles. At worst, this revolving door allows company insiders to write legislation in areas where they have (or will have) a vested interest.
⸻ pp. 40–41 of Chapter 2 ‘How Australian Government Policy is Making Things Worse’
27. [E] Mirrah FOULKES (director), Judy and Punch (2018), D.V.D. video
- Took notes circa August 2022.
28. [A] Masanobu FUKUOKA, translated from the Japanese by Larry KORN, The dragonfly will be the messiah (Penguin Books 2021)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
28.1. insects crossbreeding rice
After years of crossbreeding rice in my fields, however, I finally concluded that on a natural farm, people do not need to create new varieties by artificial crossbreeding at all, since the insects that most people consider as harmful were creating new varieties on their own.
In my rice fields, I noticed that after locusts and other insects had chewed round holes in the rice grains just as the heads were sprouting, slugs, snails, cutworms, and other creatures came along and crawled over the grains at night. They ate down to the stamens in the holes, after which windblown pollen from other varieties adhered and achieved fertilization. In other words, rice, which is said to be self‐pollinating, can also be pollinated by other plants, and in this way new varieties arise naturally.
⸻ pg. 33
28.2. why must people suffer so?
In the past, present, and future, the true disposition of nature is toward abundance for human beings and for all species. Therefore, the question should not be ‘Why are there too many people?’ but rather, ‘Who has created the scarcity into which they are born?’ And then, finally, ‘How can we heal the earth so it can support future generations?’ It is too simplistic to begin and end the conversation with a limited view of overpopulation. Better to ask: Why must people suffer so? And have we done all we can to alleviate the pain of the earth and the pain of the human race?
It is important to reflect on what has happened historically in regard to agriculture and medicine. We have seen huge advances in modern medicine, but there is little value in the advancement of medicine if the number of sick people continues to increase. It is the same with modern agriculture. How can we congratulate ourselves on the advances in modern agriculture, including greatly increased production, if the rate of starvation, scarcity, depletion, and disease increases even more rapidly?
⸻ pp. 40–41
28.3. pine forests in Japan
#forestry disaster and mismanagement, pollution
When natural scientists set up measures to counter desertification, they begin by investigating its causes and the apparent results. They conduct studies of the desert environment, the climate, the soil, and the ecology of the living organisms. Then they create a plan for reforestation. In other words, as with Western medicine, they devise a swift, localized treatment of the symptoms. But the causes they base their solutions upon are not the fundamental causes. Their countermeasures serve not to heal, but rather magnify the scope of the problem.
Let me talk for a moment about my own experiences with the pine forests in Japan.
⸻ pg. 58
Fukuoka goes on to describe the plight of these trees in the later decades of the twentieth century.
Pines were dying en masse. The Regional Office of Forestry responded by dousing forests with insecticide. The Office hoped to eliminate a particular species of beetle, which were reported to be infecting the pines with nematodes who would feed on fungi within the trunks until the nematodes were so numerous as to block the trees’ vascular systems, resulting in abrupt demise of the beetle‐afflicted pines.
However, Fukuoka’s research indicated that healthy pines were not nourishing enough for the nematodes to thrive within, and even when pathogenic fungi from the dying pines were introduced to the trunks of others, there was little health impact on the trees. Rather, pine physiology only became disrupted in the absence of matsutake. He hypothesised that acid rain was altering the soils, to the great detriment of matsutake for whom they had formed habitat, and that, deprived of their mycorrhizal partner, the pines lost such vigour they quickly succumbed to the onslaught of filamentous fungi who had hitched a ride to Japan on imported lumber.
‘The nematodes and beetles are not the original culprits. They are doing nothing more than clearing away the corpses of the dead and dying trees.’ he concludes ―
Of course […] there is room for error, but the point is, what the world sees as cause and effect can be deceptive. Although I speak of the cycle of cause and effect, no one really knows what is happening. Still, the Office of Forestry goes out and sprays insecticide all over the forests. Who knows what unforeseen and potentially more serious environmental disaster that may lead to?
⸻ pg. 61
29. [B] Gardening Australia August 2022
- Took notes circa August 2022.
29.1. [A] Jenny BALDWIN [EDITOR’S LETTER] ‘Welcome’
Editorial on page 3.
29.1.1. disarmed and alarmed
When given my first orchid plants last year, I was both disarmed and alarmed. There was a faint echo of that day you drive home with your first newborn in the backseat. “Are they really entrusting me to care for this living creature? So beautiful and so alien. Is there a manual?”
⸻ pg. 3
You can tell the overiding ethos of the magazine‐form Gardening Aus is not quite for me by the assumption that its readership carry their bubbas home in a whole entire car.
29.2. [B] AB BISHOP ‘Winter wow’
Article on pages 26–29.
29.2.1. hardenbergia with wattle
[…] hardenbergia contrasts beautifully here with yellow wattle […]
⸻ pg. 29
It does! Purples and yellows in a deep green nest, pea flowers and puff‐balls dotting a dance of stems and their foliage.
29.3. [A] Leonard CRONIN ‘Life in the canopy’
Article on pages 44–49.
29.3.1. see in the infrared
A scrub python, perhaps coiled in the frond of a luxuriant bird’s‐nest fern, lies in wait for warm‐blooded prey, which is detected by the snake’s uncanny ability to see in the infrared.
⸻ pp. 47–48
29.3.2. in exactly the right place
The mistletoebird is the principal seed disperser of Australian mistletoes, and it lives on little else. The berries have a laxative coating and pass through the bird’s digestive system in less than 25 minutes. To ensure their greatest chance of germination, the seeds have a sticky coat and stick to the bird’s tail feathers, encouraging the bird the rub itself on canopy branches to dislodge them. Complete with their own natural fertiliser, the seeds end up in exactly the right place for growth.
⸻ pg. 49
Ah, so that’s how the seeds get into (such a finicky) position!
I wonder how the mistletoebird’s digestion compares to similar birds whose staple foods don’t have as much of a laxative effect. Are they particularly good at getting nourished?
29.4. [A] Phil DUDMAN ‘Get your spring vegies going’
Article on pages 64–69.
29.4.1. take note of the percentage of seeds that sprouted
Got a packet of seeds that’s out of date? Before you toss them in the bin, try this simple test to determine whether there’s any life left. Sprinkle a sample of about 10 seeds onto some damp paper towel, fold the towel over, put it in a ziplock bag and place the sealed bag in a warm spot out of direct sun. Check on it regularly. Anything that is viable should germinate within two weeks or so. You can pot up the tiny seedlings if you like. Take note of the percentage of seeds that sprouted to give you an idea of how many you’ll need to sow to have enough plants.
⸻ pg. 65
Good god why would you toss exhausted seeds in the bin?! Even compost… I don’t know that I would.
Conducting an experiment separately to germinating the main first instalment of a crop sounds borderline excessive to me, but would be very useful if sowing on a huge scale or in very constraining circumstances.
29.4.2. incoming crops in the narrow spaces between the outgoing ones
If your beds are still packed with winter crops at planting time, you can plant some of your incoming crops in the narrow spaces between the outgoing ones. For example, pop in a few tomatoes between the cabbages (right), or perhaps slip in a row of celery seedlings between lettuces that are close to finishing. If you need to, remove some of the lower leaves on the older plants to create enough space and light for the new ones. Take care when you finally remove the older plants. Rather than pulling them out, give them a good twist or chop them off at ground level (far right) so you don’t disturb the roots of the new plants nearby.
⸻ pg. 66
Sound veg removal advice generally? Maybe seems most so because I am already predisposed to intercroppy attitudes.
29.5. [B] Phil DUDMAN ‘Protein from the patch’
Article on pages 70–73.
29.5.1. pick up some raw peanuts
Peanuts are fun to grow, too. In mid‐spring, pick up some raw peanuts from a health food store, and sow them into compost‐rich soil, 30cm apart and 5cm deep, with two seeds per hole (thin to one later). The plants are low and spreading, nd make an attractive leafy groundcover in the summer patch. Look out for the flowers. As they finish, they form a peg, which grows down into the soil where the pods and seeds develop underground. Months later, when the plants begin to yellow, the peanuts can be lifted and processed.
⸻ pg. 71
This does sound fun.
29.6. [B] AB BISHOP ‘Re‐pot a dwarf banksia’
Article on pages 78–79.
29.6.1. and relocated them
Gently remove some of the old potting mix and check for the presence of curl grubs. […] I found some in my pot (pictured, inset) and promptly removed and relocated them.
⸻ pg. 78
Nice and care‐full.
30. [A] Amitav GHOSH, The nutmeg’s curse: parables for a planet in crisis (London: John Murray 2021)
- Took notes circa April 2022.
30.1. mute resources metaphysical leap
#mechanistic philosophies and imperial violence
This was a radically new way of envisioning the Earth, as a “vast machine made of inert particles in ceaseless motion”. Even in Europe, the mechanistic vision of the world had only just begun to take shape, and that too, only among elites that were directly or indirectly involved in the two great European projects of the time: the conquest of the Americas and the trade in enslaved Africans. It was the rendering of humans into mute resources that enabled the metaphysical leap whereby the Earth and everything in it could also be reduced to inertness. In that sense men like Coen, Sonck, and their predecessors were not just colonists but also philosophers; it was their violence, directed at “natives” and the landscapes they inhabited, that laid the foundations of the mechanistic philosophies that would later be attributed to their contemporaries, like Descartes and Mandeville, Bacon and Boyle.
⸻ pg. 37
Regarding the Dutch East India Company’s take on the Banda archipelago.
The phrase “vast machine made of inert particles in ceaseless motion” is attributed to Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983), 226.
30.2. onslaught cooling
#European invasion of Americas decimating Indigenous population
That the planet went through a century and a half of cooling has long been known; this period, which was at its peak from the late sixteenth to the mid‑seventeenth century, is often referred to as the “Little Ice Age.” It is also well known that during this time there was a sudden drop in atmospheric carbon. But these anomalies are generally attributed to “natural” factors like variations in solar and seismic activity; it was long thought to be merely a coincidence that they occurred at a time when Europe was tightening its grip on North and South America. But recent research suggests another possibility: that the catastrophic decline in the population of the Americas that started with the European onslaught might have contributed in some degree to the drop in global mean temperatures that occurred in the Little Ice Age. So many Amerindians perished in the sixteenth and seventeenth century — estimates vary between 70 and 95 percent of the population of the two continents — that vast tracts of land that had once been used to grow food reverted to forest (which is why cities and temple complexes are still being discovered in the jungles of South and Central America). The hypothesis goes that the sudden burgeoning of greenery in the two continents created a reverse‐greenhouse effect, sequestering huge amounts of carbon dioxide and thus contributing to the fall in global mean temperatures.
⸻ pp. 52–53
30.3. invasion as structure
As Patrick Wolfe has observed, invasion was not an event but a structure.
⸻ pg. 69
Ghosh cites Wolfe’s “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native” from Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4 (2006): 387–409.
30.4. to which the whole creation
#genocide, ecocide, omnicide
> [a] far‐off divine event, > To which the whole creation moves.
This is Man’s final ascent, when all creation ends and he is united with God.
The violence contained in these ideas is almost beyond comprehension. Is it really possible, we can only wonder in disbelief, that the most prominent lyric poet of the Victorian age, envisioned the extinction of apes and tigers as a positive step towards Man’s evolution into a species that would be a “crowning race”?
What is puzzling about these ideas is that they are counter‐intuitive. Shouldn’t the theory of evolution, and the knowledge that humans are linked to other life‐forms by close ties of kinship, have created a sense of familial fellow feeling? Shouldn’t the discovery that all humans are descended from shared ancestors have created a sense of fraternal solidarity? While this did happen for some, for many others the idea of evolution did exactly the opposite: it reinforced a belief in the absolute exceptionalism and supremacy of one kind of human — White, Western Man. Evolution came to be seen as an inevitable process of elevating this “crowning race” over all other beings, human and nonhuman.
A belief in human exceptionalism is not by any means unusual. Premodern Christians, Muslims, and many others believed that Man was a species favored by God. Yet none of them ever embraced the idea that Man’s advancement should entail the wholesale eradication of other species, and indeed of most humans. Yet by the late nineteenth century these ideas were accepted as mere common sense by a great number of liberal, progressive Westerners. This was particularly true of the classes that happened also to hold the power to implement their beliefs and theories in the real world, through state policy.
It would be idle to deny that some of these ideas are still widely prevalent, and not just in the West. Underlying them is a conception of the world, and of historical time, that sees the Earth not as a nurturer or a life‐giver, but as a dead weight whose enveloping ties must be escaped if Man is to rise to a higher stage of being. It is a vision in which genocide and ecocide are seen to be not just inevitable, but instruments of a higher purpose. Indeed, this worldview goes much further than either ecocide or genocide: it envisions and welcomes the prospect of “omnicide”, the extermination of everything — people, animals, and the planet itself. The end of the world is seen, as Tennyson puts it, as the “far‐off event” that allows Man to realize his true self, as pure Spirit, disencumbered of all fleshly and earthly ties.
These ideas may appear deranged, but they continue to constitute a vital substrate of contemporary imaginaries […]
⸻ pp. 81–82
Pages 81–82, concluding an analysis of Tennyson’s 1849 poem ‘In Memoriam’.
30.5. kilowatts differing
[…] There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that capitalism and neoliberalism are powerful obstacles to an energy transition. But it is also clear to me that an exclusive focus on the economy can obscure certain obstacles to an energy transition that are harder to identify because they are not easily enumerable or quantifiable. In order to recognize these obstacles, it is necessary to step outside the framework in which fossil fuels are regarded as resources that are, in principle, similar to other resources that produce energy. In other words, it becomes necessary to identify the properties that make a kilowatt produced by fossil fuels different from the same quantity of energy generated by solar panels and windmills. For it isn’t only because they produce energy that fossil fuels have come to be established at the core of modern life: it is also because the energy they produce interacts with structures of power in ways that are specific to fossil fuels. In this lies their uncanny vitality.
⸻ pg. 101
30.6. liberatory potential of renewable energy for countries
#problems of fuel supply
The liberatory potential of renewable energy has a very important international dimension as well: if adopted at scale it could transform, indeed revolutionize, the current global order. No longer would countries have to be dependent on unpredictable petro‐states; no longer would they have to set aside huge portions of their annual budgets for oil payments; no longer would they have to worry about their energy supplies being disrupted by wars or revolutions in faraway countries; and, perhaps most importantly, no longer would they have to rely on superpowers to keep open the sea channels through which oil tankers must pass.
⸻ pg. 103
In 1970 the total volume of international seaborne trade was a little over 2,500 tons. By 2008 that figure had risen to 8·2 billion tons — a three‐million‐fold increase. In 1973 ships transported 4 million standardized containers; in 2010 that figure had risen to 560 million.
⸻ pg. 114
- File under: numbers to affirm immense senses of change to.
- Considering the increasingly formulaic setting of ports, that seems as though there could have been some surprisingly low proportions of cargo volumes within shipping containers. (As distinct from how much sea freight may have been in them at earlier stages of its manufacturing/disposal/etc cycles. It would be interesting to quantify containerisation in figures more overtly acknowledging the nested, repeat nature of much carriage these days.) But I daren’t look into it, because I hate to think how much may have been piles of raw materials or in tanks.
30.8. militarisation of civil society skills
#militarisation of humanitarian response and of migration; disaster capitalism; global warming
The list of climate‐related security threats is very long, partly because it includes many issues that would not, until recently, have been considered military matters at all. Dealing with migrants and refugees, for instance, was once squarely within the sphere of civilian governance. Today, whether in the waters around Australia, or in the Mediterranean, or along the US’s southern border, or on India’s border with Bangladesh, migration is largely in military and paramilitary hands.
Dealing with natural disasters was also once largely in the realm of civil society. There was a time, not so long ago, when the people who were first on the scene after earthquakes and cyclones were volunteers from charities, religious organizations, and relief groups, and of course civilian officials and police officers. It is only in the last couple of decades that military and paramilitary personnel have come to be thought of as “first responders”. This has advanced to the point where civilian volunteers are sometimes explicitly barred from entering disaster‐hit areas in the US, as happened after Hurricane Katrina.
Not only do such disasters provide a rationale for military intrusions into new spaces; they also supply a new humanitarian justification for military expansion in general. Military planners have even begun to co‐opt the language and tactics of social movements, for purposes of recruitment and in order to expand their policy reach.
It may seem natural today that military and paramilitary personnel should lead the response to disasters. But there is no intrinsic reason why this should be so: civil society organizations like Médecins sans Frontières, Oxfam, and many others have all the necessary skills to act as first responders. If they lack aircraft and ships, it is only because no international mechanisms exist for making such resources available to them. It is because of a political choice, then, that disasters are being militarized, a choice that derives ultimately from a wider process whereby many societies have become saturated with militarism.
That disaster relief is increasingly provided by organizations with massive carbon footprints is more than an irony: it creates a chain of consequences whereby disasters will accelerate disasters. It also ensures that disaster relief will itself become an arena for military competition. This dynamic was already on display in 2013, during the world’s response to Typhoon Haiyan, when more than two dozen countries sent military contingents to the Philippines. The largest military presence by far was the American: the US Navy deployed an aircraft carrier, a naval strike group, 66 aircraft, and some 13,400 personnel there. This is, no doubt, a forerunner of things to come, especially in the Indian Ocean basin, with its dense concentrations of population and its susceptibility to disasters.
⸻ pp. 127–129
Before we forget (militaries’ gratuitousness).
Of course there is no legitimate place here for police either! (Other organisations and civil state responses can all introduce detrimental dynamics themselves. But their provisions caaan be “for” the place/people in a radically different sense to the intrusion of these inherently possessive and controlling bodies).
Worth comparing with trends towards commercialisation of help, in extension of privatisation of infrastructure, and scandal in news currently re: contracts without tender bypassing established modes of health crisis response.
I am thinking specifically of, among other things, the following scene from Four Corners on Monday 2 May 2022, ‘Profiting from the pandemic’:
LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: A significant part of Aspen Medical's business is providing health care in the world's hotspots. It ran a field hospital in war-torn Iraq, and in Timor Leste its physicians saved the life of president Jose Ramos-Horta. The company's work has won plaudits, but also raised concerns about the ethics of so-called disaster capitalism. This tension surfaced in 2014 when Ebola struck Sierra Leone.
TIM COSTELLO, CEO, WORLD VISION 2003-2016: The Ebola outbreak was just terrifying, not just in West Africa, but for the whole world. It was spreading so fast. There was just panic. Such was the fear of the spreading, that the Australian government were prompted to respond.
LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: Under pressure … the then prime minister Tony Abbott selected Aspen Medical … to provide Australia's contribution to the crisis.
TONY ABBOTT: My anticipation will be that Aspen will have some staff on the ground in Sierra Leone within days.
LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: The Abbott government overlooked the existing, taxpayer-funded team of emergency physicians called AUSMAT, instead paying Aspen Medical $15 million to do the job.
TIM COSTELLO, CEO, WORLD VISION 2003-2016: AUSMAT is the premier medical humanitarian response body that Australia has. Trained, resourced, ready to go with a great track record. All of us assumed that AUSMAT would be deployed. When AUSMAT missed out to Aspen, which none of us had heard of at that time, we were scratching our heads. It was very puzzling to any of us working in this sector. There was no tender. Aspen just got it. That's what was so surprising.
LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: Former Greens leader, public health advisor Dr Richard Di Natale inspected Aspen's facilities in Sierra Leone and was impressed.
RICHARD DI NATALE, FORMER GREENS LEADER & PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISER: I attended the Aspen site. The protocols looked to be entirely appropriate. The infrastructure looked to be appropriate. What was surprising though, was that Aspen didn't have a long history of experience in serious outbreak investigations.
LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: Though never revealed publicly, Aspen Medical made a substantial profit on the job. It originally expected to make a margin of about 13 per cent. The company made twice that profit – more than 3.7 million dollars.
RICHARD DI NATALE, FORMER GREENS LEADER & PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISER: We've got to ask ourselves when it comes to an outbreak or a natural disaster, do we want the people there so they can make a buck or do we want them there so that they can help the community? We should ensure that if we are delivering an emergency response, our primary focus is on helping people and a profit motive shouldn't exist.
LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: In a statement, Aspen Medical said it is reasonable to expect commercial entities to make a profit on contracts.
TIM COSTELLO, CEO, WORLD VISION 2003-2016: I think for-profits have realised that a disaster, it's a bit like a gold strike. You go plant your flags, say, "We're here." I saw Aspen, on its website said, "We helped stop Ebola". This is hype from for-profits. It's hype.
Can keep in mind Ghosh’s assertion that “not only is the military itself a major driver of the economy; it forms the protective outer shell that allows capitalism to function.” (The Nutmeg’s Curse pg 124).
Though “designed to be self-sufficient once they reach a disaster zone”, note that each AUSMAT (Australian Medical Assistance Team) is “deploy[ed] rapidly with Australian Defence Force assistance” (National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, ‘AUSMAT’, 2022) — including to “the MV Solomon Trader oil spill in 2019” (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ‘Humanitarian policy and partnerships’, 2022). And if we accept the argument of militarisation being one of the biggest drivers of fossil fuel extraction…
Anyway, endnotes to the Ghosh passage above mention:
- François Gemenne, Jon Barnett, W. Neil Adger, and Geoffrey D. Dabelko, ‘Climate and Security: Evidence, Emerging Risks, and a New Agenda,’ Climatic Change 123 (2014): 1–9
- Solomon M. Hsiang and Marshall Burke, ‘Climate, Conflict, and Social Stability: What Does the Evidence Say?,’ Climatic Change 123 (2014): 39–55.
- Sanjay Chaturvedi and Timothy Doyle, Climate Terror: A Critical Geopolitics of Climate Change (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 148
- Kathy E. Ferguson, ‘The Sublime Object of Militarism,’ New Political Science 31, no. 4 (December 2009)
30.9. visibility within the circles that wield power
[…] those who are most attentive to environmental change are, more often than not, people who are at the margins, people whose relationships to the soil, or the forest, or the water are minimally mediated by technology. The farmer who is most likely to pay attention to a prolonged drought is one who cannot afford an electric pump or chemical inputs; the fisher who is most likely to observe changes in the marine environment is one who does not have sonar equipment to locate schools of fish; the woman who is most likely to notice rainfall deficits is one who does not have access to piped water and must walk to ever more distant wells. But such people are generally poor and do not have access to the networks through which information is disseminated; they are, in fact, located at the opposite end of the social spectrum from the majority of the world’s scientists and academics.
Experts are not at fault, of course, for the skewed way in which the world gathers information; they can hardly be held responsible for the social contexts in which they work. But it is nonetheless important to recognize that the reason our first messages about climate change came from scientists, rather than from marginal farmers, or women who fetch water, is not that scientists were the only people to notice what was under way; it was because scientists were more visible within the circles that wield power in the world. Sadly, they were themselves too much on the margins of those circles to be visible enough.
⸻ pp. 150–151
Particular types of technology, that is, though, isn’t it? Ghosh himself touches on the disjuncture between the predictions made by sophisticated technologies of Indigenous knowledge (systems of animals’ title over sites, oral calendars, and so on) and the world’s shifting embodiment as having been key to tipping off various peoples to climate change.
Whose “expert[ise]” is being denied? Why no responsibility? Whose precisely are “our first messages”, that they came so abstracted, when most of us live daily with the earth? And further, by that we, were these the first received or the first to be perceived, or even so late as first catalogued?
31. [A] Amitav GHOSH, Uncanny and improbable events (Penguin Books 2021)
- Took notes circa March 2022.
32. [B] Julia GILLARD & Ngozi OKONJO‐IWEALA, Women and leadership: real lives, real lessons (Penguin Random House Australia Audio 2020), audiobook download
- Took notes circa May 2022.
33. [B] Stéphanie DI GIUSTO (director) The Dancer (Les Productions du Tresor, Wild Bunch, Orange Studio, Les Films du Fleuve and Sirena Film 2016), D.V.D. video
“Freely adapted from ‘Loïe Fuller, danseuse de la Belle Epoque’ written by Giovanni Lista”.
34. Priyamvada GOPAL, Insurgent empire: anticolonial resistance and British dissent (London and New York: Verso 2020)
- Took notes circa Q3 2022.
34.1. all societies and cultures have radical and liberationist currents
But is it anachronistic to subject the Empire to searching criticism? This book is in part a response to that question and in part a very different take on the history of the British Empire to what is generally available in the British public sphere. In academia, a retrograde strain of making the so‐called case for colonialism is now resurgent. As a scholar whose previous work had been on dissident writing in the Indian subcontinent as it transitioned to independence, I was aware that all societies and cultures have radical and liberationist currents woven into their social fabric as well as people who spoke up against what was being done in their name: why would Britain in the centuries of imperial rule be an exception? At the same time, I also wanted to probe the tenacious mythology that ideas of ‘freedom’ are uniquely British in conception and that independence itself was a British ‘gift’ to the colonies along with the railways and the English language. The result is a study which looks at the relationship between British critics of empire and the great movements of resistance to British rule which emerged across colonial contexts. The case against colonialism, it will be seen, was made repeatedly over the last couple of centuries and it emerged through an understanding of resistance to empire.
⸻ pp. viii–ix
In ‘Acknowledgements’, which are unusually, refreshingly narrative.
34.2. ostensibly, conquering in order to free
Both abolition and decolonization — twin outcomes of Britain’s expansionary colonial project over three centuries — are all too frequently regarded as deriving chiefly from the campaigning consciences of white British reformers or as the logical outcome of the liberal and liberalizing project that empire ostensibly always was, conquering in order to free.
⸻ pg. 3
34.3. decolonizing the logic of modernity
[Walter] Mignolo is right to suggest that ‘emancipation’, as it was figured in European liberal discourse, is different from ‘liberation’ as it is conceived of in ‘decolonial’ discourse[…] At the same time, a disproportionate emphasis on radically different ‘categories of thought’ obscures the extent to which many ‘liberation’ struggles were committed to universalism — and not only because they were part of the dominant language or the colonizer’s categories of thought. Indeed, rather than offer sutured, self‐contained alternatives to the idea of universal freedom, resistance often deliberately showed up the colonizer’s version of universalism to be anything but universal. Universals had to be embodied through experience and resistance, not refused as ‘European’. This often entailed working with the ‘logic of modernity’, decolonizing rather than repudiating it, teasing out its revolutionary promises.
⸻ pg. 26
Late in a killer, long paragraph, through which Gopal disputes assertions of Walter D. Mignolo, ‘Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De‐coloniality’, Cultural Studies 21:2 (2007), p. 453.
34.4. never in and of itself marginal
Dissent from regnant ideologies and discourses is, of course, never in and of itself marginal; it emerges as (often, constitutively) marginal/ized/ discourse that must articulate itself against the grain of the dominant.
⸻ pg. 31
35. [D] Laurent GOUNELLE L’homme qui voulait être heureux (Paris, Pocket 2010)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
35.1. les trous partout gâchent tout
#la dévaluation des vies racisées, l’écrasement des piétons
Quant au langage, ce petit roman (ou cet essai trop long) était facile à lire, presque complètement confortable pour quelqu’un comme moi. C'est à dire que j’aurais pu le lire avec n’importe combien d’emploi d’un dictionnaire me convenait, dès si si si beaucoup pour mieux comprendre, à absolument aucun du tout pour réfléchir sans interruption. (Et voilà, tellement plus de grammaire m’amuse que je peux bien reproduire) !
Alors, en ce qui a concerné l'histoire et les messages du livre ? Encore confortable ? Euh… pas exactement. Les idées n’étaient que (quelquefois) utiles. Mais utiles pour qui ?
Évidemment, Gounelle essayait de faire quelque chose de didactique. Le texte était plein de dialogues, un peu socratiques, entre un guérisseur balinais et un professeur occidental, cependant l’écrivain manquait la précision dont on a besoin dans ce genre‐là, comme philosophe. J’estime qu’il la manquât aussi comme psychothérapeute (et caetera), mais quoi sais‐je ?
Déjà agaçant (selon moi), Gounelle exerçait la licence du genre du fiction pour échapper le besoin de la preuve et ce de la citation des sources.
Néanmoins ces dialogues — entre lesquels l’auteur a monté quelques petites leçons demonstratives et également médiocrement‐conçues‐mais‐assez‐bien‐écrites, qui se passait autour de l’île — étaient trop simples, en présentant la philosophie elle‐même du livre d’une manière assez arrogante et cruelle. Le prof et son conte souvent si succulent de voyage cultivaient ce que m’a semblé de temps en temps en temps l’air raciste. Et de plus, même les classes dèsquelles la grande sagesse est censée à être crue favorisaient l’habitude du bavardage misogyne !
Alors, retournons à la route… sans trop du soin, car renverser un groupe des gens qui croient en réincarnation : eh bien, tant pis, hien ? En effet, le mec que nous suivons s'amuse beaucoup en en pensant. Le plus éclairé qu’il devient, le pire il (se?) conduit (ses pensées?) (sa voiture louée?) en général.
Au restes, à la fin, des mystères divers restent jusqu’à la fin, et toujours après. Par exemple, comment comprend le narrateur français ses voisins hollondais quand le couple se parle dans l’intimité, en croyant probablement que lui leur voisin n’est pas là ? Es‐ce que tous ces touristes parlent toujours en anglais (comme son guérisseur), ou qu’il parle l’hollondaise, ou… en tout cas, pourquoi ? C’est un peu bizarre. Tout est toujours trop commode.
36. [C] Phil GRABSKY (director), Matisse: from MoMA and Tate Modern (2014), D.V.D. video
- Took notes circa May 2022.
37. [B] Grass roots: sustainability and self‐reliance no matter where you are! 271 (Jun/Jul 2022)
- Took notes circa September 2022.
37.1. [B] Luke ARMSTRONG ‘The Peaks Cheese’
Article on pages 10–11.
37.1.1. cheese factory inside a shipping container
Eventually we leased the front of a property in Myrtleford, and decided to build our cheese factory inside a shipping container so that we actually owned the premises[…]
The whole factory is inside a 12m shipping container. It’s tight but it’s set up for just one person and even includes a couple of different maturation rooms. Being an ex‐freezer, it is well insulated, with different temperatures and humidities and air controls in different rooms to create different environments for the various styles of cheese that we make.
⸻ pg. 11
If you will excuse me: cool.
37.2. [C] Pam THODAY ‘Setting up the pantry’
Article on pages 26–28.
37.2.1. the whole bag plus a little extra
The size of containers relates to how much you store, which is based on how much you use regularly. Try to base the choice of canister on accommodating the ‘whole bag’ plus a little extra. In this way, you can restock when the container is nearly empty.
⸻ pg. 26
Cogent and smart and all, but the truth in my experience is that the size of containers relates to the availability of containers and if it is unsuited then tough!
By the by the by, my bibliographic key for this article is
thoday2022:setting_up_pantry, which is so bringing up baby it pleases.
37.3. [A] Malcolm HAINES ‘Mixing it up’
Article on pages 30–31.
37.3.1. mix of root patterns
By planting a mix of species, you can utilise different growth patterns and nutrient needs. You can even extend this thinking below ground and establish a mix of root patterns and depths to maximise soil moisture and nutrient use.
⸻ pg. 30
I have edged down this route in pots due to sheer lack of, well, pots (another classic case of containers), but hello now it is sounding extremely exciting.
37.4. [A] Megg MILLER ‘Ranging fowls’
Article on pages 33–34.
37.4.1. fowls enjoy some structure
Like us, fowls enjoy some structure to their day. They need to fit in some exploratory activities, like walking and foraging, some comfort behaviours that include preening, dust bathing and resting, a visit to the nestbox to lay, and some serious eating, the first session in the morning and the second late afternoon.
⸻ pg. 33
To their day, as to their habitat: “it’s been found that fowls will settle for built structures if there are no shrubs or trees, and their preferred type are low horizontal structures, such as steel posts covered with shadecloth. Haybales have been found useful in a pinch.” (ibid.) But I mean really, give them their jungle.
37.5. [E] Isabelle & Georgiana SEABROOK ‘Guinea pigs’
On pages 46–47.
37.5.1. lonely if kept as a single
#isolated social animals
It is generally suggested that you should keep two guinea pigs so they don’t get lonely. Well, that depends. If you have a child who is at home still and spends a lot of time with the parent or caregiver, then, in our opinion, a piggie will not get lonely if kept as a single because it will be handled twice a day at least.
⸻ pg. 46
Twice a day!?
Of infinitely greater relevance is the guinea pigs’ opinions!
Surprise, surprise, the article is a fuzzywuzzily‐bordered horror vignette.
37.5.2. not scientifically proven
[…] piggies are notoriously difficult to sex, and often, in our experience, even the local vet clinic will get it wrong, resulting in the rapid multiplication of your cute furry potatoes. However, we include our own hand‐drawn sketch for our method of checking the gender. A very distinct ‘Y’ shape will tell you that you have a female.
Please be advised that this is not a scientifically proven technique and no results are guaranteed.
⸻ pg. 46
Sometimes the cissexists expouse, for an instant, from right there within themselves, greater wisdom and insight into matters of gender‐sex than they recognise.
37.6. [B] Megg MILLER ‘Growing seed we need’
Article on pages 54–55.
37.6.1. nearly every family‐owned packet seed company in Australia
‘Most of my land was high conservation forest and was covenanted so I advertised in an organic newsletter for someone to work with who might have suitable land. One beef farmer replied to the article, and we set to trialling a range of vegetables on a small half‐acre patch. The farmer that replied did not have much faith in the results of these trials, so he did only minimal weeding and limited watering. When it came time to harvest and sell the seed he was so surprised at the return he offered to put in seven acres the following year. After several years we had expanded to over 20 acres and we were selling seeds to nearly every family‐owned packet seed company in Australia.’
⸻ pg. 54
Miller’s quoting Peter Coxhead, who went on to run Rangeview Seeds throughout the 2010s to present.
37.6.2. you get the seed bug
‘[…] I would love to have a buyer who would allow me to consult from time to time because once you get the seed bug, it stays with you for life’, Peter said.
⸻ pg. 55
37.7. [D] GR TEAM ‘Single use plastic options’
Article on pages 56–57.
37.7.1. Chun Lau, young spaniel
This is a lusty little piece on the exploits of some entrepreneurs: Chun Lau of Cassava Bags Australia; and Jordy and Julia Kay of Great Wrap.
The spread is boldly illustrated. Atop the cassava section shine a cluster of photos of bag‐type products, including a sack held into frame by somebody’s arm, and a dense little roll sharing a painted timber chair with a puppy‐dog. Facing are wrap shots: product covering dishes on a table set, and being tossed into the air inside a warehouse.
Two young bleachy figures in short, pristine his‐and‐hers workwear feature in the warehouse photograph — plausibly Jordy and Julia Kay. But where is the equivalent portrait of our more/moderately informative interviewee, Chun Lau?
I like to assume there in the smart young spanielly model, resplendant in a factory‐appropriate–bow‐tie—like stubby‐bone–shaped, jewel‐red (though at this distance illegible) nametag.
To do so somewhat softens the (corporate)Amazon‐spectre undergirding at least half the dual‐ad.
37.8. [B] Ian GASKING ‘Rakes, reels & handy tips’
Article on pages 58–59.
37.8.1. compatible with the welding process
If you are paying to have welding done on any object, you can save money and time by grinding or filing off galvanised or zinc surfaces yourself to bare steel as these are not compatible with the welding process.
⸻ pg. 59
37.9. [A] Angela FRY ‘Strip grazing cattle’
Article on pages 60–62.
37.9.1. a systematic way of grazing the grass down hard
It has been interesting watching the system, which has involved dividing our small paddocks into areas of ‘strip grazing’ by the use of an electric tape and pigtail droppers. This is a systematic way of grazing the grass down hard, to ensure really good regrowth occurs, with minimal chance of weeds becoming established.
With strip grazing, prior to putting the cattle in the paddock, the paddock is divided off into strips which are opened up one day at a time. The first strip to be used has the cattle trough in it so the cattle can always access water. The next day the first tape is taken down and the cattle have access to the next strip, but can return across the previous day’s eaten own grass to reach the water trough. Ahead of the cattle is also spread haylage, for additional nourishment and to entice them to keep moving.
This daily contact with the cattle means they are familiar and confident with ther owner, and will follow verbal commands when needed to move them from one paddock to another, and also when they are redy to walk out the gate and be moved along the road to return to their own farm.
⸻ pg. 61
The author’s neighbours are borrowing parts of farm.
37.10. [A] David MURRAY ‘Bean seed shortages’
Article on page 63.
37.10.1. the hilum for Madagascar
In mid‐2020 I obtained authentic Madgascar Lima bean seeds from Fair Dinkum Seeds in Queensland, run by Leigh John Nankervis. Most such offerings are not Madagascar, but Christmas Lima. The difference lies in the colour of the seedcoat surrounding the hilum (the scar of attachment): for Madagascar this is entirely purple (Fig. 1), but for the Christmas Lima, it is mostly white.
⸻ pg. 63
Pretty pretty seeds, documented minutiae and all.
37.11. [D] Suni MILLER ‘Down home on the farm’
Column on pages 76–77.
37.11.1. activates her compost pile
I enjoyed going to a composting workshop recently, and picked up some good tips. Helena, the composter, shared that she regularly activates her compost pile with homemade preparations. It could be the dregs of a bottle of wine, old jam, pickle juice, a tablespoon of molasses, or anything else containing beneficials, but well watered down. It keeps the compost moist and speeds the process. She also recommended using the worm castings from the bottom of the worm farm by mixing them with water and watering the soil, a far more effective method than my trying to dig handfuls into the vegie bed as castings are so fine an clumpy they dry like rocks.
⸻ pg. 77
38. [C] Green 78 (2021)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
38.1. Tamsin O’NEILL ‘Editorial’
Editorial on page 8.
38.1.1. conflict in publishing about overconsumption
There is an element of conflict in publishing a magazine when we feel so strongly about the detrimental effects of overconsumption.
⸻ pg. 8
38.2. Zoe DELEUIL ‘Drift’
Article on pages 42–48.
38.2.1. Mudurup, or place of whiting
To its Traditional Owners the area is known as Mudurup, or place of whiting, and frequented through the Noongar seasons of birok and burnoru, or December to March, for spear fishing in the clear turquoise waters.
⸻ pg. 45
The article is on a house that Deleuil also describes as being in Cottesloe, Perth.
38.3. Karen SUTHERLAND ‘Permaculture Tips’
Regular column on page 67.
38.3.1. the go‐to book
Get yourself a copy of the Seed Savers’ Handbook, the go‐to book for Australian conditions.
⸻ pg. 67
Follow‐up dated September 2022: Had trouble finding this Seed savers’ handbook with certainty, given such scant defining detail in Sutherland’s column and the book’s self‐published provenance (still using the one ancient ISBN four editions in, and all), but eventually found both a letter to editor from one of the authors and a classifieds ad, crossreferenced together in Grass Roots 271. Had I not been the few months an incommunicado isoceles triangle, we probably could’ve narrowed it down quicker with a short asking ’round.
39. [B] Green 82 (2021)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
39.1. Karen SUTHERLAND ‘Permaculture Tips’
Regular column on page 69.
39.1.1. after your legume seeds
After your legume seeds have dried on the vine, don’t leave them too long for hungry mice to eye off. On a dry day, pick them and put them into a paper bag, sitting it in a cool, airy place indoors for a few days. As soon as they are dry, remove them from the pods and put them into a recycled plastic bottle or similar, and pop them into the freezer for around 48 hours to kill off any weevils. The seeds can be left in the freezer if you have space or kept in sealed jars in a cool cupboard for up to four years for broad beans and three years for the pea family.
⸻ pg. 69
39.1.2. Atriplex nummularia
[…] it’s best to eat the larger leaf forms if you can find it, as the larger leaves are softer and more palatable. These can occur naturally, so if you’re wandering through an outback propert you may find plants with larger leaves growing alongside those with smaller, tougher leaves. If you’re buying a plant for your kitchen garden, look for larger‐leaf varieties such as de Kock. It has leaves up to 10 centimetres across, selected to be more palatable for livestock but also the best choice for humans! Old man saltbush […] can be kept to about a metre high with regular pruning. New growth tips can be nibbled on for their antiviral qualities, and larg leaves can be torn and added to salads for a salty flavour. Handfuls of leaves can be added to slow‐cooked dishes for some saltiness, and large leaves can be deep fried to make chips, crisped on pizzas, or added to sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables.
⸻ pg. 69
40. [B] Green 86 (2022)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
40.1. [D] ‘Upfront’
Regular section on pages 10–20.
Snippet titled ‘Gentle touch’ on pages 18–19:
40.1.1. to exhibit surface‐mounted copper conduits
Modern, luxurious elements have been added without swamping the historic fabric of the cottage, such as built‐in beds that keep the walls free to exhibit surface‐mounted copper conduits that facilitate wall‐mounted lamps.
⸻ pg 19
Reno by Matthew Crawford Architects of the Warders Cottages (built in 1851), in Walyalup. The conduits course along together and then decisively they part as though a metro map’s been folded out across the interior surfaces; dorky and captivating. Those burnished tones! The dappled gleam!
40.2. [D] Phoebe COUYANT ‘Richly layered’
Article on pages 22–27.
40.2.1. flowering plumes illuminate beneath the gnarly and sinuous moonah
The flowering plumes of Nico (Plectranthus ambiguous) illuminate the planting beneath the gnarly and sinuous branches of the mature moonah (Melaleuca lanceolata).
⸻ pg 26
Caption to a stunning swathe of plant community pictured on page 27, and somehow related to the garden design work of Fiona Brockhoff, without resembling (the rest of?) her aesthetic at all!! Photographed by Earl Carter.
40.3. [A] Karen SUTHERLAND ‘Permaculture Tips’
Regular column on page 69.
40.3.1. pour this strong brew into a freshly drawn hot bath
The tea water needs to be freshly boiled to draw the herbs out effectively, so find a big four to six cup teapot, and fill it with some of your favourite fresh or dried herbs, after crushing them […] to release their goodness. Add the boiling water to the teapot of herbs and allow to draw for three to five minutes as you would for other teas, then pour this strong brew into a freshly drawn hot bath. Add epsom or magnesium salts for muscle relaxation. […] old herbalists sometimes administered treatments through foot baths.
⸻ pg. 69
40.3.2. run your hand along long branches
To harvest, run your hand along long branches of the plant to dislodge the fruits into a bowl, as suggested to me by a friend.
⸻ pg. 69
Picking the little red berry specks of Chenopodium nutans.
40.4. [B] Ellie KEFT ‘Remaking the land’
Article on pages 72–78.
40.4.1. consulting the ‘experts’ hasn’t always allowed for nuance
Rather than cling to dogma though, [environmentalist farmers Louise Freckelton and David Bray’s] approach was highly intuitive and led by their personal ethics. Terms and frameworks […] were meticulously studied, tested, and then applied only where it made sense for their land, and their mission. And their mission? To heal their land by revegetating paddocks, restoring native pastures, increasing biodiversity, sequestering carbon and raising healthy and happy animals, all in striving to do their part tackling the climate and biodiversity crises.
“For us ‘regenerative farming’ is necessary but not sufficient, for instance, you can graze regeneratively and still have massive food miles on your product. You can graze regeneratively and still not use pain relief when removing tails or castrating,” said Louise.
Consulting the ‘experts’ hasn’t always allowed for nuance — they were once told by an agronomist to destroy their endangered ecological carex sedgelands because “your sheep won’t eat it”. Or, to cut down their ancient eucalypts to “do your zones properly” by a permaculture expert.
⸻ pg 77
(Though note that these two are on Wiradjuri land; so dubious choice of continent for grazing sheep and cattle).
41. [D] Green 87 (2022)
- Took notes circa February 2023.
41.1. [B] Penny CRASWELL ‘Futures Past’
Article on pages 22–26.
41.1.1. we’ve come to the end of resources
For [set dresser turned furniture restorer Britta de Laat], this switch from a wasteful industry to a profession that values existing objects was an important ideological shift. “As a society, we’ve lived for 20‐plus years in a big illusion that we have endless materials, and now we are swamped with super cheap products, including fast furniture and fast homewares,” she says. “But we’ve come to the end of resources, prices are going up and we cannot afford to be that wasteful. While a lot of people have been preaching about it, it’s starting to hit the end‐users now.”
⸻ pg. 23
41.2. [C] Wilko DOEHRING ‘What I like about you’
Regular feature on page 98.
41.2.1. the house ducks into the flora
The house ducks into the native indigenous flora and seeks a context between interior and exterior by using large glass windows with extensive eaves[…]
[…] By applying simple yet effective modernist design principles to today’s designs, lessons can be learned from these forward‐thinking ideas for new buildings: […] a cohesive materiality and design language between rooms makes a modest house feel larger[…]
⸻ pg. 98
I am a little bit obsessed with vast glazed doors and staunch, deep eaves at the moment, and enjoyed how Doehring wrote a house into a duck.
This issue’s guest column is on a 1952 residence designed by Charles Albert Bricknell, blended into that particular strain of mid century modernism that remains clustered in Beaumaris, on Boon Wurrung Country. Doehring links limited material supply of the period with today’s bottlenecks of trades labour and exploding exhaustion of sheer stuff (though invokes both as mere “shortages”; nonsense: it’s been a case rather of construction and demolition wastage1, as it sounds the columnist could at least slightly agree), suggesting mid century modern principles can serve in concert with friendlier energy sources and improved insulative expertise to design and retain “great sustainable homes” now.
The notion that these Beaumaris architects’ abodes are or were “modest”, however, sits a bit silly. Complements nearby articles declaring that renos and gargantuan extensions turn the likes of old workers’ cottages into homes. My dudes, they were homes to start, and long continue, with. If anything you’ve destroyed a whole bunch under your incessant deckings and terraces. Sorry, what’s that, the Bricknell’s got its own swimming pool?
42. [D] The Guardian Weekly (26 Aug 2022)
- Took notes circa Jan/Feb 2023.
42.1. [A] Beejay SILCOX ‘Loss leader’
Review on pages 58–59.
42.1.1. sociopolitical trauma made flesh
[Namwali] Serpell’s prize‐winning first novel, The Old Drift, was a rowdy epic — one of those gloriously overstuffed, state‐of‐the‐nation debuts that can be forgiven its narrative sins because it’s so abundantly smart. [… it] was a collision of magical realism, Afrofuturism and postcolonial picaresque.
There are no talking mosquitoes in Serpell’s new book […] Where The Old Drift sparked comparisons to Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith, The Furrows feels more akin to Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, or Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise: a modern parable, or sociopolitical trauma made flesh.
⸻ pg. 58
Four for the library list, eh!
(And for that matter if Silcox has had anything longer form published, going by this review, more still!)
42.1.2. terrific destabliser
Serpell is a terrific destabiliser, even at sentence level. A room echoes with the “curbed bedlam” of sitcom laughter; commuters ignore each other in the “slotted indifference” of a train carriage.
⸻ pg. 59
Firmly reviewing just The Furrows again.
43. [E] Jonathan HAIDT, The righteous mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion (London: Penguin Books 2013)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
43.1. parochial figure figures all parochial
It sounds a worthy idea, doesn’t it? In a volatile society, to draw on findings that promise to help ordinary people to coexist? If your idea of credible scientific methodology is for researchers to codify their own prejudices and then strive to promulgate and prove the resulting slapdash hypotheses through prematurely declared Theories and in unintentionally but laughably rigged experiments (rather than to test through attempts at disproving), the writing of Jonathan Haidt may be for you!!
Like Simon Baron‐Cohen is for him! “I do not want to suggest that utilitarianism and Kantian deontology are incorrect as moral theories just because they were founded by men who may have had Asperger’s syndrome,” writes Haidt, after invoking the spectre of Those Insensitive Autistics totally out of the blue for no other apparent reason, and while continuing to diligently lay out precisely the argument on which he claims not to want you to think he is relying (across pages 136–141, all‐inclusive). Presumably the key word was “just”, but it’s pulled tenuously thin by the masses of import that he makes it bear here.
Consistently full of a love to snap pathologise and shove aside whatever minds and whatever ethics to which Haidt personally has not come to relate, this book about humanity regularly betrays an intellectually fatal hypocrisy. Haidt is only at pains to insist that dedicated conservatism among voters (particularly within the United States of America) must not be considered misguided or malevolent. Policies of liberalism, he cautions, often undermine their own aims. Conservatives, he asserts, have a more sophisticated, complete grasp of human morality.
For instance, both ends of a left‐right spectrum dislike harm. We know this because chucking a tantie over not quite getting to possess everything you possibly can, is fundamentally equivalent to being upset about folks refusing necessities to anybody denied their society’s established survival tokens. This example also demonstrates that everybody values this other one same irreducible thing we all call fairness: the perniciously disadvantaged do not work nearly as hard as the hypercushioned, hence proportionate punishment and reward; every body is equal, hence uniform entitlement to all protections.
(Haidt may employ different phrasing, but the tenor of the logic remains. Does this parade of absurdity encourage people to take each other more seriously?)
But right‐wingers attend quantifiably more comprehensively to The conveniently prepackaged, shrinkwrapped foundations of morality — here’s some he prepared earlier! — which all things U.S.A. left neglect. By way of demonstration, we can presuppose what preachers of contrasting Christian denominations talk about (at page 188). Liberals wouldn’t be invoking concepts of sanctity more through words like “peace” than firey Baptists; they would just outright care less for the sacred.
It is immensely disheartening to read as over and over Haidt endorses dictionary‐definition rigidity, saucer‐shallow readings, and the misappropriation of mathematics to the most simplistic of measures in order to determine that an assumption aligns with itself. As though this supplants the work of genuine philosophical enquiry, literary analysis, theological examination, political study, or, heaven forbid, interview.
For most of its length, The righteous mind tries very hard to obfuscate its author’s political sympathies. Despite my criticisms, amicability and a kind of hopeful thoughtfulness do shine through Haidt’s words much of the time, but the caution can come off a touch manipulative. Haidt lowers his ineffectual guard in stages, where confident that reactive, partisan readers will have been pacified by his deliberate progression through dopey self‐help metaphors and naïve, self‐defeating anecdotes.
Finally, he pretends to legislative insight. Examples of where three partisan traditions ought to follow their opponents are given, along with a vague blessing of a Moral Science.
So take freely of such edicts as a libertarian moment (from pages 353 through 356), in which we (presumed Americans all, now) are asked to imagine a can of peas attracting a vertiginous price, after the fashion of basic medical needs in the U.S. Wouldn’t it be a preposterous burden, he steams, for “all of us [to be] paying” a 25% tax on income to cover a complete food insurance system! That getting even remotely adequate nutrition for such small portions of their money is currently impossible for many Americans does not, in this moment, occur to him. Indeed, he selectively forgets the notion of externalised costs and quite possibly has no clue whatsoever about, say, food deserts. That the wealth and ready thrift of those whose 25 percents constitute higher dollar figures has been subsidised by the actively imposed starvation of masses of unwaged, disenfranchised, and enslaved people across nonstop hundreds of years, just maybe affecting consumer and corporate expectations? No, no, the limited‐access cheap canned pea economy has all been effortlessly “arranged for [humanity’s] benefit”. Somehow he decides that the allegory of the grocery store has comprehensively destroyed the legitimacy of health insurance and not implicated the profit motive. “Success in the supermarket and insurance industries depend[ing] primarily on maximizing [businesses’ financial] yield” in a linear trajectory is cast as some kind of inevitable, innocent bystander, a byproduct very nearly implied to be specific to social security. Haidt redeclares Adam Smith’s invisible hand “miraculous”. By that standard, so’s poliomyelitis, but, look, me, personally, I don’t invite any old gobsmacking function to (a share in a platform of) ideological supremacy.
And to be fair, Haidt is doggedly against fundamentalism — at least as he interprets it. Unless that fundamentalism is rooted in the ultracompetitive killing field of evolutionary psychology.
Footnote to last para: Which is what it sounds like going off Haidt’s presentation of the contemporary literature.
44. [D] Tom HEAP, 39 ways to save the planet: real world solutions to climate change — and the people making them happen (London: Witness Books 2021)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
44.1. grazing animals could help preserve the permafrost
[Thick snow] literally is a blanket of snow. But grazers such as reindeer, Siberian horses and musk ox squash the snow underfoot and push it aside to reach the vegetation: transforming a thick white duvet into a threadbare sheet and the ground cools more thoroughly as a result. From work in the Pleistocene Park, Nikita Zimov and colleagues have shown that average soil temperature is more than 2°C lower where you have grazing animals versus where you do not. In the winter, 25 cm below the surface, it is 15°C cooler. Marc Macias‐Fauria says, ‘In the coldest part of the winter there is a much deeper freeze when you have a bunch of grazing animals trampling the snow. This could help preserve the permafrost for decades.’
⸻ pp. 66–67, ‘A Mammoth Task’
Not a lot of info provided by Heap on this Pleistocene Park or on the people caring for it, sadly.
44.2. rhizome like an underground tree trunk
Bamboo canes, what you see above ground, are just a branch from the rhizome (like an underground tree trunk) and, when cut, new shoots quickly emerge to take their place […]
⸻ pg. 76, ‘Bountiful Bamboo’
Surely this tree trunk analogy would be fairly common, yet I do not remember others using it.
45. bell HOOKS, All about love: new visions (William Morrow 2001)
- Took notes in September 2022.
45.1. abandoning reading
At arm’s length plus a leant‐back neck or so, wide outdoors in a definite breeze, this copy of All about love was cooking in such perfume I did not make it far into the roman numerals, even; to only xv thereof.
46. Phil JAMISON, Hoedowns, reels, and frolics: roots and branches of southern Appalachian dance (University of Illinois Press 2015)
46.1. get going again
get gg gen (TKPWET TKPW-G TKPWEPB)
I keep getting surprisingly sucked in on sampling small portions of a chapter, tearing myself away, forgetting my place, and repeating the cycle months later. Time to give Phil Jamison’s history another, more concerted go?
47. [C] Simon JIMENEZ, The vanished birds (New York: Del Rey 2020)
- Took notes circa December 2022.
47.1. with arms spread open under the mirror’s band of fluorescent lights
At the behest of her mother, Fumiko showered. Once her allotted ten minutes were up, the timer clicked, and the water guttered out. When she stepped out of the stall, she did not dry herself as she normally did, working the towel from ankle to head; instead, she draped the towel onto the floor, and stood on top of it, with arms spread open under the mirror’s band of fluorescent lights. She let the water drip off her body one bead at a time, until her mother rapped on the door and asked what was taking so long. She hurried the towel over herself and dressed for dinner.
⸻ pg. 67
In imitation of a pelican viewed earlier in the day at a kind of bird sanctuary.
47.2. enlivened by its position
[…] It is almost enough to curb my excitement for arrival completely.
Almost. Apart from the captain, none of us have ever traveled outside Allied Space. This is our first opportunity to see how the fringe‐dwellers lived with visions unclouded by company bias. During the boy’s lessons, I told him what I knew of Drannon, & what I imagined it might be like — cultural nexus enlivened by its position so near the Allied border, a waypoint through which travelers pass, multiple histories accumulating on a single world, a single city, building on one another to create forms both new & beautiful; a human coral reef. Was happy to see that the boy took so well to my vision & that, like me, he was compelled by mystery, the anticipation of discovery. Wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he has as much difficulty sleeping tonight as I no doubt will!
Ahro was awake most nights.
Because of the bad dreams.
Because of many things.
⸻ pg. 178
I mean, Jimenez is good at structuring his storytelling, especially these transitions in perspective.
And the Sabon typeface’s italic ampersands are to die for.
He sat in the copilot’s chair and placed the large headset over his ears. He listened to the Pocket as its strange materials rushed past the hull sensors of the Debby. The spackle‐frack. The white noise filling his mind like water, drowning out the worries and the bad dreams, until he was heavy against the chair, and lulled back to sleep. To a place where there was no symphony and no broken bones, only soft whispers and finger snaps. The rich void over which he was suspended. And there he stayed, until the fingers slowed their snapping, and the lips shut mid‐whisper, and it was quiet again as the ship emerged from the Pocket, dripping from the fold.
⸻ pg. 179
Unfortunate that terming this action “snaps” of the fingers evokes precisely that breaking of bones it ought to be a soft contrast to. I would’ve reworded the bones part, I think. Unless this was deliberate toying; already, “symphony” sounds fairly innocuous out of context.
47.4. sung not with the mouth but the body
He got better with practice. In the icy drifts he stripped, and jumped, and learned that passage to safe worlds, breathable worlds — worlds that wouldn’t rip him apart once he had quit the jump — was identifiable if he listened to the tone of its music. it wasn’t music, not as he once understood the term; it was more the music’s marrow, the stuff that would pour from a song’s cracked bone; a rhythmic current; a melody sung not with the mouth but the body. His body sang past the stars, and dropped into a forest glade, dappled in sunlight. Some floral creature sped away at his sudden approach. The delirium once experienced during his first few jumps was lessened, now a dull ache that soon subsided. He grinned, and leapt back up the line that left the forest glade, warping to the other side of the planet, onto a rock promontory that overlooked a large valley whittled down by a silvery lake at the bottom. He pointed up at the highest ridge he could see a ridge that narrowed out to a thin point in the green‐tea sky. Now he wanted to see how exact he could make his jump. But his jump was still being tamed, still inexact in its landings, and his stomach gulped as he missed the ridge by a good foot, and fell at a dead drop so swift he had no air left to scream, the hard ground spinning toward him, sure he was dead before the ancient instinct woke and carried him up the currents, up into the sky, away from death, falling back into the purple crop fields. From there, back to the snowy drifts, barefoot but standing upright. And then his legs gave out.
⸻ pp. 269–270
cargo ships; physics, dance
47.5. time clipped
A woman. A woman on a bench by the pier, with a spoon of curry in her mouth. That was it; a simple, unadorned dream that she was woken from when the alarm went off by her bed, and she remembered that it was the year 3320, that it was Tuesday, and she was in her private research base named Stopwatch. She had taken a nap before the welcome dinner, which was to be held in the amphitheater. The fact that this place had an amphitheater was surprising to her. She supposed it was a construction unauthorized by her, as she couldn’t fathom its use in a research facility. As she bathed and dressed for the second time that day, she thought about the woman in her dream, tried to remember the particulars of her, but the details eluded her; a blond haze in her memory, a haze without a name.
“Purple eyes,” she whispered as she clipped the last button on her dinner jacket. “She had purple eyes.”
She smiled, unsure why this detail pleased her.
There was a knock on her door, and then time clipped, and a glass flute that bubbled with sparkling wine toasted hers, the sound of the toast ringing clear across the amphitheater. The low rumble of a hundred conversations died out as the man who knew her raised his glass in toast to Fumiko Nakajima. “For affording us this place of study, for providing us this opportunity to research unchained from the strict, business‐driven demands of Allied‐Umbai Incorporate, we thank you. To Fumiko!”
A sea of glasses glinted under the bright, clockwork chandelier. It was when the room broke into song, wishing her a happy birthday, that Fumiko remembered she was seventy years old. No. Seventy‐one. In the wall‐length mirror to her right she observed herself. Her artificial youth, purchased by Umbai. She ran her finger down the smooth skin of her arm, the muscles that were revived and rewound to a younger version upon each awakening. Seventy‐one years old, this body was. Seventy‐two would not be far. She was always celebrating birthdays. A long, unending string of birthdays.
⸻ pp. 283–284
I love the notion of “Clipped time.” — mentioned only once prior, thus, on page 282 — and its fleeting, taken‐for‐granted reference amidst langurously lurching prose.
47.6. the Bottleneck
They called it the Bottleneck. They had but one Acquisition, which could service only one ship at a time. From ship authorization to the jump itself and then the post‐confirmation, one service job took three to five seconds. As more planets and fleets signed contracts with Umbai, and more ships became FT‐capable, the daily authorization queue reached into the hundreds of thousands, inflating the time between request and jump into tens of hours, sometimes days. The Feed swelled with complaints concerning the absurd wait times. Jump schedules were coordinated in advance by weeks. Some unlucky bussers jumped only once a month, which meant ticket prices rose to combat the scarcity of flights. Umbai continued its steadfast optimization of the process, shaving fractions of seconds off the authorization loop. And to satisfy their investors, the company established the Preferential Hour; a one‐hour “fast lane” during the Station Standard Day, when jump access was restricted to corpro‐government ships and any civilians willing to pay the substantial admission fee, the ships able to come and go as they pleased; a law that, transparent to all, was meant to aid the noble fleets, and few others.
For Umbai, these were good problems to have. Their coffers were lined with iotas made from the distribution of the [Fast Travel] chips, the toll tax, the Preferential Hours, and the loyalty contracts of neutral galactic powers. Profits jumped by exponents. City Planets multiplied. Each newly installed chip, each jump, like a nerve peeled fresh from Acquisition’s back.
⸻ pp. 358–359
“FT”: “fast travel”
47.7. demanded new places to go
[Umbai] were in the process of creating the New Tourism industry. The people demanded new places to go. And so the Resource Worlds once isolated to protect the harvested commodities were opened up for public consumption.
⸻ pp. 367–368
47.8. his memory of these first visitors would evaporate
The governor’s son was young enough that he would one day forget the strangeness of these new quantities. In time he would no longer remember the unease as the tourists walked the roads of their village, looking at everything, his home, as if in wonder at how anyone could live like this. Nor would he remember his anger when one of them was offered a bowl of unsweetened, unworked dhuba, and after thumbing a taste, spat it on the ground, making a sour face as his friends laughed at him; or the embarassed joy when one of them crouched in front of him and asked him with a kind smile what his name was. One day, his memory of these first visitors would evaporate, and he would believe that they had always been there; that of course they wuold march through the stalks, disturbing the soil, to ask one of the startled farmers if they could try a swing of her machete. That was what they did.
⸻ pg. 369
48. [B] Micaiah JOHNSON, The space between worlds (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2020)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
48.1. structurally and emotionally accomplished
I had wanted something to read where I did not feel obligated or compelled to take notes, but then there were so many phrases buttressing the plot worth noting down, that I quickly ran out of bookmarks — even despite abandoning a majority of Johnson’s sharpest constructions to the depths of pages read. So, by a third in, I guessed that regardless of how I was to find this novel in any other respects, The space between worlds was at least a four star piece for revisitability. The word‐to‐word texture remained more prosaic than I fully take to in fiction, but there is much to appreciate in what Johnson has built, and how.
49. [C] George M. JOHNSON, All boys aren’t blue (Penguin Random House Children’s UK 2021), audiobook download
- Took notes circa June 2022.
49.1. spoilt by middle
Really great from the get‐go, but sagging several chapters in. The blithe affluence becomes grating, especially as Johnson repeatedly presents the showering of children with trendy consumer goods, televisions, video game consoles, amusement‐park– and hotel–filled vacations, resented summer camps, ongoing sports team expenses, college costs, and other eye‐popping luxuries as the epitome of Black familial love. Lauding a sibling for not being awful, and raiding private moments from the life of a deceased transfeminine cousin — after somewhat shunning her in life, forcing her to be refigured as inspiration porn for publication — complete the spoiling of a memoir that is otherwise imbued with transformative potential well beyond the bland story it relates.
49.2. one immense sigh
[one immense sigh]
⸻ Track 7 ‘Chapter 5: Honest Abe lied to me’, 06:56–06:59
Regarding a Thanksgiving poster hung in Johnson’s school.
49.3. and dancing to her
Although I couldn’t wait to escape New Jersey, her album gave me the opportunity to escape in my mind. I would sit in my car by myself and blast her. Every song spoke to me. Her femininity was everything that I was feeling inside of me. She was just so sassy, and sexy, and powerful. I wanted to be her. Well, not really be her, but I would daydream about her. I wanted to be me, in Virginia, and dancing to her. I wanted to be me dancing to her.
⸻ Track 17 ‘Chapter 13: Setting myself free, or setting myself up’, 07:04–07:34
On listening to Beyoncé’s first solo album while yearning to be gay away at college.
50. [A] David JONES & Barbara JONES, Native plants of Melbourne and adjoining areas: a field guide (Hawthorn, Victoria: Bloomings Books 1999)
- Took notes circa Q2 2023.
50.1. through no fault of their own
We have included some species which are now rare or uncommon through no fault of their own.
⸻ pg. iv
in Preface on page iv
50.2. destruction and relicts
#destruction of ecosystems
[…] Even in the last 30 years we have witnessed the destruction of the fabulous wildflower gardens that proliferated on the red sandy areas to the east of Frankston. […]
In other areas significant samples of the vegetation remain in relict patches and reserves. This is certainly the case in some of the outer eastern suburbs and the Dandenong Ranges, although certainly the changes in these areas have been massive. Of strategic significance has been the loss of ‘hot spots’, those priceless parcels of land, often small, which supported tremendous local diversity, including an abundance of showy flowering shrubs, forbs, and large numbers of orchids. Were’s paddock, Greensborough, was one such site with which we were familiar, as also was the land adjacent to the railway station in Boronia, the railway reserve between Heathmont and Bayswater, the land around the Eltham football ground, and numerous patches of bush in Reynolds Rd, Donvale and Tindals Rd, Park Orchards.
Orchids are a special love of ours and on numerous occasions we have noted the close relationship that exists between an abundance of these special plants and a general health and diversity of the flora at a particular site. Thus in our lifetime we have seen the disappearance of numerous orchid‐rich patches of bush in such suburbs as Bayswater, Beaumaris, Berwick, Boronia, Braeside, Croydon, Deer Park, Diamond Creek, Donvale, Eltham, Ferntree Gully, Frankston, Greensborough, Heathmont, Langwarrin, Lysterfield, Mitcham, Ringwood, Rye, Scoresby, Seaford, Templestowe, The Basin, Warrandyte and others. Even Beckett Park, in the well‐established Melbourne suburb of Balwyn, contained five species of orchids in the early 1950s, as well as a host of other herbs and forbs.
⸻ pp. vi–vii
D & B Jones had been living in Melbourne from the mid 1960s to late 1990s, when they wrote this guide.
I have been really compelled by their tendency towards the word “relict”, since I started reading their book last night. Half‐pondering what it can even mean, in a period of mass extinction and such vigorously disturbed circumstances for so comprehensive a cross‐section of those remaining, in an almost “aren’t we all!” kind of way. Which does not seem to me to be a very helpful or even necessarily meaningful position in which to leave the thought —an arrangement readable from an anthropocentric angle to be a plain “humans are, in many settings, a relict species” statement— but that’s where distraction left it for the moment.
50.3. by attaching
Parasitic plant which forms large clumps of pendulous, fleshy stems on the larger branches of eucalypts and wattles. The stems, which are densely covered with yellowish‐green leaves, to 20 cm × 2 cm, carry drooping clusters of reddish, tubular flowers (some of which are stalkless), which have narrow spreading to recurved segments.
Cultivation By attaching seeds to a suitable branch.
⸻ pg. 17
This entry on Amyema pendulum made such sudden sense of many mildly confusing foliage encounters, and its last line is wonderfully helpful/unhelpful. I love it.
50.4. resembles a duck
Each reddish‐brown flower has the narrow segments recurved or swept back and the lip, which resembles a duck’s head complete with a broad beak, sits atop a thick springy band.
⸻ pg. 51
It’s kind of true what they say about Caleana major, as evidenced in several photographs of these orchids in the VICFLORA database.
50.5. bookmarked portrait @ page 53
I bookmarked facing pages 52–53 for taking a note on Callistemon sieberi or Callitris glaucophylla, but I am no longer sure which part in particular is why. Distribution? Rabbits? Woodiness of fruit? The glorious impression of a mature pair of C. glaucophylla holding court from their rural portrait?
50.6. widely distributed by Chinese diggers
A fast‐growing species which was apparently widely distributed on the goldfields by Chinese diggers.
⸻ pg. 60
Cassinia arcuata, everyone!
The flowerheads, in “long, drooping clusters of shiny brown” look at least as intensely familiar as the association of a curry scent with a similar binomial, but Bun’s plant was much denser than the Jones photo depicts.
However, it was very frequently‐pruned, and I have a sense of growth reaching upwards in something like the manner of a trimmed magnolia branch. More research needed, then.
50.7. pollinated by male thynnine wasps
[Chiloglottis reflexa flowers] are pollinated by male thynnine wasps which attempt to mate with the lip.
⸻ pg. 63
I would like to know who thynnine wasps are, please.
[Chiloglottis valida] is pollinated in a similar way to C. reflexa, but by a different species of wasp.
⸻ pg. 64
By the by.
50.8. feathery seed‐heads
[Clematis microphylla flowers] are borne in small clusters. On female plants these are followed by greyish clusters of feathery seed‐heads.
⸻ pg. 68
For looking out for in the latter half of
Also, I should plant some more?
50.9. themselves to form bushy clumps
[Comesperma volubile stems are] sometimes twisting around themselves to form bushy clumps.
⸻ pg. 70
Ooh. I wonder how to encourage that.
50.10. leafless terrestrial, cultivation impossible
Leafless terrestrial orchid with a thick subterranean rhizome […]
Cultivation Impossible to grow.
⸻ pg. 117
This is pallid brown Gastrodia sesamoides, flowering around bushfire season in the hills and eastern suburbs, smelling of spice, standing up to half a metre above the ground!
50.11. delicately hinged
The lip is delicately hinged and trembles in the slightest breeze.
⸻ pg. 119
A warm round of applause, please, for Genoplesium morrisii!
Aside: the photo on facing page 118 of G. despectans, with ruddy purple flowers genuflecting from their blue‐green spike against a hazy mauve and blue background, is an eye‐catcher. And it’s nice to be stuck.
51. [D] Hayley KATZEN, Untethered: a memoir (Sydney: Ventura Press 2020)
- Took notes circa January 2022.
An impressive degree of focus held through the text.
52. [A] Robin Wall KIMMERER, Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants (London: Penguin Books 2020)
- Took notes circa February/March 2022.
52.1. if people believed the earth loves
I sat once in a graduate writing workshop on relationships to the land. The students all demonstrated a deep respect and affection for nature. They said that nature was the place where they experienced the greatest sense of belonging and well‐being. They professed without reservation that they loved the earth. And then I asked them, “Do you think that the earth loves you back?” No one was willing to answer that. It was as if I had brought a two‐headed porcupine into the class‐room. Unexpected. Prickly. They backed slowly away. Here was a room full of writers, passionately wallowing in unrequited love of nature.
So I made it hypothetical and asked, “What do you suppose would happen if people believed this crazy notion that the earth loved them back?” The floodgates opened. They all wanted to talk at once. We were suddenly off the deep end, heading for world peace and perfect harmony.
⸻ pg. 124
52.2. sense place nutured supported understand know knows
I once knew and loved a man who lived most of his life in the city, but when he was dragged off to the ocean or the woods he seemed to enjoy it well enough — as long as he could find an Internet connection. He had lived in a lot of places, so I asked him where he found his greatest sense of place. He didn’t understand the expression. I explained that I wanted to know where he felt most nurtured and supported. What is the place that you understand best? That you know best and knows you in return?
He didn’t take long to answer. “My car,” he said. “In my car. It provides me with everything I need, in just the way I like it. My favorite music. Seat position fully adjustable. Automatic mirrors. Two cup holders. I’m safe. And it always takes me where I want to go.” Years later, he tried to kill himself. In his car.
⸻ pg. 125
53. [B] Robin Wall KIMMERER, Gathering moss: a natural and cultural history of mosses (Allen Lane 2021)
- Took notes circa April 2022.
53.1. landscape intimacy
Just at the limits of ordinary perception lies another level in the hierarchy of beauty, of leaves as tiny and perfectly ordered as a snowflake, of unseen lives complex and beautiful. All it takes is attention and knowing how to look. I’ve found mosses to be a vehicle for intimacy with the landscape, like a secret knowledge of the forest. This book is an invitation into that landscape.
Three decades after my first look at mosses, I almost always have my hand lens around my neck. Its cord tangles with the leather thong of my medicine bag, in metaphor and in reality.
⸻ pp. ix–x
“Another level in the hierarchy of beauty” really steps you down there, hey?
54. [D] Landscape architecture Australia 175: Matters of Time (August 2022)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
54.1. [C] Emily WONG ‘Perspective: Making time for reflection’
Editorial on page 6.
54.1.1. time passes at different rates for different people in different locations
Over the past two years, we’ve had a strange relationship with time. During and since the pandemic, the idea that time passes at different rates for different people in different locations has never been more apparent.
We hope this issue of the magazine offers a space away from the hectic pace of the studio to consider how we might incorporate time more explicity in our practices.
⸻ pg 6
Pandemic’s not over.
Okay, so very much an industry circular.
This magazine is replete with often terrible writing on what ought to be fascinating subjects. The problem might be specific to this issue, as it is guest edited (by Daniel Jan Martin and Liam Mouritz, neither of whom necessarily have experience in publishing or knack and time for the curation of writing generally).
54.2. [A] Daniel Jan MARTIN & Liam MOURITZ ‘An issue on time’
Guest editorial on page 10.
54.2.1. for landscapes to emerge and exist according to their own rhythms
[…] How can Indigenous understandings of deep time and values of Country serve as a foundation for landscape architecture practice? […] How can community and culture drive rewilding efforts in inner‐city sites and across vast Australian geographies? […] How can we revalue spontaneous urban nature and ancient landscapes? And how can we leave space for the future — for landscapes to emerge and exist according to their own rhythms?
⸻ pg 10
54.2.2. how can we operate as landscape architects when our work finishes the moment a landscape begins to emerge?
We explore how landscape practice might need to shift, in terms of the work we do, the contracts that govern our projects and the clients we work for. How can we operate as landscape architects when our work finishes the moment a landscape begins to emerge?
⸻ pg 10
54.3. [A] Kaylie SALVATORI ‘Look to the Skies, think like an Ancestor’
Article on pages 12–15.
54.3.1. if experience of flow is decoupled from the tangible
Through the compartmentalization of time, Western civilization and all of us colonized Indigenous kin are trapped in short cycles of entropy — yet seeking unlimited growth that privileges the present over the forever. How are we to fulfil our obligation as humns to ensure that life continues if our experience of the flow of time is decoupled from the tangible expressions we witness in space, the environment around us? How are we to sustain everything if time and change is based on the ticking clock, or perhaps worse, the virtual world?
⸻ pg 13
54.3.2. thousands of years of observational data‐gathering
Stories about change in the landscape — and how we changed with it — are some of the oldest stories we have. Stories colonizers initially dismissed as myth speak of flooded shorelines and valleys, of rising sea levels and changing climates and celestial phenomena that took thousands of years of observational data‐gathering to formulate into lore.
⸻ pg 13
54.3.3. the waters, plants, air, wind, earth and animals also read
[…] time is, above all, guided by our celestial movement through space around our sun and its own movement through the universe. These patterns in the skies give us cues to be read which the waters, plants, air, wind, earth and animals also read; they kindly send cues back to us as well.
⸻ pg 14
54.3.4. continuity for intergenerational equity
In designing for continuity, we ensure that we are designing for intergenerational equity
⸻ pg 15
54.4. [B] Daniel Jan MARTIN ‘Ancient landscapes, remnant landscapes’
Article on pages 16–19.
54.4.1. Mandoorn (Yule Brook)
[…] We are on Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar, the Country of the Whadjuk Noongar people. […] At our feet, a thick crust of land is smudged by fungi and water, soaking and drying likea sponge, a microcosm of the tapestries of streams and wetlands across the whole of this Boodjar (Country). We see scratchings of kwindas (southern brown bandicoots), native bees stuck to braided drosera beneath an old‐growth shrubland. Against the sun, the ngoolark’s (Carnaby’s black cockatoo’s) screech and flicker, perching to feed on mundjit (Banksia menziesii). The Kartamoarnda (the black hills or Darling Scarp) press down upon this landscape and feed it with water[…]
Mandoorn (Yule Brook) flows from the edge of the Kartamoarnda at Jerban (Lesmurdie Falls) to the Dyarlgarro (Canning River) where it flows into the Derbarl Yerrigan Bilya (Swan River) and the ocean.
⸻ pg 17
What a wonderful wealth of Language (assuming sound sources?), but how clumsy is this style of presentation!
Later come “Koi Kyenunu‐ruff (the Stirling Ranges)” and “the near‐threatened chuditch (western quoll)”, both on the same stuffed page as the above, though with some fluidity into their respective sentences. Frustratingly, the aerial photographs and maps of the Mandoorn area are labelled in a haphazard, English‐dominated mash. These were supplied by the author himself!
I would suggest:
- Don’t bother italicising the first paragraph. Print it slightly bigger or use a dividing line (perhaps a sprig of local sedge or the course of the brook!) before the main article begins, if visual distinction is desired. This will make it easier for people to read the letters, words, and phrases.
- Ditch the English parentheticals! The writer’s voice is poetic and cogent enough for the distinct atmosphere to come through even of words with which readers may be unfamiliar. That poetry will sing all the clearer once freed of interruptions. Maybe tweak a few lines to reduce ambiguity: something like “scratchings of kwindas around native bees stuck to braided drosera”, and maybe “The ancient, rocky Kartamoarnda press down upon this landscape”, then, suppose, “Down the flank of the Kartamoarnda, Jerban [drips/tumbles/whatever the motion] into Mandoorn, which stretches to the Dyarlgarro, [then on into / itself a tributary of] the vast Derbarl Yerrigan Bilya opening onto the ocean.” but perhaps choosing words that can pack scientific enrichment into the limited wordcount.
- Label the illustrations in‐Language, limiting colonial names only to isolated, last resort (“Kenwick Station”, “The future Regional Park”)
- Display a vocab list! This is a glossy magazine sporting academic endnotes; it can afford a cute glossary. Yes, yes you’d have to reprioritise and rearrange the layout, but many of the images are shrunk too vague as is. It would even be worth considering allocating a fifth page to the article, if you wished to retain the littler diagrams (and to ever actually let them be legible). A glossary also allows the mental space to acknowledge that translation cannot produce precise equivalence.
- Perhaps render the glossed words in a gentle boldface, wherever they appear in the main article. This gives readers the confidence that a word is worth looking up, that there will be a definition listed.
54.4.2. “biodiversity hotspots” a condemnation
The South West of Western Australia is one of 36 internationally‐recognised biodiversity hotspots. Often expressed as an accolade, a hotspot is in fact a condemnation. The classification is given where globally significant biodiversiy is in escalating conflict with human impacts.
⸻ pg 17
54.4.3. ecological communities dependent on layers of water flowing laterally
Much of the business‐as‐usual development in Perth has shown us that a hard and violent edge is set to develop between Mandoorn and the urban area […] Mandoorn sits on intricate layers of clay and sand, forming a fragile hydroplain that connects to the deep aquifer system beneath the city. Many of the ecological communities here are dependent on these layers of water flowing laterally on clays from the permeable rural areas nearby.
⸻ pg 17
54.4.4. degraded areas critical to environmental function
The ecosystem paradigms developed by ecologists Richard Hobbs, Lauren Hallett, Eric Higgs and others are helpful here. They refer to many “natures”: a gradient from high‐fidelity ecosystems, through restored, hybrid, novel and constructed ecosystems. These types currently form a gradient across Mandoorn. […] Typical for novel ecosystems, [the modified and hybrid edges of Mandoorn’s high‐fidelity core] have been designated as “completely degraded” and hence, developable. Here, as in many places, these degraded areas are critical to environmental function, they are home to many species, they provide a buffer and catchment […]
Conserving this gradient of “natures” raises rich landscape potentials. Within an expanded buffer zone, there are opportunities for restoration, opportunities for designed and contructed ecosystems — for parks, play areas, nurseries, farmers markets — uses which support Mandoorn and knit into the urban environment and blue‐green matrix of the city.
⸻ pg 17
Endnotes, before which I’d been uncertain whether this article was particularly connected (or about?) the Beeliar wetlands!:
- Hans Lambers (ed.) A Jewel in the Crown of a Global Biodiversity Hotspot, Kwongan Foundation, Perth, 2019
- The Beeliar Group of Professors for Environmental Responsibility, “A vision for conservation and public enjoyment of the Greater Brixton Street Wetlands and an eventual Yule Brook Regional Park,” The Beeliar Group website, 2018, https://thebeeliargroup.com/our-statements/ (accessed 2 June 2022)
- See various chapters in Richard Hobbs, Eric Higgs and Carol Hall (eds.) Novel ecosystems : intervening in the new ecological world order, John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, 2013
- The author thanks Sandra Harben for the many yarns about place and time as part of this work and research on Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar. The author also thanks The Beeliar Group, in particular Hans Lambers and Andrea Gaynor, for their contributions to this project.
⸻ pg 18
54.5. [D] Catherin BULL ‘An unfolding landscape: South Bank’
Article on pages 20–24.
54.5.1. broader precincts are delivered and managed over much longer periods
Designers tend to think in terms of typical project time frames of perhaps three to six years. But broader precincts are delivered and managed over much longer periods, and to be effective, designers need to understand the way change operates in these environments — not only in planning, strategy and construction, but in governance and management. If, as design professionals, we are well‐versed in ecology and sustainability, then we will already understand change over the course of natural life cycles and consider this in our practice. But are we equipped to contribute what landscapes need in such diverse and intensively managed settings across whole lifetimes? When the inevitable removal or reconfiguration of use is required in response to changing circumstances, do we understand how to respond by making lasting contributions to site quality?
⸻ pp 21–22
This was a fairly dry‐corporate article taking the site of Meanjin’s South Bank (on Turrbal and Yuggera Country), since Expo 88, as a case study (with some reference to the neighbouring Cultural Precinct and Gardens Point as well). Aerial photos from the Queensland State Archives and the South Bank Corporation gave helpful demonstration of dramatic changes (especially in the visibly hectic period between 1986 and 1992).
54.6. [C] Alice FORD ‘Centring ecological regeneration: APACE’
Article on pages 26–30.
54.6.1. street‐length corridors for suburban wildlife
Verges are often overlooked as pieces of landscape in our suburbs. Challenging this, APACE started the Native Verge Initiative Scheme in the late 1990s. Beginning with four councils, over 13 have been involved in the scheme over the past 15 years. During COVID‐19, over 50,000 plants were provided to suburban residents from APACE using a click‐and‐collect system. Promoted by each council participating in the scheme, the idea aims to use endemic species from the allotted suburb to create interconnected verges, stitching together new street‐length corridors for suburban wildlife. Volunteers and staff have also planted seeds all along the APACE boundary that connect the site’s official boundaries back towards the Bilya. Framed by eucalypts, casuarinas and melaleucas, the land hosts tawny frogmouth owls and bobtail lizards among other species that have now returned to the site. The planting on the property’s front verge continues this strategy of connection, stretching out from behind the front fences towards neighbourning gardens.
⸻ pp. 28–29
Yes! Nature strips are such an immense opportunity!
APACE, possibly standing for “Appropriate Community and Education”, is an environmentalist institution in “North Fremantle” (is that still Walyalup?), on a bank of the Bilya, Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar.
54.7. [C] Scott HAWKEN ‘Outback ecologies: Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden’
Article on pages 32–36.
54.7.1. botanic theme park
Plans for a proposed garden were drawn up in 1986, in the Arid Lands Botanic Park, Port August: Masterplan and Management Plan report produced by the engineering and project management firm Kinhill Stearns for the South Australian Department of Agriculture. This first proposal, however, was rather theme‐park‐like, featuring arid landscapes from other parts of the world, and was not in tune with the limited resources and funding available.
⸻ pg. 34
What does a theme‐park–like botanic garden in the desert involve (or what would it’ve), I wonder?
The actual Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens (AALBG) look lovely, and peaceful.
They are on Barngarla Country.
54.8. [C] Martí Franch Batllori, interviewed by Alex BREEDON and Liam MOURITZ ‘Lo‐fi landscapes: Estudi Martí Franch’
Interview on pages 38–42.
54.8.1. we started in remote natural areas and villages
Martí Franch Batllori In Catalonia, the architectural profession is very dominant and there hasn’t been a strong tradition of landscape architecture, particularly in regard to the design of public space. When I established the practice [Estudi Martí Franch] in 1999, it was very difficult to find work in cities, so we started in remote natural areas and villages, essentially because no other design practices were claiming this territory. The first thing you face in these places is that you have almost no money or resources. This influenced our mode of practice as we matured to focus on slow and resourceful work.
⸻ pg. 39
54.8.2. green infrastructure at the scale of a small town
The intention [of the Girona’s Shores project] was to turn space‐keeping resources into space‐making resources. Inspired by Gilles Clément’s pioneering “garden in movement” projects, we began to work towards creating green infrastructure at the scale of a small town.
⸻ pg. 39
The cool (in my view) green space urban planning adajacent kids keep bringing up Gilles Clément, so I guess I’d someday better get myself looking up.
Also MFB did his PhD at RMIT, and then got funding through the Marie Curie!
54.8.3. discovering public open space at the “shores” of Girona
We also invited cultural event programmers to use the space, to encourage people to visit this fringe part of the city. The best event is a land art festival, held since 2018, where many of the sculptures are placed within Girona Shores. Previously, we had engaged with Girona’s Federation of Citizens Association to develop a path system that would connect 23 neighbourhoods without going into the centre of the city. Because this is a research project, we really tried a whole bunch of initiatives to get this project to come alive.
During the COVID‐19 lockdowns last year, the project really came to life as people were forced to explore what was in their immediate one‐kilometre surrounds. In this sense, the city of Girona has become bigger, purely because people have been using and discovering public open space around them at the “shores” of the city.
⸻ pg. 40
54.8.4. flexiblity requires new contractual forms
[…] to give ourselves the flexibility to adapt to changes as they happen. This requires new contractual forms.
⸻ pg. 42
54.9. [D] Matthew GANDY, interviewed by Julian RAXWORTHY ‘Notes from the margins’
Interview on pages 44–48.
54.9.1. laying stony substrates that might encourage certain plants to flourish
[Julian Raxworthy] ⸺ Do you think that Berlin’s history gives it spaces and an approach to the city [that] allows [conditions of marginal nature] to exist? That [it is the city’s] history that has opened up those spaces?
[Matthew Gandy] ⸺ Yes, that’s absolutely true. There’s a particular history to these anomalous spaces [that has been] produced by wartime destruction, geopolitical separation, economic change, and so on. But one thing that’s quite distinctive in Berlin, which really strikes me, is recent developments in park design, where elements of the unusual and marginal have been woven into new park design, either in terms of retaining fragments of these marginal landscapes or creating similar conditions, like laying stony substrates that might encourage certain plants to flourish. This kind of aesthetic and ecological continuity built into the public realm is fascinating.
⸻ pg. 47
(Non–speaker‐naming) square brackets in the magazine itself.
54.9.2. temporality’s aesthetics and ecology in design
There’s something very interesting about temporalities and urban ecology. Going back to the late sixties, early seventies, artists like Hans Haacke were experimenting with small patches of earth and watching what was happening, [seeing] how spaces trasformed without obvious human intervention. [In such experiments] there is this sense of uncertainty and there’s a chance element, maybe the bird’s feet. The complicated thing in a design sense is how to communicate to a public audience that nothing remains the same [and] that things are in a constant state of change, so the wasteland full of flowers [for instance] is not going to stay that way forever. If you want a site to stay the same, there has to be some kind of strategic intervention, which does take place in some cases — or if we leave it alone completely, there will be a wild urban woodland within 10 to 20 years, something very different. This sense of temporality’s aesthetics and ecology — and bringing these things together in a design context is a big challenge, I think.
⸻ pg. 48
Square brackets in the magazine itself.
54.10. [B] Adrian MARSHALL ‘Slow growth: Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton’
Article on pages 50–55.
54.10.1. locals proposed a botanic garden
The story of [Shepparton’s] botanic gardens begins back when Jeff Kennett was premier of Victoria (1992–1999). Greater Shepparton City Council was selling a large landscaped block as part of the state’s asset divestment drive. Opposing the sale, locals proposed a botanic garden. The eventual sale of the land strengthened this botanic gardens advocacy group and one member, Jenny Houlihan, ran four council, was elected in 2005, became mayor two weeks later and for six years argued for the creation of a botanic garden. When she finally got the numbers on the council, the CEO took her out to Shepparton Tip.
Shepparton Tip had been a towering and obscene pile of God knows what, dressed occasionally with excavated soil, rising higher and higher over a period of fifteen years until the Environment Protection Authority finally shut it down. By the time of Houlihan’s first visit, the council had completed the remediation of the site and the mound had been capped. But cut‐up by mountain bikers, hit with ongoing dumping, and located on a floodplain mudscape, the site was far from pretty. What it did constitute, though, was 22·6 hectares on the Goulburn River, located just near the waterway’s confluence with the Broken River and right on Shepparton’s southern edge. There were eight hectares of remnant bush, and it was the only council land available of sufficient size.
⸻ pg. 51
Yeah thanks again Jeff. They could have had two gardens!
But hooray Houlihan tenacity in local politics and success.
Shep is of course on Yorta Yorta Country.
54.10.2. rare banksia of now‐lost sandhills
The first plantings for the site went in before the completion of any masterplan, at the highest point of the mound[…] Because of the capping, no trees were planted.
A masterplan followed, focused on the mound, now renamed Honeysuckle Rise after a rare banksia of the now‐lost sandhills of the region.
⸻ pg. 52
I mean, heaps of (interesting!) work went in between closing the tip and completing a gardens’ masterplan; don’t let my quote snipping fool you.
Anyway, more Local Tragic.
54.10.3. benches like liquorice all‐sorts
One of the great strengths of the gardens is the use of recycled materials. Jenny Houlihan deluged the Spiire’s design team with photos from the council depot. Broken footpaths and kerbs have been assembled into platforms and steps. Carefully graded bricks have been built up into benches, like liquorice all‐sorts. Old Dethridge wheels, an Australian invention vita for irrigation, were repurposed into planters carrying the honeysuckle and the Pittosporum angustifolium of the sand hills.
⸻ pg. 52
And so on!
54.10.4. Weaving Garden
The […] Weaving Garden, also by [local landscape designer Louise Costa], has its origins in workshops with weavers from local Indigenous organisation Kaiela Arts, and the planters that Costa’s husband, Les Pelle, fabricated for the project bear representations of plants traditionally used by the Yorta Yorta people for weaving. The overall site has grown incrementally over time and space, with careful advice, small steps and considered moves bringing threads and themes together.
⸻ pg. 52
Said beds are very snazz.
54.11. [C] Jess STEWART ‘Making time in practice’
Article on pages 56–60.
54.11.1. what is considered as heritage
At Siteworks in Brunswick, it’s the incidental and anecdotal results of [project‐designers’] presence on site that have led to decisions about what will happen with the site[…]
A house on the site is heritage listed, but the school that wraps around the site is considered worthless to development proposals. [Millie] Cattlin and [Joseph] Norster [of These Are The Projects We Do Together], over the years, have met countless people who have described the nostalgia they feel for the old school building, while recognising the heritage building as being a place of painful memories, associated with punishment and hierarchy. What is considered as heritage has been unsettled because of the conversations that have taken place and the value people place on different aspects of the site. As a result of spending time on site to gain these insights, the memory of the school building will be retained through a strategy of adaptive re‐use.
⸻ pg. 58
54.11.2. cultural mine rehabilitation
Contra to the traditional process for mine rehabilitation, the approach at The Quarry is primarily cultural, which then encompasses the environmental. Students, design studios, artists and designers can apply to use the site for experimental education or creative works[…]
Retaining the planning status of the quarry and extending the rehabilitation of the site opens creative possibilities that would otherwise be excluded, for example, using explosives on the site. The rehabilitation isn’t finished once a set of performance requirements are met, which questions our relationship to landscape and perceptions of damage and repair. Cattlin and Norster are facilitating programs and engaging in site‐specific research that influence the spatial trajectory of the quarry and surrounds. The results of their collaborators’ presence on site, making rather than drawing, allows a stronger connection and understanding that is more responsive to the specifics of the site.
⸻ pg. 59
“An 86,000–square‐metre former quarry in the Otways” (pg. 58).
54.11.3. catalytic development plans
An alternative approach to staged masterplans could be catalytic development plans: considering incremental pieces of work that might not necessarily have a spatial outcome, but that might be critical for enabling the care of Country and quality places[…] At Culpra Station in western New South Wales, Office in collaboration with Indigenous community engagement consultancy Kulpa Mardita and RMIT Landscape Architecture for client Culpra Milli Aboriginal Corporation proposed a “map of development” that included inputs such as infrastructure, teaching, funding, labour, partnerships and skills — and outputs such as economic, ecological and cultural improvement and capacity, training and job growth[…] This has been invaluable for both the regeneration of the site and the frowth of the corporation for the Barkandji people. Planning in this manner allows for flexibility, ongoing relationships to be fostered and smaller‐scale projects to occur when possible or required.
⸻ pp. 59–60
Office are “a not‐for‐profit design and research practice” (pg. 59).
54.12. [C] Rosie HALSMITH ‘Remaking lost connections’
Article on pages 62–66.
54.12.1. death by a thousand projects
“While the land care movement was doing great stuff, we were at risk of suffering a death by a thousand projects. We really needed to step up in scale.”
⸻ pg. 63
Says Keith Bradby, C.E.O. of Gondwana Link, a project to repair fragmented bushland on a thousand kilometre scale in the south‐west of W.A.
54.12.2. put back that totem
As part of the regeneration process, stories have been embedded into the landscape — art in the form of large‐scale endemic plantings. “We saw that there was some cleared land on the property,” says [Noongar Elder, Eugene] Eades. “The old people said, ‘Eugene, put back that totem that belonged to that Noongar mob that lived here a long time ago, and do it big enough so that the whole world can see it from the sky.’”
These totems are represented as a goanna, a malleefowl and a kangaroo, in forms designed by Eugene Eades’s nephew, artist and ranger Errol Eades. Eugene Eades advised on species selection, and Nowanup rangers worked together with Greening Australia on planting and regeneration work.
Paths weave through the cultural landscapes at Nowanup — walking trails where stories can be told and knowledge can be handed down. A significant meeting place has been built, and camps for young Noongar people are held at the property. Curtin University also uses it as a bush campus for on‐Country trips and cultural leaning units.
⸻ pg. 66
This is at Nowanup on Goreng Noongar Boodjar. It was acquired in 2004 through the National Trust’s Bush Bank fund, and the 750 hectare, Noongar‐managed property contributes to regeneration of the ecological link between the national parks of Koi Kyeunuruff Stirling Ranges and Fitzgerald River, as well as cultural restoration.
54.13. [B] Joe BEAN ‘Wonder of time’
Article on pages 68–72.
54.13.1. and the access remains truly universal
We have been careful to avoid a typical national park visual language — boardwalks, barriers and big interpretation panels. This infrastructure distorts perceptions by placing the leisurely human experience at the centre of the way people read a place, dulling the already unfathomable diversity of everything else going on. Instead, across the region, visitors move through the landscape as indicated by natural cues, following marsupial tracks that have been stabilized and widened using local stone and gravel to provide universal access. And the access remains truly universal — the marsupials are still using them.
Out here, we see the role of the landscape architet as being one of exploring functional maintenance, providing access, shade, water — tiny kick‐starters of shared stories across time. Our interventions endeavour not to burden with a layer of superficial design … another legacy of the Anthropocene.
⸻ pp. 70 & 72
Bean’s firm Brave and Curious worked on a network of projects on Adnyamathanha Yarta, including the Nilpena Ediacara National Park. They sound gorgeous.
54.14. [D] Alexander J. FELSON ‘Re‐envisioning climate futures’
Article on pages 74–77.
54.14.1. complicated land use challenges in urbanized floodplains
At Stratford [Connecticut], a town founded in 1639, and originally named Cupheag, meaning “a place of shelter” in the Native American Paugussett language, a long industrial history had created land use “knots” consisting of complicated overlapping contaminated sites and conflicting land uses[…]
Parts of Stratford represent the kinds of complicated land use challenges one finds in urbanized floodplains across the world. Sikorsky Memorial Airport was built on a large wetland complex that supported abundant species and habitats; the town developed an industrial area along the north side of the wetland complex; and a state highway and rail corridor were built parellel to the coast that further reinforced the industrial zone. There are no other locations across Stratford to accommodate this kind of land use and it was recently designated an Employment Growth District. Further complicating the situation, the Lordship waterfront neighbourhood is located on an island of higher ground past the airport. This puts additional demands on maintaining road access, including a lengthy road that traverses the wetland complex. It also means that there is investment in the homes on the island creating additional interest in preservation. An additional challenge is that Bridgeport, the adjacent town, own the airport, creating a displaced ownership situation that resulted in various interests being misaligned.
⸻ pp. 74–75
54.14.2. where flooding is incorporated into industry and neighbourhood
Near‐term investment strategies are often focused on problem solving or building to preserve what exists today, instead of exploring long‐term futures to inform smart near‐term investments that anticipate future flooding. Our approach, rather than producing a large‐scale flood defence system that will require constant pumping to maintain, proposes a different vision for the future where flooding is incorporated into industry and neighbourhood.
⸻ pg. 76
Felson was working with Timothy Terway through Yale’s Urban Ecology and Design Laboratory (UEDLAB) and the Southeastern Connecticut Regional Framework for Coastal Resilience on a project for the Nature Conservancy. They countered an existing, 2016 plan for dikes and pumps, by proposing “strategic retreat”, wetlands rehabilitation, and thoughtful coordination with Cupheag’s landscape.
54.14.3. munyan cue‐to‐care
Design approaches sought to repair fragments of the Birrarung that have been damaged or otherwise altered through development practices. Healing and restoring cultural, spiritual and physical flows informed the designs. For example, student Virginia Overell suggested a munyan (silver wattle) festival as a “cue‐to‐care” for Country. These wattles are the first to bloom and were said to be flowering when William Barak passed away. Planting them along the Birrarung creates a physical space that amplifies Indigenous identity and creates a space to celebrate Traditional Oweners and for storytelling[…]
⸻ pg. 77
This was in a Melbourne Uni course, Designing with Country: Resilience Studio, centering on the concept of “Great Birrarung Parklands” and the Yarra River Protection (Wilip‐gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017.
54.15. [C] David WHITWORTH ‘Between action and forgetting: Balls Head Reserve’
Article on pages 78–82.
54.15.1. drowned river valley
Sydney’s harbour is a drowned river valley, its former tributaries swollen to bays, its ancient ridge lines rising above the tide as peninsulas and promontories. Here, the water curls into secreted coves, carving a line more looping than linear, and peninsulas extend into the fray like hammers or fists: protruding, concealing, demanding. In this way of reading topography for signs, each headland might come to stand as a kind of intellectual lighthouse — guarding and guiding positions in relation to the treatment of landscape.
⸻ pg. 80
55. [C] Hervé LE TELLIER, translated from the French by Adriana HUNTER, The anomaly (Michael Joseph 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
55.1. disrupting the aircraft’s electronic circuits
#aircraft in strife
Shaken, buffeted, and ashen, Markle and Favereaux concentrate on their instruments battling it out with the storm, which, it will be established later, is the most violent and the most sudden in the last ten years. The warning light for the left‐hand turbine indicates a fifteen percent loss of power, but the strong electric field is disrupting the aircraft’s electronic circuits.
⸻ pg 47
Oh yeah storm clouds, that’s a point?
55.2. I agree
‘I’ve been drinking,’ he offers right away.
‘I agree,’ replies Meredith, who thought he definitely looked shaky.
⸻ pg 92
The tottering register throughout this book is sometimes fun; lively pretty much always.
56. [C] Cixin LIU, translated from the Mandarin by Ken LIU, The three‐body problem (Leicester: W F Howes Ltd 2016)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
56.1. ideological theory
Yang [Weining] hesitated and finally revealed his real concern: ‘It’s easy to make ideological mistakes in theory.’
⸻ pg 51
56.2. frightened sparrow taking refuge in your jacket pocket
‘Imagine another set of results. The first time, the white ball drove the black ball into the pocket. The second time, the black ball bounced away. The third time, the black ball flew onto the ceiling. The fourth time, the black ball shot around the room like a frightened sparrow, finally taking refuge in your jacket pocket. The fifth time, the black ball flew away at nearly the speed of light, breaking the edge of the pool table, shooting through the wall, and leaving the Earth and the Solar System, just like Asimov once described. What would you think then?’
⸻ pg 89
The character speaking is Ding Yi, a theoretical physicist; to Wang Miao, nanomaterials researcher.
56.3. only curious, if not appropriate
‘That was truly an incredible project. I used to think it was just made‐up rumors.’
‘Not rumors. If you want, I can tell you some of what I experienced.’
The offer made Wang a little worried. ‘Professor Ye, I’m only curious. You don’t need to tell me if it’s not appropriate.’
‘It’s no big deal. Let’s just imagine that I’m looking for someone to hear me talk.’
⸻ pg 198
Wang Miao and astrophysicist Ye Wenjie.
56.4. what little of European history
Wang realized that the game displayed a distinct world for each player. This world, based on the European High Middle Ages, was chosen by the software based on his ID.
‘You’re late. The meeting has been going on for a while,’ the gold‐crowned, red‐robed man said. ‘I’m Pope Gregory.’
Wang tried to recall what little he knew of European history in the Middle Ages so that he could deduce the level of advancement of this civilization based on the name. But then he remembered how wildly anachronistic historical references could be in the world of Three Body and decided the effort wasn’t worth it.
⸻ pg 239
56.5. maintenance measures with respect to faulty components
#treating people as expendable mechanical units
‘System lockup!’ a signal officer called out. Shortly after, the reason for the malfunction was determined: There was an error with the operation of one of the gates in the CPU status register.
‘Restart system!’ Von Neumann ordered confidently.
‘Wait!’ Newton stopped the signal officer. He turned with an insidious expression and said to Qin Shi Huang, ‘Your Imperial Majesty, in order to improve system stability, you should take certain maintenance measures with respect to faulty components.’
Qin Shi Huang grasped his sword and said, ‘Replace the malfunctioning component and behead all the soldiers who made up that gate. In the future, any malfunctions will be dealt with the same way!’
Von Neumann glanced at Newton, disgusted. They watched as a few riders dashed into the motherboard with their swords unsheathed. After they ‘repaired’ the faulty component, the order to restart was given. This time, the operation went very smoothly. Twenty minutes later, /Three Body/’s Von Neumann architecture human‐formation computer had begun full operations under the Qin 1.0 operating system.
⸻ pp. 288–289
56.6. one‐dimensional proton
A tenth of a Trisolaran hour later, the science consul held his earpiece to his ear and listened intently. Then he said, ‘Princeps, unfortunately the unfolding failed. We reduced the dimensions by one too many, and the proton became one‐dimensional.’
‘One‐dimensional? A line?’
‘Yes. An infinitely thin line. Theoretically, it should be about fifteen hundred light‐hours long.’
[…] due to friction from solar winds, pieces of the string fell back into the atmosphere[…] Even though the string was infinitely thin, it produced a field that could still reflect visible light. It was the first time people had ever seen matter not made out of atoms — the silky strands were merely small portions of a proton.
‘These things are so annoying.’ The princeps brushed his hand against his face over and over. He and the science consul were standing on the wide steps in front of Government Center. ‘My face always feels itchy.’
‘Princeps, the feeling is purely psychological. All the strings added together have the mass of a single proton, so it’s impossible for them to have any effect on the macroscopic world. They can’t do any harm. It’s as if they don’t exist.’
But the threads that fell from the sky grew more numerous and denser. Closer to ground, tiny sparkling lights filled the air. The sun and the stars all appeared inside silvery halos. The strings clung to those who went outside, and as they walked, they dragged the lights behind them. When people returned indoors, the lines glimmered under the lamps. As soon as they moved, the reflection from the strings revealed the pattern in the air currents they disturbed. Although the one‐dimensional string could only be seen under light and couldn’t be felt, people became upset.
⸻ pp. 484–486
56.7. professional play
Much of the novel assumes a tone of gossamer fantasy, still with the heft of a folktale. Think of fabric draping a central space into being, over a solid floor.
There is video gaming (along with rally and militarism) as theatre, perhaps most overtly, but the whole story is almost palpably sited within in staging containers — which mostly stretch or are transcended rather gently, in contrast to the claustrophobic violence possessing and constricting the gap in the crowd, the logged woods, the cramped room, the retina, the battered biosphere, the rigid formation, the traumatic shared memory, the laden canal, the proton.
For its themes, The Three-Body Problem is a very comfortable read. The “hard sci‐fi” elements are good fun, silly (or playful and open) without committing to ridiculous abandon. Although, on occasion, explanatory dialogue felt condescendingly conspicuous, on the whole, Liu’s devices moved smoothly enough. There are some beautiful scenes. The storytelling is both generous and measured; hospitable.
57. [A] Nic LOW, Uprising: walking the Southern Alps of New Zealand (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2021)
- Took notes circa Q1 2022.
57.1. there’s a name for that
I remembered that famous photo. It contained no people. Few of New Zealand’s iconic landscape images do. We all grew up surrounded by books and calendars and billboards depicting virgin forests and untouched peaks. We followed the ethos of no‐trace camping, passing through the mountains like ghosts. We longed for postcard views so pristine they could be from before, or maybe after, civilisation itself. What we craved was a landscape without history, untrodden by humans.
There’s a name for that: terra nullius. The legal fiction of unoccupied, unclaimed land. A name that hides what’s underneath.
⸻ pg 6
57.2. old people places
In the old days, people didn’t discover places. They created, became, are, the land.
⸻ pg. 7
57.3. reading is moving through the landscape
Built over decades from oral histories, maps, books and manuscripts, the Cultural Mapping Project has over six thousand original names so far. What it shows is the opposite of wilderness. From major peaks to minor streams the landscape was named, known, owned. More than a map of place, it’s a map of history. In an oral society the land is the book, and the place names are the writing. Reading is moving through the landscape, recalling the stories as you go.
⸻ pg 13
57.4. too precious to rush through @ page 54 of 384
I think I should reserve Uprising again, to be with across a later few weeks, because it is too precious to rush through.
57.5. cleave to the land
Toitū te whenua, you often hear — translated as ‘leave the land undisturbed’. How could you, when you were going to be part of the land yourself? The better sentiment is ‘cleave to the land’. I dug into the loam, looking for bones, gathering history in dirty half‐moons beneath my nails.
⸻ pg. 28
The end notes attribute the cleaving perspective to Tā Tipene O’Regan in “personal communication, 15 March 2021”.
57.6. faced with the landscape itself
I looked up the riverbed towards the Main Divide: shattered mountaintops and reefs of intimidating cloud; nothing to suggest a pass. Yet Raureka was meant to have wandered up that way and accidentally discovered the only viable route in the area. Faced with the landscape itself, the story made little sense.
⸻ pg. 30
57.7. near Nōti Raureka visibility dropped
Near Nōti Raureka, Raureka’s pass, visibility dropped to a couple of metres. Small cairns of stacked stones guided me through the whiteout, emerging a few steps in front, disappearing a few steps behind. There was no sign of Whakarewa, the lake at the pass. Then I felt a rushing sensation all around me. The mist blew away and I was suddenly looking straight at the water, only metres in front of me.
Whakarewa was more vapour than liquid: a silver arc lifting away into smoke. Again, that hurtling sensation, and the fog closed back in. It started to rain. I removed my pack and bent over, rummaging for my jacket. When I straightened to put it on, I looked up and the world had disappeared. Entirely.
‘What the fuck?’
One minute I’d been walking through a misty sub‐alpine landscape. The next, I felt like I’d been swallowed by a black hole. Impossibly large dark curves filled my entire field of vision, shading from grey to black, surrounding me on all sides. I turned my head and the void was everywhere, seemingly inches from my face, yet stretching off to infinity. I reached out a hand like a blind man and met no resistance. There was nothing there. Vertigo shot through me. There was no sky, no earth. I blinked hard in the rain, swearing aloud.
In another heartbeat the mist burned away. The distant snow‐covered peaks of Tau‐a‐Tamateraki snapped into focus, and I saw huge lenticular clouds immediately overhead — long, smooth UFOs, thunderous and silver‐black. They were harbingers of the worst storms, and almost close enough to touch. I grabbed my camera and fumbled it to my eye. The battery died. I shook my head in disbelief.
I must have been swallowed by one of those clouds. Or maybe it had passed inches from my face, and I’d seen its underbelly reflected in the lake. Shreds of mist continued to stream past. The light flickered between dawn, noon and dusk. It felt like time was running at a different speed.
⸻ pg. 34–35
57.8. some thickening of time
There was some thickening of time, some concentration of force in those waters I felt acutely but couldn’t articulate beyond — power?
⸻ pg. 50
I appreciate this take on the outflow of a hydro plant…
57.9. scrambled raw matter
With food in my belly and a shifting sense of Raureka’s story, I should have felt more at peace. But I was still freaked out by that headland above the river. An empty cemetery filled with moa bones, lightning strikes, the power‐station outflow: the place felt wrong. It was mauri, life‐force. Boiling away down there was all the rain that had fallen on the ranges standing over me in the dark. It was hundreds of side creeks, dozens of rivers, the Waitāwhiri, the story of Raureka and Kāti Wairaki, and a thousand years of whakapapa, forced into a pipe. What came out the other side was scrambled, just the chaos of raw matter sent on to the ocean without history or name. New origin stories took over — the settling of the land by my Pākehā ancestors, the coming of electricity, the birth of modernity: new claims to authority and power.
⸻ pg. 52
58. [A] Scott LUDLAM, Full circle: a search for the world that comes next (Carlton: Black Inc. 2021)
- Took notes in January 2023.
58.1. tractable and neat; the wrong horizon
#Black Summer megafires
On the map the fire reads as a little grey polygon, tractable and neat, drawn from direct observation and satellite hotspot mapping. On the ground it’s the opposite: roaring, lethal and formidably out of control. […]
While we sleep, a gusty norwester hits and it makes a run. Today was meant to be a birthday party. Waking, disoriented, to Flick banging on the door. We have to go. Fumbling, hit refresh; the polygon has grown two hideously outstretched rectangles, temporary placeholders for a thing moving too fast to map. ‘EMERGENCY WARNING — The fire has moved quickly. If you’re in Cobargo or Coolagolite, it is too late to leave. Shelter in place.’ Fuck, it’s close. It has already crossed the highway just to the south of us. Up and moving now, to throw our stuff into the car, assuring Sirius that although this isn’t the walk he was promised, it will happen soon — now get in the car. An hour before dawn, the wrong horizon is aglow, deepest red. Get in the car.
⸻ pp. 1–2
Been thinking/feeling a fair bit lately about both mapping as rigid gesture and orientation in the deep old, easterly, sunrisen sense, and this rings, you know?
58.2. demands a certain tonnage
#deforestation, police brutality, industrial violence
Come the morning, if it’s your job to police the passage of logging and earthmoving equipment through here, you have three options now. One: let them roll over the top and kill the woman in the car. Two: persuade her through legal threats or exhaustion to unclip and come off voluntarily. Three: dig out around the car and jackhammer through the concrete until you can put an angle grinder to the pipe, bearing in mind that it now encloses a fragile human arm.
In this particular place and time, option one is unthinkable. Options two and three will take many hours. Until the police and contractors show up and decide how they want to play it, the road into this small corner of the wild southwest is closed.
The larger system learns, and it adapts. In its current configuration it demands a certain tonnage of woodchips, no matter what. International buyers will now hit Sarawak a few million tonnes harder, and Vietnam, and places where putting your arm into a lock‐on pipe absolutely could get you killed.
⸻ pp. 8 & 10
Having only 1) minimal awareness of Ludlam’s senate career due to it falling smack across the period I tuned most fiercely out of federal politics, and 2) so far read the first Part of his book, a fifth or so, the chunk before he reaches into visits with activists abroad, I am relieved, faintly surprised, even cautiously hopeful at his habitual consideration of, ugh, the big picture. The push and pull. Dynamics. Curious to see whether and how he tempers certain tensions he’s touched on, as the book develops.
58.3. to move so as to stay an equal distance
While we’re thinking about [exponential intensification of commodities extraction narrated through a metaphor based on the fable about payment in coins on a chessboard], here’s a different game, one that’s played with only one rule. It works pretty well with about two dozen people; you just need a little bit of space. Here’s how it goes. Everyone stands in a circle, facing inwards, about an arm’s length apart from one another. Each participant has to choose two other people at random — silently, without letting on who they’ve chosen. Ready? Okay — here’s the rule. When the game starts, you have to move so as to stay an equal distance from the two people you’ve chosen. You don’t have to stand directly between them, just try to keep the same distance away from both of them at all times.
It was introduced as part of a workshop series on nonviolence and civil disobedience, co‐hosted by American author and anti‐nuclear campaigner Joanna Macy. In addition to practical techniques for locking down equipment, dealing with police and understanding your legal rights, Joanna Macy stirs in a measure of deep ecology, Buddhist philosophy and something I’d only tangentially read about before, something she calls systems theory. Instead of dropping a bunch of academic papers about chaotic attractors and scale‐free networks on us, she starts with this game.
My enduring memory of all the times I’ve played the systems game is of the intangible collective presence that arises: a larger, fleeting something emerging from the moment‐to‐moment interaction of the crowd’s individual players.
⸻ pp. 21–22
Hashtayg physics and dannnnnnce.
Okay so he says “While we’re thinking about that”!
Ooh, editing to add this ref from the endnotes (wa y over on page 350):
‘The systems game’, Work That Reconnects website, 1 December 2017, https://workthatreconnects.org/the-systems-game/.
58.4. and yet … she’s trying to find food
An ancestral Escherichia coli glides towards us out of the gloom, pushed along by whip‐like propellers. She pauses, then abruptly her rotors begin spinning in reverse, cork‐screwing in all directions and sending her tumbling away randomly. She pauses again in the middle distance and then, propellers aligned, jets off in a straight line, out of our field of view.
She’s trying to find food. Be careful not to anthropomorphise — there’s no point attributing human qualities or consciousness to a tiny shell of cytoplasm one‐thousandth of a millimetre long. She has no brain or nervous system of any kind, no eyes, no sense of touch. And yet … she’s trying to find food.
E. coli has no real sense of direction either, and only two modes of travel: swim in a straight line or tumble around at random. She is attracted to particular flavours, in the seawater, and can detect them via chemical receptors arrayed along her flanks. This doesn’t tell her which direction to swim in, just that it’s out there somewhere. This existential dilemma is solved by comparing how strong the flavour is now compared to how strong it was a few moments ago. If it’s stronger, tumbling behaviour is suppressed. If its [sic] weaker, she’ll throw herself into a spin and try a different direction[…]
⸻ pp. 48–49
Sure this is definitely a quainter moment, but Ludlam navigates with reasonable poise and some delicacy the sort of expansive textural universe which Robert Macfarlane’s bombastic grope at deep time merely hopelessly aspired to plausibly chart.
Endnote (pg. 351) to excised remainder of paragraph:
49 Bacterial chemotaxis: Daniel Koshland, Bacterial Chemotaxis as a Model Behavioral System, Raven Press, 1980.
58.5. a squishy little bow
Already, three distinct lifestyles seem to be emerging. A diverse ensemble working as the primary producers, providing for their needs by consuming energy‐rich chemicals wherever they find them. Methanogens, halophiles, sulphate reducers, take a squishy little bow.
⸻ pg. 57
Not being new to much in these chapters so far, it is hard to tell for sure, but I think this book would be very accessible and charming?! I sort of want to dish it out to a lot of people whose attentions have somewhat glanced off the topics it explores?
58.6. six euros at a time, the median voter can suck it
[Electoral campaign funding] isn’t just a problem for the United States. France, with a radically different electoral system and much tighter campaign finance laws, suffers from a similar deadening correlation between cash inputs and voter outputs. They’ve even been able to put a price on it: ‘According to our estimations, the price of a vote is about 6 euros for the legislative elections, and 32 euros for the municipal ones,’ write French economists Yasmine Bekkouch and Julia Cagé. In their study of French municipal and legislative elections between 1993 and 2014, they note: ‘in particular, private donations represent a much higher share of funding for right‐wing than for left‐wing candidates in both municipal and legislative elections.’
The rightward tilt in French national politics isn’t a reflection of some kind of organic shift in community values; it’s being purchased, six euros at a time.
Polling shows that the median voter wants a healthcare system that won’t prey on them, an end to perpetual resource wars and a job that pays a living wage. The median voter wants a climate where the coastlines stay where they are. But since this is mostly immaterial in deciding the outcome of elections, the median voter can suck it.
⸻ pg. 65
This does not encompass the full breadth of Ludlam’s critique of tussling over the supposed median voter, but taps around one of, sort of, several cruxes. In multiples, in something like the way he talks (back on page 10) of “a full‐blown planetary extinction crisis. Turn the prism, and it looks like a climate crisis. And a crisis of democracy, of militarism, of poverty.”
The French study:
- Yasmine Bekkouche and Julia Cagé, The Price of a Vote: Evidence from France, 1993–2014, Working Paper, Institute for New Economic Thinking, January 2018.
Sadly no other endnotes are there for this snippet, to shore up the assertions of wanting.
58.7. the Nyiting
Memory holds. An ice age story, from the last time the oceans came in, carried with the most extraordinary fidelity from voice to voice, until now I’m hearing it for the first time from dear Uncle Noel. The Nyiting, he calls it, the cold time. I’m shivering to even hear it spoken.
⸻ pg. 74
Regarding the history of Wadjemup, before the land connection with Walyalup was flooded. Most likely Uncle Noel’s a Nyoongah elder? Credit your sources, Scott Ludlam!!!!!?
I wonder if framing the Nyiting as an era distinctly of cold grew from a retrospective designation, or a was fresh assessment even earlier? My sense of ice age duration and geography is dull as a gull (actually they are rather canny; think muted feathers insteadthers) but we do love a precision oral history singing tens of thousands of years, hey?
58.8. a remarkably faint pulse to power such an astonishing collective
[…] The resting metabolic rate of an adult human runs to about 90 watts — the equivalent of an old‐fashioned incandescent globe. That’s everything it takes to power the thirty‐odd trillion cells in your body, and the additional forty trillion bacteria that make up the human microbiome. If 90 watts sounds like a remarkably faint pulse to power such an astonishing collective, maybe you should have a coffee.
And there’s the kick: at a minimum, that will require some way of boiling water and an extended global supply chain reaching all the way to Costa Rica or Timor Leste, which is why the metabolic rate of a city such as [Boorloo] runs closer to 11,000 watts per person. This is an abstraction that varies widely from place to place, but it hints at the scale of the industrial life support systems we’ve woven around us.
⸻ pg. 76
“A city such as this,” which has usually been veering simulacrastic, shimmering in the magical unrealism of globalisation hammed right up. The device has become more rooted and nestled this chapter, though, so at this moment it’s reading fairly firmly Boorloo.
Admit I stopped hard in my tracks at the coffee non‐sequitur, though. That paragraph juncture stands well out in a smoothly sanded scape of resonant transitions and fastidious echoes.
Think it points to the indulgence of light globes, to be honest, but “remarkably faint pulse to power such an astonishing collective” sounds beautiful. Anyway, this is all very interesting to think about on a more immediate corporeal level, even as it teeters near “footprint” territory or other individualist nonsense, and hmmmmmm, much to think about.
76 11,000 watts per person: Geoffrey West, Scale: The universal laws of life, growth, and death in organisms, cities, and companies, New York: Penguin Books, 2018: 13.
And while we’re at it, the next one (for a page I’m not bothered to quote) sounds kind of cool, by which I probably rather mean confrontingly informational:
78 A map of this slow haulage: Shipmap.Org, www.shipmap.org.
58.9. we come across a family of horses
Life still makes its way out here. The hard ground is spotted with a mosaic of tough grasses, and at one point we come across a family of horses standing with their backs to the gathering wind.
⸻ pg. 88
Look, the actual story is also tremendously interesting — here, Mongolian Green Party deputy secretary Boldbayar is taking Ludlam on a tour south through the Gobi Desert, taking in the former military base of Züünbayan, effervescing with the cheer of schoolchildren; a sparse, nodding forest of Chinese oil pumps; an infant French uranium leach operation — but I was so pleasantly slowed by the drawing of attention to horses living as a family?
58.10. we will fight, but we have no experience
#megaprojects, displacement of Indigenous communities
Jharkhand is distinctive for another reason. A quarter of the population are Adivasi — Indigenous tribal people with deep ancestral ties to jal, jungle aur jameen — water, forest and land. Land‐rights struggles have shaped the politics of this area for centuries, waves of conflict and dispossession that recent decades have hurled into fast forward.
Through Shri’s adept interpretation, Dayamani Di is describing the arrival ArcelorMittal, which calls itself the world’s leading steel and mining company, committed to a promise of ‘transforming tomorrow’. In 2005, they announced a plan to transform fifty square kilometres of the Manoharpur area into Mordor, with one of the largest steel mills in the world. Adivasi opposition was highly visible and effective, and the company is sent on its way. They try it again in nearby Karra block in 2006, cutting a deal with local landholding elites, only to retreat in the face of even greater opposition. Two years later, they’re back, targeting the district right where we’re sitting.
In 2006, Manoharpur locals had pitched in to support Karra block communities and share their experiences, joined by local anti‐dam organisers with decades of experience. Dayamani Di recalls a delegation of these seasoned campaigners arriving to raise the alarm. ‘They came to this area and they went village to village. Most of the villagers were not aware that the government had any plan to displace them. So these people went to the villages and held meetings, and talked about their experience. The villagers said yes: we will fight, but we have no experience. So you can lead us, or you can support us, but we will fight.’
It’s an asymmetrical conflict. Luxembourg‐based ArcelorMittal has a lock on local politics and seemingly unlimited amounts of money. The villagers have only themselves. They set to work, but this is something more than an awareness campaign; they’re building community as they go. In some villages, the absence of kerosene oil means kids can’t study in the evenings, so the organisers pitch in to buy them solar lamps. The campaigners take on village oligarchs, advocate for fairer distribution of rations and resources with the local authorities, and challenge the thousandfold small injustices and torments of village life. ‘It is not that some people are coming and talking about the steel plant and then going away,’ Dayamani Di insists. ‘The strategy of the movement was at various levels. You have to understand that this area is very, very poor, and now the company and government is coming with very lucrative options and promises. “We’ll provide you with jobs, we’ll provide you with football fields.” There’s a lot of confusion and conflicting information.’
All of this has happened before. The region is disfigured with mega‐projects from decades past: mines, dams, steel mills, power plants. One dam alone displaced eighty‐four villages. So the organisers form a delegation of volunteers to meet with villagers and see how things have worked out for them. ‘We took forty people from this area and went to all these megaproject areas, went to the people the government had promised that “after displacement you will have a very nice kind of life. You’ll have a good housing system, you’ll have running water.” Let’s go and see.’
⸻ pp. 98–99
Dayamani Barla is engaged in activism from her roadside teashop in Ranchi, in the mineral‐rich state of Jharkhand.
Shriprakash is a filmmaker who documents local struggles against megaprojects.
Story goes on for another couple of pages and it’s great!
58.11. the kind of thing a bunch of aristocrats and monarchs would come up with
‘Even to this day two principles of interstate relations codified in 1648 constitute the normative core of international low,’ writes Seyom Brown, professor of international cooperation at Brandeis University. The principles read like this: ‘(1) the government of each country is unequivocally sovereign within its territorial jurisdiction, and (2) countries shall not interfere in each other’s domestic affairs.’
In the aftermath of World War II, the drafters of the United Nations Charter made an attempt to subordinate these arbitrary sovereignties to the principle of collective security, and an ambitious human rights declaration. Despite this extraordinary attempt, Westphalia remains deeply baked into international law. ‘Nothing should authorise intervention in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state,’ says article 2(7) of the United Nations charter.
Decoded, that means within any territory enclosed by the lines on these maps, whoever can manage to stay in charge is allowed to do whatever they can get away with. Read that sentence again, maybe: it does sound like the kind of thing a bunch of aristocrats and monarchs would come up with.
⸻ pp. 132–133
That first bit was from Seyom Brown, International Relations in a Changing Global System: Toward a theory of the world polity, 2nd edn, Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1995
And, earlier on the page, there was a whisper of Michel Foucher, L’obsession des frontières, Paris: Perrin, 2012.
If I saw either on a shelf, I would have a flick, but it’s hard to get much sense of the works Ludlam cites from Full Circle alone. At starts of chapters, though, he does quote some superb writers I am more familiar with, so my curiosity’s automatically piqued a little any time a book is mentioned.
59. [B] Robert MACFARLANE, Underland: a deep time journey (London: Hamish Hamilton 2019)
- Took notes circa December 2021.
59.1. Exclusionary assertions, blooming narratives
Periodic, tedious assertions built of an exclusionary “we” cluster beneath exhilarating blooms of micronarrative.
60. [D] Stefano MANCUSO, translated from the Italian by Gregory CONTI, The nation of plants: a radical manifesto for humans (Profile Books 2021)
- Took notes circa February 2022.
60.1. We disagree to agree
I disagreed with virtually every rhetorical invitation — but nonetheless: great game plan!
61. [E] Sarah MARQUIS, Sauvage par nature: 3 ans de march extrême en solitaire de Sibérie en Australie (Paris: Pocket 2015)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
61.1. pour ses pattes
#leaving a pet
Mon cœur se serre. Je ne peux pas imaginer ne pas le revoir à mon retour. J’ai tout mis en place, des rendez‐vous vétérinaires aux séances d’ostéopathie pour ses pattes arrière qui lui font mal. Je vais aussi laisser mes odeurs dans ma chambre avec des habits que j’ai portés, comme cela, il n’éprouvera aucun stress et sentira ma présence, pendant quelque temps du moins. Je suis triste.
⸻ pg. 19
Not sure I want to go on this book‐walk, now, personally.
61.2. avec élégance et sans un bruit
À mes pieds, une rivière profonde sans courant et d’un noir opaque emprisonne le grand rocher que j’ai repéré de loin. Je me déshabille et me glisse dans l’eau froide. Si vous entrez dans l’eau progressivement, le corps s’adapte et la sensation de froid en est diminuée. Sans un mouvement, je m’enfonce petit à petit jusqu’à ce que ma tête seule reste hors de l’eau. C’est une expérience simple d’abandon ; il me semble que je ne suis plus qu’une tête à la surface de cette eau noire, mon corps a disparu, l’eau froide l’a endormi. Soudain, un mouvement attire mon attention de l’autre côté de la rivière. Mes yeux s’écarquillent : je n’y crois pas ! C’est un magnifique cerf ! Il s’avance doucement, s’immobilise, écoute puis, après un long moment, s’élance avec élégance et sans un bruit. Il nage, opération qu’il maîtrise étonnament. Je n’ai toujours pas bougé, le dessus de l’eau est un vrai miroir. Ces bois majestueux semblent se déplacer à la surface sans corps en dessous. L’eau noire stagnante accentue cette impression. Sans aucune peur, le cerf passe juste là, à côté de moi. Il rejoint la rive à quelques pas seulement de mes habits secs, puis disparaît en sautillant élégamment dans la forêt sombre et humide.
⸻ pg. 29
So far I am finding this book a weird mixture of rather dull, faintly baffling, and intermittently captivating.
This encounter is in the U.S.A. on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2002.
61.3. lorsque votre mission est accomplie, faites une sieste
La troisième technique est ancestrale et utilisée aussi par les animaux. Cela se passe dans le lit asséché d’une rivière sablonneuse. Vous allez peut‐être pouvoir trouver de l’eau sous cette surface sèche et molle. D’abord, il faut « lire » la rivière. Un peu comme un descendeur à skis s’imagine chaque contour et chaque bosse mentalement avant de s’élancer. Vous allez vous représenter la rivière qui est sous vos yeux avec de l’eau, et trouver ainsi l’endroit où l’eau était ralentie avant que la rivière s’assèche. Donc on cherche une courbe, ou un obstacle comme un gros rocher. Si vous avez trouvé cet endroit et que vous êtes certain que cela vaut la peine de dépenser de l’énergie et de votre sueur pour creuser un trou d’1 m de profondeur au minimum, alors commencez à creuser. Lorsque votre mission est accomplie, faites une sieste. Lorsque vous rouvrirez l’œil, si votre évaluation était juste, vous apercevrez une petite quantité d’eau au fond de votre trou.
Il existe bien d’autres techniques, mais chacune d’entre elles ne vous permettra de récolter que quelques centilitres. Il est impératif de se poser les bonnes questions et d’évaluer la quantité d’eau qui va sortir de votre corps durant l’opération de creusage ou d’installation de piégeage à eau.
Mais avant tout, je dois dire que ce n’est pas tant la technique qui compte que la capacité à lire le décor.
⸻ pp. 31–32
Cue yet another flashback within a flashback…
61.4. la plainte de bambou
[…] Durant la nuit, la température à cette altitude est descendue bien en dessous de 0 °C. Mon bonnet est enfoncé sur ma tête, mais mes oreilles sont intentionnellement dégagées. L’ambiance est glaciale, brouillardeuse, mais étonnamment silencieuse. Soudain une mélodie fine et presque imperceptible semble flotter dans l’air. Cela ressemble à une poignée de notes aiguës qui se bousculent. La mélodie me semble bizarrement fragile. Je cherche sa provenance, sans succès. J’en profite pour ingérer une autre gorgée de mon thé. Au même moment, une brise isolée remonte à nouveau de la vallée, faisant retentir la mélodie juste derrière moi, cette fois plus vive et cristalline. Je me retourne et m’aperçois que les feuilles de bambou au‐dessus du chemin ont la blancheur de la porcelaine. Elles sont gelées à outrance. Le souffle venu du fond de la vallée a atteint les feuillages qui, en s’entrechoquant, créent cette mélodie aux résonances plaintives mais élégantes…
Une chaleur monte en moi et trouble tous mes sens et mon être en entier. Je viens de recevoir l’une des nombreuses leçons de vie que Dame Nature m’a enseignées… Je remercie et, les yeux fermés, j’écoute avec mon cœur la plainte du bambou…
⸻ pp. 157–158
Unconvinced by the lesson, in among all the contempt Marquis has been showing for just about all of the people whose land she keeps tramping over, I do though have a soft spot for bamboosong.
61.5. durant trois jours dans son sac
#venomous snake (this is both a spoiler and a content warning!)
C’était lors d’un après‐midi d’été, il venait d’arriver à la petite plage paradisiaque de William Bay, sous le campement. C’est une section du trek qui suit la côte. Il y a là une petite plage protégée par de magnifiques rochers ronds. L’eau est d’un bleu cristallin et fraîche : le rêve après une journée de marche… Il s’est donc baigné et, même, y a dormi. Amoureux des plages, il s’y attarde souvent et, selon la saison, il y dort volontiers. Le lendemain, il s’est réveillé tôt et a continué son chemin le long du Bibbulmun. Et cela s’est produit trois jours plus tard : il était au camp avec un autre marcheur qui n’avait malheureusement plus de pansement pour ses cloques, alors il a proposé de lui en donner. Tout en papotant, il a plongé sa main machinalement au fond de son sac pour y prendre sa pharmacie, et sans réaliser tout de suite, en a sorti… un serpent de près de 1,5 m qu’il a lâché dans un mouvement de terreur silencieuse. Ce n’était pas n’importe quel serpent, mais un western tiger snakes (Telescopus semiannulatus). Une espèce que moi je trouve magnifique avec sa robe noire mate et son ventre jaune. Mais il est aussi très venimeux.
Ce qui a le plus terrifié mon voisin, c’est le fait qu’il avait trimballé ce serpent durant trois jours dans son sac sans le savoir. Tout aurait pu se passer durant ce laps de temps. « Oui, dis‐je, y compris qu’il sorte du sac dans votre tente… ― Avant je n’avais pas de tente, mais depuis cette histoire je dors toujours sur la plage dans ma tente… Il a sûrement dû grimper dans mon sac durant la nuit parce qu’il fait plutôt frisquet la nuit sur la plage où j’étais. »
Je bois mon thé et le regarde : il est encore troublé.
⸻ pp. 245–246
61.6. tu sais bien que j’en ai envie
[Ma maman] est venue avec mon frère qui était responsable de mes ravitaillements durant mon expédition australienne de 2002–2003. Le premier matin, elle avait disparu ! Avec mon frère, très inquiets, nous étions partis immédiatement à sa recherche. On l’a trouvée à plus de 2 km du camp, assise sur une chaise en plastique à l’extérieur d’un petit shop, un café à la main. Je lui ai demandé ce qu’elle faisait là. « Tu ne vois pas, je bois mon p’tit caf’ ? Tu sais bien que j’ai envie d’un p’tit café le matin ! » Fou rire général… « Eh bien dis‐moi, juste pour rire, comment tu l’as commandé, ton café ? » (Elle ne parle pas un mot d’anglais.) […]
⸻ pp. 247–248
Author essentially takes the same approach, though, on a larger scale.
61.7. je suis de retour, darling
Je ne quitte pas mon petit arbre des yeux, comme pour me concentrer mais, rien n’y fait, des larmes coulent sous mes lunettes de soleil. Je suis arrivée ! Je touche l’écorce de mon arbre de la main droite : « Je suis de retour, darling. » Je m’assieds. Et je laisse les émotions sortir de mon cœur.
⸻ pg. 258
Okay fine that’s cute.
62. [D] Ian MCEWAN, The cockroach (London: Jonathan Cape 2019)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
62.1. tapers to tepidity
Fun at first, but steadily soured by sexist tropes and the gradual falling away of creativity and cleverness in general.
It was at this point that the chancellor interrupted him. With her elbow on the table, she pressed a hand to her forehead and closed her tired eyes. ‘Warum?’ she said, and followed this word with a brief tangle of others. And again, ‘Warum …’ and a longer tangle. Then the same again. And finally, still with her eyes closed, and her head sinking a little further towards the table, a simple, plaintive, ‘Warum?’
Tonelessly, the interpreter said, ‘Why are you doing this? Why, to what end, are you tearing your nation apart? Why are you inflicting these demands on your best friends and pretending we’re your enemies? Why?’
Jim’s mind went blank. Yes, he was weary from so much travel. There was silence in the room. Across the river a line of schoolchildren was forming up behind a teacher to go into the museum. Standing right behind his chair, the British ambassador softly cleared her throat. It was stuffy. Someone should open a window. There drifted through the PM’s mind a number of compelling answers, though he did not utter them. Because. Because that’s what we’re doing. Because that’s what we believe in. Because that’s what we said we’d do. Because that’s what people said they wanted. Because I’ve come to the rescue. Because. That, ultimately, was the only answer: because.
Then reason began to seep back and with relief he recalled a word from his speech the evening before. ‘Renewal,’ he told her. ‘And the electric plane.’ After an anxious pause, it came in a rush. Thank God. ‘Because, Madame Chancellor, we intend to become clean, green, prosperous, united, confident and ambitious!’
⸻ pp. 88–89
Not to say this reflects my overall assessment of the work, but to demonstrate the feel of McEwan’s approach. Peak voice, here too.
63. [E] Ian MCEWAN, Machines like me: and people like you (London: Jonathan Cape 2019)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
64. [B] Anika MOLESWORTH, Our Sunburnt Country (Macmillan Australia 2021), audiobook download
- Took notes circa August 2022 and January 2023.
Dunno about everybody else perusing BookWyrm book databases, but I find the shorthand much less irritating than words fixed firmly out of translation such that they clash with all but one language interface. Of course, not all language variants star in the language-subtag-registry, in which case I say name ’em in their own words! (Or close to as practicable). Getting to pointedly specify en-Latn, with nobody around yet to be potentially bothered by my acting as though particular scripts shouldn’t go without saying, has been one of the little joys of nesting into We Loved Your Book So Much We Ate It, actually. If I ever get to the braille library (gosh if it’s even still open to the public after all these years), I’ll be so excited to label editions on here nice and clearly.
Anyhoo, may I remember to reborrow audiobook loans part‐heard last year. Got the furthest with Our Sunburnt Country, leaving few enough hours I should be able to manage in one or two or three or four goes later this month, maybe?
64.2. uneasy attribution
#mucking about atop the banks of tributaries of the river ecofascism
Isolated remark on this work in my reading notes file, from August or September last year:
uneasy how attributes troubles to growth of human population and (proportion of it enjoying?) wealth. ’tsnot not, but, y’know: nuance
Even that “but, y’know: nuance” needs more nuance and y’knows, y’know? Which I think is why I never posted it; never got around to rephrasing it. To really hone in on: gross social inequality acting on a scale large enough to fundamentally disturb regional and global ecology. Degrees of interference not so easy or possible without the last few centuries’ increase in human population, including those deliberate moves by colonisers to manipulate themselves workforces and markets and dumping grounds out of colonised populaces, but how that’s not the same at all as population growth itself being a cause, and certainly not the same as humanity in outlier‐lopped aggregate becoming wealthier or better off by some very selective standards of measurement being to blame. Harnessing growth or winchings out of poverty or acts of measurement in certain ways, exploiting these, appropriating these things as media or conduits or pawns for the perpetuation of destructive patterns… this, if I am recalling correctly — and even the proliferation of lousy, extractive, predatory, or geographically misplaced agricultural ideologies — had not (yet?) received the attention required to chase out the dangerous implications of waving vaguely but firmly at the notions of increasing numbers of human mouths and a Global South striving to counter the impacts of bitter impoverishment. There may have been smaller gesture to pre‐“post”colonial wealth distribution and direct inheritors thereof, but… Yeah, uneasing weightings, adoption uncritically of wildly misleading framings.
64.3. better @ 35%
(Resumption, somewhere round the mid of Chapter 10, ‘Unfairness’).
Okay, here we go. Better!
64.4. to speak of time was to assess the condition of the natural world
For most of human history, to speak of time was actually to assess the condition of the natural world. Which flowers were in bloom. Where the migrating animals were feeding. How low the sun sat on the horizon. Our ancestors’ time was structured by nature’s rhythms and cycles, originating from Earth’s tilt and rotation.
To this day, the sun is buried deep in our human biology, as we rise and sleep, with circadian rhythms, betraying our identity as animals deeply embedded in a planet turning on its axis.
And how foolish we would be to think this untrue. To cut our own cord from Mother Nature and to forcibly disconnect others who remained cognisant of our dependence.
⸻ Track 3 ‘2: Belonging’, 14:28–15:18
Emphasis mine, though I might not bother to distinguish naturalness were I making such a statement myself. This book doesn’t have a lot of room for addressing what ambivalence about the idea of nature its own preoccupations may sometimes suggest.
Stressing, (but only) here and there, a naturehood seems very important to the tone, conceptual framework, and motivational effect — and from those, something like genre — pulsing about in the work. It could be clearer observing its undulations at a more condensed pace, through print.
64.5. acquisition of some new knowledge can test mental resilience
I want to know how everything and everyone fits together. The intricacy of the global food system captivates my interest. But in learning about the enormity of its challenges, intense emotions awaken within me. From this I learn how the acquisition of some new knowledge can test mental resilience.
⸻ Track 8 ‘7: Understanding’, 1:20–1:43
There’s an affecting understatement to this observation, the way it rushes by under the momentum of surrounding stories.
64.6. we become encompassed and carried by love
Grieving for our world evokes a profound connection to it, a deep affection for it, and it is from that place that despair ignites our will to heal, to take care. In understanding vulnerability and fragility, we develop strength and determination, we meet resilience, we become encompassed and carried by love.
⸻ Track 8 ‘7: Understanding’, 9:06–9:36
64.7. doing something is my only option
#ecological catastrophe, ablist language
[…] and although I’m not impervious to hurtful comments, the nastiness hurled in my direction becomes somewhat irrelevant, when I remind myself of why I do what I do.
Because doing something is my only option.
When I feel broken, reading about animals becoming extinct and coral reefs disappearing, doing something is my only option. When I fear possible future food crises in parts of the world where farmers are struggling to adapt quickly enough to heatwaves and droughts, doing something is my only option! I know that the only way I can help look after my family and my farm is by doing something. I can live with being called an “imbecile” and a “fool”. I can live with the stomach butterflies as I speak on radio and stage. But I refuse to live as a silent witness and prioritise my own comfort, knowing that avoidable harm is occurring.
And climate change can be avoided. The harm does not have to happen.
Speaking up may be risky, but keeping quiet can be more dangerous. When our perspectives and ideas are never revealed, we allow the continuation of the unacceptable.
⸻ Track 15 ‘14: Comfort’, 12:32–13:55
That took long enough to peck out I’ll have to save my remarks for later.
65. [B] The Monthly 190 (July 2022)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
65.1. [B] Don WATSON ‘How to be a prime minister’
Article on pages 16–21.
65.1.1. in a beat, flips the world upside down
#militarism; border and immigration policing
It is the closest thing to magic in politics: how an election like the last one, in a beat, flips the world upside down. It’s as if someone has changed the channel, or the lens, or turned it back to front. The familiar goes suddenly out of focus and retreats, the real becomes unreal, words prove seasonable. There was Scott Morrison, still spruiking, thanking his wife, the army and Border Force. We’d heard it a thousand times and a day earlier we might not have noticed that he hadn’t thanked the nurses and doctors, aged‐care workers, shop assistants, scientists, lab technicians and volunteers and the other “quiet Australians” he had dressed up as, and who had got us through the worst of the pandemic. But when he didn’t thank them in his concession speech, Mr Normal became abnormal — in an instant, the great marketer may as well have been marketing Rinso.
And there was Anthony Albanese, barely managing to hold body and soul together, lips clenching for fear his face would fall apart, eventually speaking in a tone and words so genuine they sounded foreign, of his country and his girlfriend, and his son and his son’s mother, it was as if in a few halting sentences Australian politics caught up with real life. Hollywood could not have pulled off the seeming transformation of that hour. And all those not‐quiet women in all those seats gifting Labor government with 31 per cent of the primary vote.
It can’t last. Government is mainly a slog and, as a former incumbent used to say, they all get carried out in the end. Which is the more reason why this government should keep that moment alive. It can serve as a starting point for the story, a frame for the narrative that unfolds within it. Ending the cruel farce endured by the Nadesalingam family and getting them back to Biloela was the more resoundingly prime ministerial because of it.
⸻ pg. 19
65.2. [A] George MEGALOGENIS ‘The future of the Liberal Party’
Article on pages 22–27.
Though I didn’t jot down any quotes, this was a fascinating wee set of interpretations, taken en masse.
65.3. [B] Shane DANIELSEN ‘Fear as folk’
Review on pages 52–54.
65.3.1. jolted from the spell of mere proficiency
[Jessie] Buckley, meanwhile, is so good, such an uncommonly gifted actor, that the first time you see her you wake from a sort of trance, jolted from the spell of mere proficiency. Her choices are instinctive and unerring, and her range astonishing.
⸻ pg. 53
I don’t know this actor, but I do know the feeling!
66. [D] Janelle MONÁE, The memory librarian: and other stories of dirty computer (London: HarperVoyager 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
67. [B] MUSEUM VICTORIA, Melbourne’s wildlife: a field guide to the fauna of Greater Melbourne (Melbourne: Museum Victoria and CSIRO Publishing 2006)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
67.1. these are nocturnal ground‐dwellers
These are nocturnal ground‐dwellers and are not pests.
These are nocturnal ground‐dwellers that may enter houses, but they are not pests.
⸻ pg. 64
Select remarks on native cockroaches (respectively Platyzosteria spp. and Drymaplaneta spp.) impart a poetic momentum to the first of several pages exploring the order Blattodea.
68. [B] Sequoia NAGAMATSU, How high we go in the dark (London & Dublin: Bloomsbury Publishing 2022)
- Took notes taken January 2023.
68.1. lingered on the edges of his words
[Dave] lingered on the edges of his words and wore an Occidental College shirt, so I assumed he, too, was from California.
⸻ pg. 13
Edges of words!
Narrator at this stage: Cliff Miyashiro.
Cliff, too: an edge of a word.
68.2. the tragedy it bears presses nonetheless firmly
Contrary to that initial silliness, the remarks at particular points that I have felt the most moved towards making have amounted to variations, without context, on:
This was going to be a light refreshment, yet another modern U.S. science fiction slab slipped into the library bag donning promise of much more than its hapless author could muster. In some ways, it is that kind of novel. But foremost it is emotionally sensorial; sweet in a somewhat hollowed sense I can never quite take to, and relentlessly so, for which the tragedy it bears presses nonetheless firmly. On the tear ducts.
Assessment much beyond that this week I withhold, knowing I rush through this plague panorama acutely not knowing if a loved one terribly ill by the covid has succumbed completely. Waiting for the next call nearly the moment long awaited word again arrives.
68.3. opportunity and freedom, passage and access, the spirit of possibility
#embrace of imperialism and associated hmmmn-inducement; racism, war
As more opportunity and freedom pulled many across the ocean, so did I find myself aboard a ship to America, landing first in Virginia in 1820. I lived quietly for decades, exploring this young country with whatever face and society could grant me passage and access. I attended the Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights in 1848, posing as a milliner from Delaware, filled with the spirit of possibility, and listened to the words of Mott and Stanton. I thought about all that had become possible for humanity simply because I had chosen to break the rules, to dare to dream.
I unexpectedly found love again not long after the conference and headed south, instead of following the gold rush as I had originally planned.
“A big family. Three boys. No, four,” my Elliot said one evening as we worked to build our house outside of Raleigh.
Now, I won’t dwell on the specifics of what those soldiers did to me or to my husband or our little boy. […] The very nature of my existence, the pull of seeing my creation, the knowledge that I can help others in need, demands that I reinvent myself, though I still dream of my children. I still whisper their names in the dark.
⸻ pg. 281
Yeah, nice one, ancient shape‐shiftin guardian alien, treat the place like that and only bemoan “what the world had become” (pg. 282) once you’re rounded up as a Japanese American the following century, an identity you settled into by way of… flitting off to Americanise the Meiji‐era military and then having another bunch of sons and hubby suffer violent deaths and deciding escape back to the States would bring peace?? Real plausible lookin‐out for Humanity and all of the Earth. And you’d lived through how many years of history? Oh all of them and more?
Up till the suspect approach to this point, I was tempted to grumble that the angelic architect alien angle really cheapens overlapping characters introduced earlier (by divorcing their love for their world from the expression of ordinary human nature the novel seems set on championing) and that I’ve found it a little bit of a drag to read a book so weighed down by some vast heteronormative shroud and, like, America, but concede the novel otherwise is beautifully done and those latter downsides kind of come with the presumably intentional focus of the thing so can I begrudge it them? But you know what? When they converge still over these gratuitous space centuries (forward and back from the finely‐crafted kitchen‐sink decades), I think maybe I can.
69. [B] Maggie NELSON, On freedom: four songs of care and constraint (London: Jonathan Cape 2021)
- Took notes circa March/April 2022.
69.1. tentative, curious nestle
This was one of several books chosen by the people of the home library service for my book bag of a couple of months ago. I was wary about Nelson, based on vague remembrance of trusted circles’ wry response to The Argonauts, but a tentative, curious nestle into On Freedom on the return date proved immediately inviting enough that I reserved a copy for trying again this round.
On Freedom will not argue that mindful breathing will immediately deliver us social equity and justice, or reverse the course of global warming. But it will propose that, if we want to divest from the habits of paranoia, despair, and policing that have come to menace and control even the most well intentioned among us — habits that, when continuously indulged, shape what’s possible in both our present and future — we are going to need methods by which we feel and know that other ways of being are possible, not just in some revolutionary future that may never come, or in some idealized past that likely never existed or is irretrievably lost, but right here and now. This is [David] Graeber’s point about “acting as if one is already free.” and while this sometimes means more protest and puppets (as is Graeber’s wont), it can also mean the development of more understated practices by which one develops a greater tolerance for indeterminacy, as well as for the joys and pains of our inescapable relation.
⸻ pg. 17
69.3. art as transmission
But how can one sort out which works “encourage connection” and which don’t, when the one thing all art does […] is transmit a signal, put forth a communication, which is by no means ontologically invalidated as a transmission if it expresses misanthropic, opaque, or antisocial elements?
⸻ pp. 21–22
69.4. giant corporations in disguise
As [Jennifer] Doyle and others have made clear, if we do not want the neoliberal university (or the museum or the publisher, many of which are arguably giant corporations in disguise) to turn the demands of social justice into an excuse to consolidate and exert more power, if we want to make structural changes without simply hardening the system in ways that can and will be used against us […]
⸻ pg. 50
69.5. calcified conviction of power
Power shape‐shifts and travels — as nearly every effective activist knows, asserting it goes a long way toward its actualization. Letting go of a calcified conviction of what and where power is and how it moves can be a crucial part of instigating its redistribution; acknowledging and feeling what power we do have — not to mention analyzing our own will to it — invites us to investigate what we want to do, or are already doing, with it.
⸻ pg. 57
69.6. analogising mothers
#sexism re: motherhood
The problem with this analogizing is that it continues a long tradition of relying on the maternal as an idealized model for selfless care provision without contending with the experience of actual mothers themselves, who complicate the picture by having their own needs, not to mention an understanding of caregiving as historically and psychically interwoven with disintegration, failure, inequity, and coercion. To question the use of the mother as a model of selfless care provision and a priori obligation means facing the psychological and political repercussions of having feminized this labor for thousands of years, as well as the vexations that such a model has produced for those presumed felicitously to embody it.
⸻ pp. 68–69
69.7. disorienting intergenerational conversation
#AIDS crisis (by limited definition)
Teaching college for the past twenty years has taught me that the AIDS crisis — at least as it was before antiretrovirals — has disappeared almost completely for those born after its peak. This is in many ways a natural, arguably welcome effect of the passage of time and medical treatment. But it has also had a disorienting effect on much of the intergenerational conversation going on about sex positivity, pleasure, and danger, a conversation that makes far less sense when the influence AIDS had — indeed, the formative crater it made — in so many of our lives has fallen out of the picture.
For many who came up in the 1980s and ’90s, forging a commitment to sex positivity was not about downgrading the feminist or queer liberatory missions of the ’60s and ’70s to a tinny, neoliberal version of empowerment. It was about insisting, in the face of viciously bigoted moralists who didn’t care if you lived or died (many preferred that you died), that you had every right to your life force and sexual expression, even when the culture was telling you that your desire was a death warrant, and that if it killed you, you deserved it […] As Amber Hollibaugh, a self‐described lesbian sex radical who founded the Lesbian AIDS Project (LAP) of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in the 1990s, described this time: “While being made into sexual pariahs, gay men and drag queens and dykes and queer men of color and their sisters and brothers, and other communities of sex and racial justice warriors, spoke up and spoke out for sex, struggling to claim the right to desire even in the face of an epidemic and a virus transmitted through sex. We refused to be shamed or disowned because of our desires or our antibody status. This was a truly terrifying time. But through it all — although we were frequently wrong — we were also brilliant, and we were brave.”
⸻ pp. 89–90
69.8. porousness to people
[Paul] Preciado’s frustrated desire to become attached to a “substance without will” […] also likely has to do with the instability of the subject/object dichotomy itself […]
[…] Whether it makes sense to talk about vibrant matter or nonhuman people as having agency or liberty of their own is a subject of long‐standing scientific, philosophical, and spiritual debate. But if, as feminist physicist Karen Barad puts it, all matter “feels, converses, suffers, desires, yearns and remembers,” there may truly be no such thing as “an object that has no wish” — which is another reason that Preciado’s desire for such fails.
For those accustomed to humankind asserting its will and power over nature, with the latter conceived of as a collection of inert, mute objects, the experience of grappling with “demands” made by those objects can be disorienting and chaotic […]
[…] For [Michael W.] Clune, it’s the “white tops” on certain heroin vials that act as the source of fixation[…] Clune has expressed interest in recent neurological research demonstrating how cues alone (e.g., the sight of a white top) can occasion dopamine surges in the brain, creating, for the addict, a troubling assemblage of vibrant matter.
Knowing that we respond physically to things we’ve neither ingested nor touched need not reify or magnify feelings of powerlessness or unfreedom. Like the discipline of phenomenology, which asks us to consider phenomena such as intention, orientation, and proprioception as structuring our experience of the world, such knowledge can help us fathom the mysterious nature of our enmeshment, which does not stop at our skin or the human. From here, we might see that the pathos of drug addiction isn’t necessarily that it displaces a natural love for other human beings with an unnatural love for a cold, mute object, but that it reveals our porousness to nonhuman people — our appetite for them, and our vulnerability to them. […]
We may root for Clune to “turn off [the] goddamn game” — and, later in life, to leave behind the white tops and all the damage they’ve caused — but we aren’t exactly rooting for him to exchange altogether his uncommon aliveness to the nonhuman for meaningful relationships with other people. We’re rooting for him to find some way to respect the power of the former without pretending at its mastery, or exposing himself to further suffering. Sometimes, this means learning to let certain nonhuman people be.
⸻ pp. 162–165
Pared back to a core of a thread relating to Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, and Clune’s White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin and Gamelife: A Memoir. I have skipped some allusions and references to interesting perspectives that did not appear to me as well represented in Nelson’s treatment of them.
Further, though, in an endnote (number 17 of chapter 3, on page 248) to the vibrant nonhuman matterpeople:
Though Barad coined the phrase “agential realism,” she prefers not to speak of matter as “having agency” per se; her research has instead led her to believe that “agency is not held, it is not a property of persons or things; rather, agency is an enactment, a matter of possibilities for reconfiguring entanglements.” See also, [Fred] Moten’s point at the opening of In the Break, when Moten takes up [Karl] Marx’s notion of the commodity that does not speak by reminding us that there have existed commodities that speak, namely, slaves. In terms that evoke Preciado’s writing about T, Moten writes, “While subjectivity is defined by the subject’s possession of itself and its objects, it is troubled by a dispossessive force objects exert such that the subject seems to be possessed — infused, deformed — by the object it possesses.”
hashtag Physics and Dance
69.9. wherein waving to others is somehow irresistible
And yet, here I am, watching my son faux‐conduct the quiescent train, admiring his beautiful face, his mouth agape at the machines he so adores, about which he knows nothing save what a human creature alive for barely three years can know: they’re sensationally large and powerful; they make loud noises; they belch amazing clouds of black smoke; and when they get going, they impart a feeling of freedom — of speed, transformation, leave‐taking, escape, anonymity, rush — whether you’re riding or watching them speed by. (You can feel this weird reciprocity via the ministeamer ride that encircles the park, wherein waving to others is somehow irresistible, whether you’re a passenger or pedestrian.) Here I am, still feeling the unprecedented (in my life, anyway) sensation of simple, total happiness in witnessing another’s simple, total happiness, of beholding a new beginning in this world, while the words The end of the world has already occurred tick by under the scene.
⸻ pg. 173
Yes, that “weird reciprocity” of steam rail, expressed in the wave. There’s a lot of something(s) to that, surely?
“The end…” is a quote of Timothy Morton (though which particular work goes unspecified).
The park is Griffith Park, Los Angeles; and the play at the Travel Town Museum.
69.10. deep‐time–burning movement freedom
To date, we have all thought modern freedom with oil, whether we aimed to or not. Carbon powers the very equipment by which our thoughts and voices and bodies reach one another[…] The awe my son felt at Travel Town was justified: we should feel awe in the face of the energy we’ve generated by burning deep time in no time. Our own bodies have been shaped by this power, through the speed of planes, trains, automobiles, and cybercurrents, all of which have become integral to our conception of freedom. We often take freedom to mean freedom of movement — be it the freedom to leave behind a bad scene for a (hopefully) better one; the freedom to leave behind cramped origins and forge new kinships in a bigger, more anonymous, place; the freedom to choose the unknown over the known. Capitalist, abolitionist, queer, and revolutionary consciousnesses alike have depended on such dreams and desires[…]
⸻ pp. 186–187
69.11. dropping story
As much as I understand these calls for us to invent or safeguard stories that might help us reflect and comprehend our circumstances with compassion, imagination, humor, solidarity, and dignity, I also think it valuable to “drop the storyline” as [Pema] Chödrön has counseled: all story lines, including “progressive” ones, which pin their hopes on the arc of history moving toward justice. For at some point in our lives, if we live long enough, we begin to feel in a visceral fashion what we’ve always known intellectually to be true: our life spans will not allow us to take in the whole story. Indeed, there may be no whole story. Maybe there’s no story at all. Our brains may be hardwired to produce story as a means of organizing space and time, but that doesn’t mean that story is the only mode available to us in experiencing our lives.
⸻ pg. 208
In counterpart to calls from Amitav Ghosh, Isabelle Stengers, the Dark Mountain Project, Paul Kingsnorth, and Roy Scranton, for various literatures responding to climate disaster.
Curious to me that Nelson should say an intellectual awareness would emerge (much!) earlier in life than the visceral.
69.12. what kind of body
One benefit of riding the blinds, or dropping the story line, is that other senses of time can become more palpable, including the feeling of folded or intergenerational time — what feminist scholars Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Loewen Walker have called “thick time”: “a transcorporeal stretching between present, future, and past.” “Thick time” is neither repo time nor queer time per se, though I admit to feeling it most often when I look at my son, and behold all the selves and ages he has passed through folded atop one another. (My mother once told me that, when she would go to pick me up from our town’s square, she would sometimes get momentarily confused about what kind of body she was looking for — a toddler body? A teenager body? A preteen body? At the time I thought she was a little nuts, but now I realize she was just touching the kind of thick time I experience all the time these days[…])
⸻ pp. 209–210
70. [C] New Scientist 3357 (23 October 2021)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
70.1. Jonathan O’CALLAGHAN ‘Venus’s surface may always have been too hot for oceans’
Martin Turbet at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and his colleagues[…] found that Earth was only able to condense water early in its history because the sun was about 25 per cent dimmer, seemingly solving a problem known as the faint young sun paradox where Earth was thought to have been too cold to support liquid water. Had it formed today, our planet might well have been a “steam Earth”, like Venus.
⸻ pg. 18
70.2. Christa LESTÉ‐LASSERRE ‘Penguins tell each other apart by sight and sound’
The penguin left in the enclosure always responded to the audio by looking at the door. But if the call came from a randomly chosen penguin, the tested penguin looked at the door more than twice as quickly as it did when the audio recording was from the penguin that had just passed through the door.
⸻ pg. 22
Research on a captive colony of African penguins Spheniscus demersus, by Luigi Baciadonna and his team, through the University of Turin.
70.3. ‘Scan can ID you via unique brain signal’
Each of us has a distinct brain activity “fingerprint”, and this can be spotted after someone lies in an MRI scanner for just 100 seconds. This identifying pattern of activity is known as the “connectome” because it shows how different brain regions are in sync (Science Advances, doi.org/g2rf).
⸻ pg. 23
Makes sense. / Fascinating!
70.4. Adam VAUGHAN ‘Good COP, bad COP’
There is also a separate ongoing branch of the talks, the Warsaw International Mechanism, which is exploring how to address the financial hit faced by countries dealing with climate change’s impacts. “We are now in the era of loss and damage,” says [Saleemul] Huq, referring to recent floods, famines and wildfires. It still remains to be worked out how vulnerable countries could get more help or money to cope with everything from extreme weather to longer‐term threats such as sea level rise. Huq says COP26 should make the Warsaw International Mechanism an annual high‐level agenda item at climate talks.
⸻ pg. 39
Huq is with the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
70.5. Carrie ARNOLD ‘Speed trials’
In the early 1980s, Robert Bartlett, a surgeon at the University of Michigan, wanted to test whether extra‐corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines could be used to do the work of the heart and lungs in premature babies. Until then, the machine had only been used in adults. Bartlett used an unorthodox trial design that borrowed from game theory. The first infant enrolled would receive the standard kind of ventilation at the time, which involved a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine. If it survived, the next would receive the same standard care. If it died, the second enrollee would be hooked up to an ECMO. The first baby died. The second received ECMO and survived. So did the third, the fourth, and all the rest up until the 12th baby. Given that nearly all similar premature babies had died without ECMO, Bartlett felt it was case closed.
Bartlett’s peers thought the trial was too small, however, and the design too unorthodox, to accept ECMO as the new standard of care. According to clinical statistician David Robertson at the University of Cambridge, the reception of Bartlett’s work put others off trying out new kinds of clinical trial for years to come. ECMO wasn’t accepted until 1996, when a group of UK scientists assessed the machine using a full‐blown RCT that involved 185 babies. As in Bartlett’s trial, ECMO easily proved superior to regular treatment. For Edward Mills at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, though, it was a pyrrhic victory. As a father, he says, all he can think about are the babies who didn’t make it. “Did all those kids really have to die just to prove a point?”
⸻ pp. 43–44
“RCT” = “randomised controlled trial”
71. [C] New Scientist 3373 (12 February 2022)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
71.1. Clare WILSON ‘Implants let people who were paralysed walk with support’
The idea is that the stimulation makes the remaining nerves more excitable and so amplifies the weak signals from the brain to the legs[…]
[Implant‐recipient, Michel] Roccati[…] now uses the implanted device for 1 to 2 hours a day, including for going for walks on his own. He can also stand up for 2 hours, cycle in an adapted wheelchair and even swim by choosing different stimulation programs. He finds walking or standing helps relieve pain caused by sitting in a wheelchair all day.
⸻ pg. 9
71.2. Laura SPINNEY ‘Views Columnist’
And today, in Albanian villages depleted of men by endemic blood feuding, you can still find “sworn virgins” — women who dress as men, assume male roles and are buried as men.
⸻ pg. 28
In paragraph paraphrasing “archaeologist Timothy Taylor at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia”. Going by the article’s framings generally, neither Spinney nor Taylor are necessarily the most insightful sources to go to for more on this.
71.3. Joshua HOWGEGO ‘Waste not… want not?’
Magnets, ubiquitous in modern electronic gadgets[…] are often made from a witch’s brew of rare and exotic elements that are fiddly to separate out again.
⸻ pg. 39
Recycling these would involve chemically separating the metals, a difficult and energy‐intensive process. This is why many advocates of a circular economy say that, if we are serious about ending the throwaway culture, we will need to use simpler materials and redesign processes so that these separation problems are more tractable[…]
⸻ pg. 40
By far the biggest driver of material use is construction.
⸻ pg. 44
Based on Circle Economy’s Mark de Wit and colleagues’ Circularity Gap Report of 2019.
BMW, for instance, recently unveiled a concept car called the BMW i Vision Circular that is designed according to circular principles and can be built from 100 per cent recycled materials. Among other things, the car’s metal body is given a “brushed” finish instead of being painted, which avoids use of some chemicals and allows easier recycling.
⸻ pg. 45
I have been wondering if such an approach to metal finishings couldn’t be used more, especially when looking at assistive tech.
71.4. Alex KESHAVARZI ‘The muon wrangler’
New Scientist: Why are we so sure that there must be some “new physics” out there to be discovered?
Alex Keshavarzi: In physics, there are four main unknowns. There’s the dark energy problem and the dark matter problem, these two things which we can see by their effects but can’t identify. There’s the need to amalgamate gravity with quantum mechanics. Then there is the funny something that went on in the first 3 minutes after the beginning of the universe, which somehow created an imbalance between ordinary matter and antimatter. Everything we know about physics suggests that matter and antimatter particles are always created in equal proportions, so we expect this happened at the big bang. The problem is that every constituent of matter that we see around us — ourselves, the sun — everything is made almost completely of normal matter. In the time it takes to make a cup of tea, all the antimatter in the universe disappeared and we have no idea why.
⸻ pg. 48
What exactly are you studying at the Muon g‐2 experiment?
The muon has this quantum property called spin, which you can think of as like its own internal bar magnet. If you put that in a magnetic field, it will precess — like the way a compass needle turns if you are at the north pole. At the same time, ordinary empty space can, according to the rules of quantum mechanics, have what we call virtual particles pop up quickly out of nothing and then disappear. It’s because empty space has a tiny amount of energy and this can be briefly converted into these virtual particles. It turns out that the rate at which the muons’ spin precesses is determined by these virtual particles. We can calculate to incredible precision what that number should be.
⸻ pg. 49
If the result is real, what would it mean?
It would mean that there are some virtual particles out there that we don’t know about yet. I should add that our experiment is sensitive to virtual particles, but any particles that appear in this way would also exist independently, out there in reality. Our experiment won’t tell us what those new particles are. It could be perhaps a candidate dark matter particle, maybe mediated by a new force, or some new particle that could explain the asymmetry between matter and antimatter. Other experimentalists would then need to take our data and go and make more specific searches for the particles. But it would be the first time we could say, OK, we’ve definitively discovered new physics.
⸻ pg. 50
72. [C] New Scientist 3382 (16 April 2022)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
72.1. Leah CRANE ‘Astronomers have spotted the most distant galaxy ever’
Fabio Pacucci at the Harvard‐Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts and his colleagues[…] found that HD1 is about 33·4 billion light years away[…] This is possible, despite the universe being only about 13·8 billion years old, because of the accelerating expansion of the cosmos.
We are seeing HD1 as it was just 330 million years after the big bang[…]
⸻ pg. 9
72.2. Chris STOKEL‐WALKER ‘Mobile phones as weapons’
“Anyone who has access to the tower information can obviously triangulate positions, and with integration ISTAR [intelligence, surveillance, target aquisition, and reconnaissance] systems today, it can be a matter of moments from detection to launching a missile or firing a shell,” says [Alan] Woodward [from the University of Surrey].
Communication breakdowns and flawed plans mean the Russian army’s secure communication systems have been unreliable since its invasion on 24 February, forcing it to rely on mobile phones, believe military analysts. And many members of the Ukrainian army, which is made up of considerable numbers of volunteers, may be unaware of the dangers of having phones in a combat situation.
[Device] metadata, such as a caller’s and recipient’s phone numbers, can also be used to bombard troops with propaganda. “We’ve seen many examples of both sides getting calls and threatening messages,” says Yevgeniy Golovchenko at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “We’ve also seen family members getting calls as a way of intimidating and demoralising the other side.”
A similar method was used against NATO troops stationed in the Baltic states, according to Golovchenko, as well as against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Relatives of members of Danish forces stationed in Afghanistan received messages incorrectly telling them that their relatives were dead, waging psychological warfare designed to turn public opinion against the occupation of Afghanistan, he says.
⸻ pg. 10
Horrifying how to dangers so obvious, general publics have been made this oblivious.
73. [B] New Scientist 3384 (30 April 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
74. [C] New Scientist 3387 (21 May 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
75. [C] New Scientist 3396 (23 July 2022)
- Took notes circa 2022.
Some cool choices of topic for feature articles: on brain organelles and on plagues contributing to cultural revolutions.
75.1. [B] Carissa WONG ‘Impact of covid‐19 on sperm’
Krishna Chaitanya Mantravadi at Oasis Fertility, a fertility clinic in Inda, tracked sperm counts in 20 men aged 25 to 35 from before they had a SARS‐CoV‐2 infection to nearly five months after they had fully recovered — that is, were testing negative and had no symptoms. The researchers didn’t explicitly look at sperm in trans women or non‐binary people — this was the case for all the studies mentioned in this article.
⸻ pg 16
When did New Scientist’s reproductive health reporting (start) get(ting sometimes) so with it?
75.2. [A] Annalee NEWITZ ‘This changes everything: The curious case of the AI and the lawyer’
75.2.1. the company made up of real people and their decisions
“Ascribing ‘sentience‘ to a product implies that any wrongdoing is the work of an independent being, rather than the company — made up of real people and their decisions, and subject to regulation — that created it,” [AI ethicist Timnit Gebru] and [her colleague Margaret] Mitchell wrote.
⸻ pg 28
75.2.2. it is very exciting being a squirrel
AI researcher and artist Janelle Shane recently asked an LLM questions with a slightly different prompt. “Can you tell our readers what it is like being a squirrel?” she enquired. The LLM replied: “It is very exciting being a squirrel. I get to run and jump and play all day. I also get to eat a lot of food, which is great.” It is easy to laugh. But the point is that an AI isn’t sentient just because it says so.
Let’s say a judge asks LaMDA what it feels like to be a person, and the AI gives convincing (non‐squirrel‐based) answers. And then let’s say the judge decides [Google engineer Blake] Lemoine is right and LaMDA can’t be reprogrammed or turned off beacause that would be “killing” it. […] We would be stuck with non‐sentient AIs that make nasty comments about minorities.
⸻ pg 28
L.L.M. = “large language model” (algorithm)
LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), an L.L.M.
75.3. [C] Liz ELSE ‘Time to savour some science’
There is a great example of [humans’] terrifying power in Regenesis by George Monbiot: farming. It is “the most destructive human activity ever to have blighted the Earth”, he says. Luckily, he delivers on the book’s subtitle, exploring ways of “feeding the world without devouring the Earth”.
⸻ pg 34
76. [B] New Scientist 3397 (30 July 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
So many articles I would love to keep a copy of handy somewhere!! Especially among the news.
77. [C] New Scientist 3402 (03 September 2022)
- Took notes circa February 2023.
77.1. [C] Matthew SPARKES ‘Conservative party’s online vote is vulnerable to hackers’
77.1.1. voting machine expertise
Douglas Jones, a retired voting machine expert formerly at the University of Iowa, says making a vote public rather than secret is one way to guarantee safety, and if people want to keep details of who voted for whom secret, then computers aren’t the way to go.
“You simply post all the votes in public where everyone can inspect the votes, and you provide a way for voters who object to the way their own votes were recorded with a way to correct them,” says Jones. “I cannot see how to guarantee ballot secrecy without some form of physical ballot voted in the privacy of a voting booth[…]”
⸻ pg. 9
77.2. [B] James DINNEEN ‘Bacteria seep out from cracks in the sea floor’
77.2.1. radio collar on a microbe
As much as 45 per cent of all microbes live underground in hot rocks, subsisting on hydrocarbons and other chemical energy. This “deep biosphere” is the largest habitat on Earth, yet little is known about its ecology, says Casey Hubert at the University of Calgary in Canada. “You can’t put a radio collar on a microbe and follow it around like you would with a grizzly bear.”
⸻ pg. 12
The research Hubert and team have been doing is exciting too!
77.3. [B] James MCCONNACHIE ‘A future for climate refugees?’
77.3.1. Nomad Century can seem too broad‐brush and too sure
[Gaia] Vince asserts, for instance, that the collapse of multiple Bronze Age civilisations 3200 years ago was the result of “climate chaos” and drought. This striking hypothesis has been put forward in recent years, but it is far from established. To pick another example. also from a hypothesis awaiting more evidence: did an individual’s nationality really have “little political meaning” before the end of the 18th century?
In details such as these, as well as in her overall vision of the future, Vince’s approach can seem too broad‐brush and too sure.
⸻ pg. 35
Article is a review of Gaia Vince’s Nomad Century, which sounds nonetheless worthwhile steeping in a little more (than the moment spent through an excerpt in a Guardian Weekly the other day) (as long as this cavalier attitude to science does not prove too prominent and irksome).
77.4. [B] Simon INGS ‘The film column: Taking direction’
77.4.1. imperfect, necessary business of imagining our way
[Marcus] Coates’s work champions the imperfect, necessary business of imagining our way into other heads, human and non‐human. 2007’s Dawn Chorus revealed common ground between human and bird vocalisation. He slowed recordings of birdsong down 20‐fold, had people learn the slowed‐down songs, filmed them, then sped the films up again. The result is a charming, startling glimpse of what humans might sound like if brought up to “bird speed”.
⸻ pg. 36
The Trip (2010) sounds perhaps even more intrguing: dying anthropologist Alex H steers Coates to or through the Amazon, on his behalf.
The column is mostly reviewing The Directors: five short films (2022), which, eh, sure. Nice idea, and hopefully a rewarding project, but how stressful a product. Each Directors short is lead by a different person, all of them in recovery from psychosis. They portray psychotic experiences through instructions delivered to Coates, duly acted out.
Asked by producers whether he found the exercise in any way exploitative, [one] director, Marcus Gordon, said: “Well, there’s no doubt I’ve exploited the artist.”
77.5. [D] Caroline WILLIAMS ‘Taming the menopause’
77.5.1. oestrogen helps to regulate glucose metabolism throughout the brain
Brinton points out that most of the symptoms of perimenopause are, in fact, neurological: hot flushes are the result of temperature regulation changes in th hypothalamus; sleep is governed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus; and mood and memory changes are largely related to the brain. Brinton’s research shows that oestrogen helps to regulate glucose metabolism throughout the brain, with receptors for the hormone found everywhere, from regions that support memory to those that specialise in emotional regulation. In mice, a lack of oestrogen seriousy dents their brains’ ability to make energy, leading to a 15 to 25 per cent drop in chemical activity in their brains.
Brinton’s research suggests that if oestrogen isn’t replaced, the brain does eventually adapt, but at a cost. With less glucose being metabolised, the brain turns to fats for energy, one easy source of which is the brain’s own white matter, the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve cells and speed up processing across the brain. […]
This all sounds alarming, but there is disagreement about what these changes in the brain’s metabolism actually mean.
⸻ pg. 40
All too vague to really impart any useful knowledge, this! What a shame.
77.6. [C] Colin BARRAS ‘The search for Ancestor X’
77.6.1. cultural biases
Our species was long thought to have evolved from a small, heterogeneous population living in a tiny corner of Africa. Evidence countering this idea emerged two decades ago, but is only now being widely recognised (see main story). Sheela Athreya at Texas A&M University suspects that cultural influences may help explain this. “A single ‘pure’ form evolving and spreading to replace all others? That’s colonialism in Europe and that’s manifest destiny in the United States,” she says.
[…] What’s more, a few of these same researchers have been quick to criticise their colleagues in Asia and elsewhere of being under the influence of perceived cultural biases, she says. This has discouraged collaboration and made it difficult to work out how the extraordinary fossil finds made in Asia fit into the bigger picture of human evolution.
[…] Fortunately, attitudes are changing.
⸻ pg. 48
In a box titled ‘East–West relations’.
78. [D] New Scientist 3403 (10 September 2022)
- Took notes circa February 2023.
78.1. [B] Jeremy HSU ‘DeepMind trains soccer‐playing AI’
[…] using an athletic curriculum resembling a sped‐up version of a human baby growing into a soccer player. The AI controlled digital humanoids with realistic body masses and joint movements.
⸻ pg 22
78.2. [B] Riley BLACK ‘Mammals lived the fast life to size up after dinos’
Critical clues came from fossilised Pantolambda teeth. Mammal teeth chemically record specific moments in life, such as when the animal was born or stopped suckling. By looking at these clues, [a research team led by Gregory Funston of the University of Edinburgh] were able to outline the life of this previously enigmatic mammal.
⸻ pg 22
78.3. [C] Jacob ARON ‘Back to the Internet’
Essentially, the internet [author of Escape: How a generation shaped, destroyed and survived the internet, Marie] Le Conte and I occupied was small. Yes, you could theoretically connect to millions of people, but people tended to organise themselves into small communities around blogs, forums and other online hangouts. […]
Le Conte’s thesis is that, with the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and the fact that many more people now use the internet, something special has been lost. “We found a home then it was invaded; it was no one’s fault, not really, but now everyone is here and our home is gone,” she writes.
⸻ pg 35
78.4. [A] Dana G. SMITH ‘Figuring out fatigue’
78.4.1. ongoing conversation about cellular energy
For decades, fatigue was dismissed as a fuzzy symptom with no clear biological origin. Now, research is revealing that it is the result of an ongoing conversation between the body and the brain about how much cellular energy is available.
⸻ pg 43
79. Karlie NOON & Krystal DE NAPOLI, Astronomy: Sky Country (Thames and Hudson 2022)
- Noticed circa 2022.
79.1. wanting to read
One of several books cited by design studio director Kaylie Salvatori, a Yuin Budawang woman, in her article ‘Look to the Skies, think like an Ancestor’ in Landscape architecture Australia 175: Matters of Time, pp. 12–15. I had marked Astronomy: Sky Country in my local library’s online catalogue last year as one of the hundreds to consider reserving; Salvatori’s citations only further encourage a real squiz.
The other books on which she drew:
- Songspirals: sharing women’s wisdom of Country through songlines
- Songlines: the power and promise
- Sand Talk: how Indigenous thinking can save the world, which I still want to read in print; the (lightly updated) audio book edition having been especially excellent
- Treading Lightly: the hidden wisdom of the world’s oldest people
Despite the awful subtitles of those last two (even the title itself of the last, evoking Māori author Nic Low’s attribution of “passing through the mountains like ghosts”, “crav[ing] a landscape […] untrodden by humans” to “the legal fiction” of terra nullius), probably worth noting them all.
Salvatori’s mentors Daniele Hromek (Yuin) and Clarence Slockee (Bundjalung) were the other major sources she named. Must admit Slockee’s segments on Gardening Australia had already left me curious about his other work…
80. [C] Jason OM, All mixed up (ABC Audio 2022), audiobook download
- Notes taken circa July 2022.
80.1. the suburbs spoke
All around us, the suburbs spoke with a constant [fizzes tongue against top teeth] of electricity and the distant [exhales forcefully yet evenly through open mouth] of traffic.
⸻ Track 2 ‘Chapter One’, 12:37–12:45
On growing up in Oakleigh in the 1980s. Both quotations of suburbia produced at (perfectly just uncomfortable) length.
81. [B] Olivette OTELE, African Europeans: an untold history (New York: Basic Books 2021)
- Took notes circa April 2022.
81.1. Black fame as exceptionalism
#anti‐Black racism, slavery
Black abolitionists and other black men and women have been looked at in relation to their roles as models in well‐known paintings or as servants who feature in travel writings and other artistic productions. When examined as individuals, these men and women are generally perceived as exceptional characters whose lives were transformed by complex encounters with Europeans. In such accounts, the notion of exceptionalism is used as a plausible reason for their fame. Some of their stories are believed to have survived because of the extraordinary nature of their contributions to European societies. Little, however, has been published about further aspects of their lives, such as the close connection they might have had with other people of African descent. Some histories have been forgotten or their importance underestimated. For example, African resistance to enslavement on African coasts or the fight against the transatlantic slave trade in Africa are scarcely mentioned in volumes about enslavement in European colonial history.
⸻ pp. 1–2
81.2. fascinating, crawl
Otele’s work is fascinating!
After a long crawl through the first chapter, between dozens of consultations of a dictionary of proper nouns (for all those geographic features, retired place names, and assumed‐famous figures and offices), it feels that this text would be even better for readers who are not already versed in more dominating European and “Ancient” histories, if the excellent writing were either slightly expanded here and there, or presented with frequent, simple maps. I have also been wishing for plates to look to of the cited artworks.
I guess, for me, this chapter might want rereading soon!
81.3. Juan Latino’s social commentary
[…] fifty or studies have analysed the work of Juan Latino. What is remarkable is the constant shift between his work as a poet, as a humanist and as a narrator of stories of his time. Latino’s work, which encompasses literature and what would now be considered social commentary tells us about Granada’s views on the foreigner and the non‑Christian, and about the fate of those who were perceived as a threat to the narrative the city was trying to create.
⸻ pg. 56
81.4. clumping off‐balance
Annette Ivory notes that of the 429,362 inhabitants of Seville in the sixteenth century, about 14,670 were black people. She contends that competition for jobs was exacerbated by the availability of black labour. It was also at this time that black characters were ridiculed in plays. The portrait of the black buffoon was aimed at relieving social and economic anxiety. In sixteenth‐century Granada, until the Morisco rebellion of 1568–71, most enslaved people were of African descent. During the years of the rebellion, 90 per cent of enslaved people who were sold in Granada were Moriscos. It was also in the sixteenth century that the term negro, or black, appears in legal documents instead of esclavo, or slave. Emily Weissbourd provides a striking example of such changes through documentation from 1559 to 1576 which refers to ‘his majesty’s blacks [negros]’ instead of ‘his majesty’s slaves’ in relation to people enslaved in silver mines near Seville.
⸻ pg. 62
Many of this (second) chapter’s paragraphs seem to have formed by clumping, leaving them off‐balance.
81.5. to limit the number of black people in France
#anti‐Black racism, migration policing, slavery
The number of legal cases involving black people led the [French] authorities to suggest that a special unit should be set up. In 1777 the Police des Noirs, or ‘police for black people’, was created. Soon after, it became compulsory for black people to carry a cartouche (an identification card). Between 1777 and 1789, in Paris only, 765 people were registered. The aim of the Police des Noirs was to limit the number of black people in the country. It was not named a ‘police for enslaved people’, so the assumption by then was that all black bodies were also enslaved. Masters who had enslaved domestic servants in their service had to register them or risk paying a heavy fine. Enslaved people were to stay in detention centres for the duration of their master’s stay. The costs would be the master’s responsibility.
Outside Paris, many port cities resented the initiative, as it curbed the freedom of planters who had up to that point enjoyed the services of their enslaved servants. In Bordeaux, for example, authorities argued in 1788 that the prison was the only adequate space to serve as a detention centre, but enslaved servants incurred the risk of becoming ill or being corrupted by prison life. Some people urged the authorities to find safe and clean spaces for their enslaved servants. The authorities’ preoccupation was not with cleanliness. It was, they argued, with finding ways to avoid any collusion that would lead to an insurrection in those detention centres. Masters could have used white servants in France, but that necessitated paying them wages. The predicament was that planters visiting family and friends wanted their slaves with them, but the rest of the population and the French authorities did not want to see them on their streets. They also resented the fact that they had to contend with a wealthy group they would rather leave on the fringe of the empire. Consequently, all free black men and women from the colonies who arrived after the new laws had been passed were to be sent back to the colonies. A series of laws was also passed which aimed to discourage unions between black and white people. Marriages were forbidden but, as [Pierre H.] Boulle notes, Article 13 of the 1777 bill was redrafted. Instead of making such unions illegal, it stated that children born from them had to wait four generations before they could hold office. In the end, however, Article 13 was removed from the bill altogether.
⸻ pp. 84–85
Emphasis mine, for comparison to erosions of (pathways to) citizenship since and elsewhere.
The Boulle citation is for ‘Racial Purity or Legal Clarity? The Status of Black Residents in Eighteenth‐Century France’ in Journal of Historical Society, vol. 6, no. 1 (2006), pp. 19–46.
This passage also draws on Sue Peabody, ‘There Are No Slaves in France’: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
81.6. Joseph Boulogne continued to charm
#passing references to oppression and prejudice
The Chevalier de Saint‐Georges, as [Joseph Boulogne] was then known, continued to charm most people he met[…]
[…] and earned further approval from most elite women in Paris. Joseph had played in a theatre that was dear to Madame de Montesson, a playwright with influence. She took Joseph under her wing and put him in charge of concerts at that theatre. Madame de Montesson, a marquise who had married the Duke of Orléans, was going to introduce Joseph to her husband. Shortly after that the two men became inseparable. The Duke, a freemason, introduced Joseph to freemasonry, and he became a member of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters. Joseph is believed to have been one of the first black freemasons in mainland France. In 1778, Mozart was in Paris. The Chevalier de Saint‐Georges was the best composer and musician of the kingdom, but Mozart, despite his father’s orders, refused to attend one of his concerts and meet him. Not all famous eighteenth‐century musicians reacted that way, however. In 1787, Joseph asked composer Josef Haydn for six pieces of music. Haydn provided them and Joseph directed them at an exclusive and highly praised concert. In 1785, the Duke of Orléans died. Joseph lost a dear friend and a powerful protector. This rapidly resulted in a severe loss of income for Joseph.
Joseph had been very fond of English history and culture. The passing of the Duke prompted a need for a change of scenery and a search for a new income. Despite his charm, the Chevalier de Saint‐Georges had always earned an income by working very hard and devoting his time to a variety of activities. He made several trips to London, where his reputation had preceded him. In 1787 he fought an organised duel with another fencing master, the Chevalière d’Eon. The Chevalière, or Chevalier, had earned a reputation as a skilful spy and a fantastic fighter. By the time she crossed swords with Joseph she identified and lived as a woman. The Prince of Wales attended the duel. Joseph was inspired by his encounter with the Chevalière d’Eon. On his return to Paris, he wrote a two‐act comedy entitled La Fille garçon, or The Girl Boy [sic]. The piece was extremely successful, and a positive review appeared in the Journal de Paris in 1787.
The Revolution started in 1789. Joseph appears to have taken the new Duke of Orléans to safety. The duke, later known as Philippe Égalité, had got involved with the Jacobin Club and Georges Danton in particular. Joseph decided to return to France to help the revolutionaries. His mission was to find people of African descent who were ready to support and take up arms for the revolutionaries. He managed to find a few of them, including the son of a planter and an enslaved woman, Thomas Retoré Dumas, later to be father of the author of The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas[…]
⸻ pp. 90–91
When Otele covers so much, so swiftly, with such fluidity, it is a joy.
Joseph Boulogne references she gives include:
- M. La Boëssière, Traité de l’art des armes: à l’usage des professeurs et des amateurs, Didot, 1818, pp. xv–xxii
- Alain Guédé, Monsieur de Saint‐George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered, trans. Gilda M. Roberts, Picador, 2003
- Lionel de La Laurencie and Frederick H. Martens, ‘The Chevalier de Saint‐George: Violinist’ in The Musical Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 1 (1919)
- Claude Ribbe, Le Chevalier de Saint‐George, Éditions Perrin, 2004
- Emil F. Smidak, Joseph Boulogne, Called Chevalier de Saint‐Georges, Avenira Foundation, 1996
At the close of Otele’s account of Boulogne’s life, posthumous erasure, and eventual memorialisation, she brings in broader social analysis from Crystal M. Fleming, Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France, Temple University Press, 2017.
82. Stephen PAGE and Greg BARRETT, Clan: Bangarra Dance Theatre (Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin 2013)
- Notes taken January 2023.
82.1. wanting to read
There are, at least, a few images in this book inviting so much more attention than the unimpressed breeze through I gave most of it the other day. Perhaps I should traverse it with a sketchbook, slow myself down, savour the stunning moments, search the dull; actually read.
82.2. flex of a foot or hand
Dancers communicate so profoundly with the mere flex of a foot or hand, a shift of focus, the roll of a head, the transfer of weight within their body.
⸻ Stephen Page, opening page
Yet considering all that is going on in the images which fill almost the entire book, Barrett’s photography (as paired with Page’s art direction?) tends to be rather lifeless. Murky, flat, depleted of momentum, almost clinical, for all the heavy‐ink, gloss and phenomenal energies gone in.
I couldn’t help but contrast the pronounced underwhelm at a first glance through 21st century, prestige project Clan with my memory of alternately squint‐goggling at a juddery, blurred few‐second clip of anthropologist–choreographer Pearl Primus’ 1950 solo dance Spirituals, rolled and buoyed and awash with awe, utterly.
Like [Isadora] Duncan, [Primus] danced with — not against — gravity, but in her case the gesture tied her to the dances that she had researched in the Gold Coast, Angola, Liberia, Senegal, and the Belgian Congo, among other countries on the African continent of the late 1940s. She describes the earth in African dance as “an extension of the dancer’s own feet, as if it were a stage of rubber from which he can bounce to the skies, as if it were a soft bed upon which he could roll and be protected.” Primus incorporated this Africanist vision of oneness with the earth into her choreography.
[In Sprituals,] Primus leaps, legs in a V, arms open to the sky, then drops to the ground to execute a breathtaking series of forward rolls. Moving in a tight circle, she falls face‐first onto the stage floor, rolls, and then quickly pushes herself back up to her knees — her centre of mass low to the ground and her chest high, as if ascending from the deep. She does this over and over again. It’s an image of redemption expressed in movement, and gravity is her guide.
⸻ Emily Coates and Sarah Demers, Physics and Dance, pg. 19
Though drawing on different traditions, Bangarra’s performances are also closely integrated with a cultural research approach to choreography, running along strong seams of spirituality overtly embodying kinship with the physical world; and enact some remarkable relationships with gravity (if perhaps sometimes more balletic in dynamic, which I suppose could be part the problem).
Film and photo may be different media, but I do not reckon the comparison unfair. One can picture a Barrett take on Primus, given his Bangarra. There they are, even bound in deliberate sequence, these bemusingly bland shots belying incredible somatic precision, sheet after sheet after sheet of them. Palpable poses somehow the strange exception, making it seem there’s really only the material here for a short pamphlet, a few grammes of promo. Indeed even the most fleet‐shuttered micromoments do feel very close to posed and promotional, the dense fields of ink somehow detached from the dances they represent, the depiction of dancers; and showing such scant sense of spirit. Book as tight proscenium; bodies planar and forcedly forever folded faceforwards, choreographic forebears of these fast twenties’ frontal fashions.
Sure enough, going through sketching, searching out toe tendons in the gloom, eyes meandering around shapes pulled and reimagining them multidimensional and dancer‐felt as they might have really been in the moment — a hand riding a heave of the ribs, the dipped chin tucking hot breath into the shoulder, the soles’ clap to the floor and the thigh and each other in moments of stunning suspension… That force of appreciation came through much stronger, and closer to consistent, once given active analysis.
I’d like to see more books of this ambition, but I’d most like to see lots of dance photography that dances itself, or at least seems to respond to, to live in the same world as, the dancing.
82.3. get busy with the making
Some time back the realisation came to me that, rather than fussing about my own feelings of guilt or inadequacies, or whiteness, or whether someone was or wasn’t looking me in the eyes, the best way to proceed is to find a point of focus somewhere there in the middle distance and simply begin the journey and get busy with the making.
⸻ Greg Barrett, opening spread
Middle distance sounds a decent when‐bogged‐in‐doubt alignment, sometimes, I guess?
83. [A] Shelley PARKER‐CHAN, She who became the sun (London: Mantle 2021)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
83.1. the world gripped your body
That was the world of greatness, out there an that distant plain. As Zhu gazed at it, she felt a pull in her middle. It was different from the feeling she’d had as a child of twelve — the abstract curiosity of what it would feel like to jump. This was the feeling of having jumped. After the jump, but before the fall: the moment the world gripped your body in preparation for bringing it back to where it belonged. It was the feel of a force that couldn’t be overcome by will, that belonged to the world itself. Fate, Zhu thought abruptly.
⸻ pg. 73
Metaphysics and dance.
83.2. the cleanest and hottest of the emotions
Loathing, shame, and anger rushed through him as a series of escalating internal temperatures. The anger, when it finally came, was a relief. It was the cleanest and hottest of the emotions; it scoured him of everything else that might have lingered.
⸻ pg. 123
83.3. the promise of difference, made real
[Ma’s] anger was punctured by [Zhu’s] unexpected honesty. Or what seems like honesty. With a flash of pain she realized she wanted to believe it. She wanted to believe he was different; that he was the kind of man who saw his own flaws, and who needed her as much as she needed him. “You want me to believe you’re different,” she said, and to her shame her voice cracked. “That you can give me something different. But how can I trust that? I can’t.”
To her surprise a wrenching look passed over Zhu’s face. Vulnerability and a shadow of fear, something she had never seen in him before, and it unmoored her more than anything else that had passed between them. “I can see how it would be hard to trust,” he said. His voice had that odd inflection of understanding in it again, and Ma had absolutely no idea what it meant.
He set aside the book and rose, and started to untie his shirt. It was so bizarre that Ma found herself watching with a floating feeling that seemed half paralysis and half acceptance, as if she were a dreamer borne along by the strangeness of the dream. It was only when Zhu’s bare shoulders slid into view that she came back to life with a jolt of embarrassment. She jerked her face away. It was hardly the first male skin she’d seen, but for some reason her face was burning. She heard his clothes fall.
Then his cool fingers were on her face, turning it back. He said, “Look.”
Their bodies were so close, the clothed and the unclothed, and with that same sense of dreamlike acceptance Ma saw in the other her own reflection as seen waveringly in a bowl of water.
Zhu watched her look. Her face had a flayed vulnerability, something so raw and terrible that Ma flinched to see it. It made her think of someone baring a mortal wound they dared not look at themselves, for fear of the reality of it undoing them in an instant.
Zhu spoke calmly, but beneath the surface Ma sensed a shivering horror. “Ma Xiuying. Do you see something you want?”
I’m a woman, Ma had cried to Zhu in despair. Now, as she looked at the person standing before her in a body like her own, she saw someone who seemed neither male nor female, but another substance entirely: something wholly and powerfully of its own kind. The promise of difference, made real. With a sensation of vertiginous terror, Ma felt the rigid pattern of her future falling away, until all that was left was the blankness of pure possibility.
She took Zhu’s small, calloused hand and felt its warmth flow into her until the hollow space of her chest blazed with everything she’d never let herself feel. She was yielding to it, being consumed by it, and it was the most beautiful and frightening thing she’d ever felt. She wanted. She wanted everything Zhu was offering with that promise of difference. Freedom, and desire, and her life to make her own. And if the price of all of that was suffering, why did it matter when she would suffer no matter what she chose?
She said, “Yes.”
⸻ pp. 253–254
83.4. so so so somatic
The writing is sharp; honed and clear. The setting is profoundly inhabited, in a way quite unusual among fictional composition. An awesome meeting of characteristics.
84. [C] Annie‐B PARSON, The choreography of everyday life (London and New York: Verso 2022)
- Took notes circa October/November 2022.
Quoted in horticulture is rarely seen as violent or associated with pillage and theft.
85. [D] Bruce PASCOE, Dark emu: black seeds: agriculture or accident (ABC Audio 2017), audiobook download
- Took notes circa April 2022.
85.1. tedious and mean
#the settler-colonial project etc
My opinion of Dark Emu, based on several flicks in and out a few years ago, amounted to grave disappointment in each of raving book-lender, skilled story-teller, and exciting publisher.
The second of the three, Bruce Pascoe, achieved the most monumental feat — especially for such a practiced raconteur and fierce devotee of his thesis — of rendering the inexhaustibly rich and intricate an aching bore. Extruded from a staunchly colonial corpus, observations (and more so their concomitant filters) were massed so carelessly over the argument of the book as to homogenise, beyond any real remnant intelligibility, the author’s representation of the pre-Invasion world(s) that he sought to (of all incongruous, unnecessary things) exonerate.
Shockingly, throughout each of the fumbling passages that I read, Uncle’s own framings and phrasings were disparaging and elitist; colluding in the task of replicating Western empire’s wrenchings of cultures into its dehumanising hierarchy, perpetuating the same ideological enormity upon which the lie of terra nullius fed, feeds. Rather than challenge the chauvinisms of British-cum-Australian occupation, the text sought to reposition the continent’s Aboriginal civilisation (including, on the odd moment he remembered, that of Zenadth Kes) more prestigiously within reinforced models of those. Scant to no understanding was demonstrated that one might celebrate, say, achievements in urban planning, without belittling those engaged in nomadic practices; or that farmers and foragers might both be respectable, deserving of self-determination in relationship with land/waters, or in no way fair game for genocide. (Being in selective quotation), citations even from settlers known to have gone in for overt massacre often came across the milder.
Yet as a speaker, Pascoe has the benefit of some charisma, the invocation of his more dependable and thoughtful — choice — public insights. It becomes easier to tolerate the dry and the spiteful, melded into the patient delivery of a casually cruel character who burbles on with or without the listener’s collaboration; where to read print (for meaning) is to necessarily engage in the cognitive manifestation of oncoming ideas, judgements, conceptualisations in a more immediate way, which (in such lifelessly skatable writing especially) can leave them overwhelmingly raw. But the audiobook is in, mostly, the kind of dreary Reading Aloud Voice that seems to take any attention for granted. Forty anorak-modelling minutes between structural thrusts can soften a text. As can ambiguity of quotations’ extents.
Still, in speech too, Dark Emu is worded to make its distance by the white, outmoded, institutional (even quasi-assimilationist?) book and throw societies under the bus. It serves as a project of pandering, a betrayal, a rejection of solidarity, robbings of validity, shoring up of shonky-scientific supposition, and a push to gamble entire peoples’ standing on a single proposition: an all too eager appeal to racism and its mechanisms of oppression.
86. Bruce PASCOE & Vicky SHUKUROGLOU, Loving country: a guide to sacred Australia (Bolinda Publishing 2020), audiobook download
- Took notes circa May 2022.
86.1. stopping reading
Ran out of leeway regarding return date around the same time as I ran out of patience with a mediocre production.
87. [C] David PEARSON Books as history: the importance of books beyond their texts (London & New Castle: The British Library and Oak Knoll Press 2011)
- Took notes circa June 2022.
87.1. bookish conversation
Four months after first starting to seek out a copy of this to borrow, I have forgotten who it was who piqued my interest in it. There was a bookish conversation on BookWyrm crossing my feed some intriguing titles came up in, but when is there not? Anyway, thanks, people!
87.2. patterns of ownership
[…] we learn a lot more about [books’] historical influence and reckoned worth when we have copies which have been through the hands of successive owners. Books develop their own individual histories which become part of our wider historical heritage and evidence base. We have a series of values in our minds about the relative worth of authors of the past, influenced by the standards of our own age and layers imposed by previous generations; if we wish to truly understand their impact and standing among their contemporaries, we should look at patterns of ownership and the ways in which books were treated. Today, we regard John Donne’s poems as his major achievement, but seventeenth‐century catalogues show that in his own time, his sermons were more likely to be found on library shelves.
The possibilities of this approach to books have been demonstrated by Owen Gingerich, who carried out a detailed survey of all known surviving copies of the first two editions of Copnicus’s De revolutionibus. By recording the ownership, annotations and other physical features of over 600 copies, spread around the world, Gingerich was able to show how quickly the book was acquired by sixteenth‐century astronomers across Europe, how that network of experts shared and communicated ideas, and how receptive (or otherwise) those first generations of readers were to Copernicus’s heliocentric theories. There is a growing industry in this kind of scholarship, looking closely at various kinds of copy‐specific evidence in books to gain a better understanding of their impact on earlier readers. The history of reading, and of marginalia and other marks in books, have all become flourishing areas of study.
⸻ pp. 24–25
87.3. to the framework within which meaning is constructed
The meaning or interpretation of a text is not something absolute, but is endlessly recreated through the experiences of successive readers; typography, layout, physical format and everything surrounding the words themselves all contribute to the framework within which meaning is constructed.
⸻ pg. 34
87.4. the codex format
The book, in its physical manifestation with which we are so familiar, is a highly functional piece of design which is pleasing to use and to look at, to hold in the hand and to turn the pages. The idea of putting text onto double sided pages, and sewing leaves together — the codex format, the shape of the book as we know it — emerged in the Near East in the first few centuries AD and the subsequent longevity of the design, which has yet to be superseded by anything that can match it for portability and all‐round usability, testifies to its success. Books are effective, as well as satisfying, objects.
⸻ pp. 34 & 39
I might have some bones to pick, but this is an okay starting point for assessing utility of the format.
87.5. imaginative book art
The Livre d’artiste, the Artist’s Book, is a concept generally agreed to have begun in France around the beginning of the twentieth century, with the creation of works like the Vollard edition of Verlaine’s Parallelement (1900, overleaf), bringing graphic artists and creative writers together in order to produce something which is meant to transcend a mere illustrated book. It is since the later twentieth century that more imaginative book art has really flourished, as artists have sought to begin not so much with the idea of words and images, as with the physical form of the book itself, and create works that spring at least as much from the concept of book as that of text. Aunt Sallie’s Lament by Margaret Kaufman is, at one level, a poem about making quilts; it is presented on multishaped pages, reflecting a patchwork quilt, that can be opened in different sequences to present various combinations of words. In this case the impact of the words on their own, without the physical form in which they are presented, would be much diminished. Nicanor Parra’s Antibook comprises a series of short poems which in codex format presents snatches of text in erratic patterns; the pages have to be taken apart and folded into a 3‐D polyhedron in order to see the text complete, and joined up. Perhaps the ultimate step along this road is the creation of works like Keith Smith’s String Book, which has textless blank pages with varying numbers of holes, through which string is passed; turning the pages produces an experience which is visual, tactile and aural. It is an artwork which depends primarily on the physical form of the book for its effectiveness and concentrates the mind on the book as an object. Can a book be a book without words?
⸻ pg. 71
Paging zine club.
87.6. multiplicity, and uniform identity
Printed books — the physical artefacts we hold in our hands — are manufactured objects. At the broadest and simplest theoretical level we can think of their creation as a production line that starts with raw materials and churns out multiple copies of essentially identical artefacts. Multiplicity, and uniform identity, are important concepts here; this is what the invention of printing brought about, the ability to mass produce lots of copies of a particular text, set in metal type and impressed onto paper, so that many readers can have the same thing all at once. It is an important distinguishing feature between printed books and manuscript books, written by hand […]
There are in fact all kinds of reasons as to why this generalisation may be an oversimplification, as things can happen either deliberately or accidentally during the manufacturing process to introduce variety.
⸻ pg. 77
Opening of chapter three, ‘Individuality within mass production’.
87.7. errata slips and cancels
Mistakes that were felt to be unacceptable could be dealt with by printing small errata slips with the correct reading, to be pasted over the offending passage, or by printing whole new leaves of text which would be substituted for the originals when the book came to be bound up. These leaves, known as cancels, are usually readily detectable by the stubs left when single sheets are inserted into the folded gatherings of a book[…]
These are all manifestations of variety which result from things that happen in the printing process. Some of them are trivial, others less so […] Cancelled text can be more significant, by revealing authorial intentions or changes that had to be made in the light of contemporary political sensitivities[…] This kind of thing happens with modern books as well as old ones, which may have to be changed at the last minute for legal reasons[…]
⸻ pp. 80–81
87.8. handle on the vagaries
Bibliographers developed the concept of ‘ideal copy’ to try to get an intellectual handle on the vagaries of book production processes. It rests on the idea that for every edition of every book that was printed as a distinct project within a printing house, there is a perfect version which represents what the author and the printer intended to produce[…] In recent years, the validity of ideal copy has increasingly been questioned, as people recognise that texts, and the way they were perceived by early readers, were more fluid things than can be encompassed in such a theory.
⸻ pg. 81
Libraries have typically assumed that the interest in their books lies solely with their texts, and they have focused their activities accordingly. Library catalogues have traditionally concentrated on authors and titles, with scant attention given (until recently) to copy‐specific information on owners and bindings. Repair work has been directed first and foremost on the need to have a sturdy vehicle for the reading of texts. These kinds of values are turned on their head by the new ease with which texts can be circulated in digital or other facsimile. A sixteenth‐century edition of Chaucer in a twentieth‐century binding, with no annotations and all traces of previous ownership removed through rebinding processes, is still a historic object, but what it has to offer to readers and scholars is often equally well provided by the multitude of electronic and paper‐based surrogates which are now available. It also has little that distinguishes it from another copy which has had similar treatment. Gabriel Harvey’s copy of the 1598 Chaucer, on the other hand, with his inscription and copious notes on contemporary poets, including the earliest known reference to Hamlet, is clearly a unique and irreplaceable object.
⸻ pp. 94–95
Breaking his own argument here, I fear*, is Pearson.
*I don’t fear; I find neither the elitist hoarding mode of curatorship, nor the presupposition of universal and permanent availability of institutionally compatible electronic computers to be sympathetic stances.
87.10. sequence of squib and counter‐squib
Annotations in books may be important not only because of what they can tell us about the annotator and his views on the world, but also because they may contain significant information about the text and its publication, which may not be available elsewhere. George Thomason (1600?–66), a bookseller in London during the Civil War, assembled a unique collection of about 23,000 of the pamphlets, tracts, handbills and news‐sheets which poured from the press during that period of political upheaval. Their value as texts for historians is enhanced by Thomason’s habit of noting the actual day of publication on each item, so the exact sequence of squib and counter‐squib can be established.
⸻ pp. 120–121
87.11. they may mark for editions which may not have come
Author’s own copies of the books they publish can be particularly interesting if they use them to record their later thoughts on the texts which become frozen and unchangeable once the printing press has done its work (unlike texts we write today and hold in electronic form). They may note corrections, additions, or changes of their ideas, or they may mark them up to become the copy text for later editions which may or may not have come to publication.
⸻ pp. 121–122
Hm, grammatical mood and tense.
87.12. commonly issued in a range of binding choices
If you gather together twenty copies of a sixteenth‐century book, or an eighteenth‐century one, from different libraries and collections, the chances are that every one will have a different binding, with its own set of historical messages. Multiple copies of a twentieth‐century book will probably be uniform as regards bindings (subject to wear and tear and the possible loss of the dust jacket), but twenty copies of a nineteenth‐century book are likely to show some variety. Until quite late in the century, books were still commonly issued in a range of binding choices, including different grades of quality and various colours and patterns of cloth.
⸻ pp. 152–153
88. [D] Michael PEMBROKE America in retreat: the decline of US leadership from WW2 to COVID‐19 (London: Oneworld 2021)
- Took notes circa January 2023.
88.1. consider geography in making aquisitions
Hm. Why did this general purpose public lending library situated in nearly the heart of Birrarungga obtain a hardcover British and North American edition, physically constructed in Great Britain, of a book which had been first published only the very year before by Hardie Grant? Seems ludicrously wasteful, logistically speaking! Or are H.G.B. no longer based in South Yarra? Or was their own print run constrained, in accordance with prior experience of this phenomenon? Do buyers or suppliers or whoever just not consider geography in making acquisitions, maybe? I have no idea.
Is this a Thing, librarians out there? Or more likely an isolated quirk?
88.2. to give up its age-old right to resort to war
The representatives of the fifty participating nations [at the San Francisco conference] signed the Charter of the United Nations on 26 June 1945. […] The most profound change was that each member state agreed to give up its age‐old right to resort to war, except in self‐defence, and to ‘refrain from the threat or use of force’ against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Unilateral resort to war was replaced by collective decision‐making in the Security Council on behalf of all member states.
⸻ pg. 29
How does, or can this be made to, pertain to civil wars, frontier wars, and extant wars of occupation? Does reliance all fall on subsequent or localised legislation, treaties, and pledges? Was it only war if persued against signatories or against others who were in some certain ways recognised by that cohort? How accurately has Pembroke characterised the upshot of the Charter? What’s been lost to approximation in the sleek service of this particular thesis? I know so little!
Charter of the United Nations, 1945: https://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/
He also cites in the same paragraph Ivo H Daalder and James M Lindsay, The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership, Hachette, 2018, p. 18. Though rather than obviously insightful, that sounds like a variation on the same book!
Further / Ridiculous note to self: I am very much going to have to come back and edit the punctuation marks in this post. I miss my true hyphens and consistently curly quotes. There is only so much copying and pasting them in I can aspire to through a touchscreen. [Edit: Done!]
88.3. responsibility with a universal mission
[United States Senator William Fulbright] adopted the phrase ‘arrogance of power’ to describe the tendency to equate power with virtue and responsibility with a universal mission.
⸻ pg. 107
So much so he named a whole book it? J. William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power, Vintage Books, 1966.
88.4. Ukrainian infrastructure as a logistics hub for BRI
#2020s phase of war in Ukraine (implied), imperialisms
In Ukraine, ‘China is investing $7 billion in upgrading Ukrainian infrastructure…as a logistics hub for BRI.’
⸻ pg. 211
“BRI” = the Belt and Road Initiative
😬 for the siting.
This book would have dated fast (as in quick, as in firmly) .
Often the most conspicuous cause was Pembroke twirling into practically economist‐blithe pandemica (not that these would’ve read that much better earlier!), an offshoot of drawing awkward connections boldly, particularly at contemporary events. But this quote was in a section of Chapter 8, ‘Shifting Alliances: Looking East’, headed (and, contrary to decontextualised appearances, treating everyplace‐East within as belonging to the category of) ‘China & Russia’.
😬 for the citing.
Oh, and speaking of citing, the logistics hub quote is attributed to Parag Khanna, The Future is Asian: Global Order in the Twenty‐First Century, Hachette, 2019, p. 85.
88.5. the petroyuan is coming
#oil trade, quickly giving way to casual dialect chat (feat. questionably encoded I.P.A.)
And Saudi Arabia — like Russia, China and Iran — has threatened to drop the US dollar as its default currency on oil trades. The ‘petroyuan’ is coming.
⸻ pg. 221
I mean — with the most mixed of feelings — good on them, but also can they even do that? Is that not the whole thing about the petrodollar? (I’ve forgotten how it works).
Also I just looked up contender for most U.S.American word of all time, “hegemony”, and Macq Dic gives:
/həˈgɛməni, həˈdʒɛməni, ˈhɛgəməni, ˈhɛdʒəməni, /Orig. US /ˈhɛgəmoʊni, ˈhɛdʒəmoʊni/
The pronunciations /ˈhɛgəmoʊni/ and /ˈhɛdʒəmoʊni/ are considered by some to be not standard in Australian English.
⸻ Alison Moore (editor). Macquarie Dictionary Eighth Edition (Sydney: Macquarie Dictionary Publishers 2020).
- If not in a whisper, I can’t even pronounce [ˈhɛgəməni]! Excuse me, pardon me, sorry, but where might I put down this secondary stress? I have to go so light on the hɛ for the word to support any more!
- [həˈgɛməni] is exactly the kind of pretentious (yet logical) contrivance that I would not believe I haven’t embraced earlier, if I’d ever even heard of it!
- “Alright, look we like to think of ourselves as descriptivists, but just so you know: the original pronunciation is wrong.”
- In case anyone is dying of acute curiosity, I think of the word as [ˈhɛdʒəmoʊni], and would normally speak it the same, because it’s a term hard not to exaggerate, although if I get over myself and on with life and actually use it, like in a sentence, it therefore occasionally comes out as [ˈhɛdʒəməni], I think, but it’s hard to tell, because it fundamentally feels like it exists outside my “real” lexicon, somehow? Like it’s there but so specific to certain situations. Like “pierogi”, or “meniscus”, or something.
- I myself am malingering in chronic curiosity and would love to hear how any of you read it.
88.6. Chinese business in Africa
#Africa as a monolith, neocolonial analyses
The investment by China in African ports, railways and energy infrastructure is only part of the picture. Before the 2020 pandemic, there was a noticeable shift in the pattern of Chinese investment toward manufacture and financial services — ‘supporting Africa’s efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its over‐reliance on natural resources for growth’. More than a decade ago, China overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. China–Africa trade grew from $10 billion in the year 2000 to $220 billion in 2014, and ‘increased by 19.7 per cent’ in 2018; more than forty African nations now have trade agreements with China; and more than 10,000 Chinese‐owned firms are operating throughout Africa. The value of Chinese business in Africa ‘since 2005 amounts to more than $2 trillion’. The mutual trade has been so extensive that, as one commentator observed, ‘Crushing Africa in debt so that they cannot buy anything that the Chinese make simply does not make a lot of sense.’
⸻ pg. 236
This just in, whatever the burden, coercion, depletion or vulnerability that may result, the debt you’re subjected to is not crushing until you cannot consume any further goods and/or services.
Though I’m risking a little oversimplification, given it’s not what’s literally stated in the above, if I’m remembering correctly, this assumption, or wish, really did seem to underlie all of Pembroke’s coverage of large‐scale investment activities, except where those related to U.S. militarisation?
Pembroke’s attributions for the diversification and 19·7%; the $2 trillion; and the crushing, respectively:
- Baker McKenzie, ‘The Impact of COVID‐19 on China’s Belt and Road Initiatives in Africa’, 31 March 2020: www.bakermckenzie.com/en/newsroom/2020/03/bri-africa, [Pembroke‐] accessed 15/4/20
- Shepard, Forbes, 3 October 2019 [for which I can’t see a fuller citation]
- Silja Frohlich, ‘Africa: China’s Belt and Road Forum — Does Africa Need New Funding Options?’, All Africa, 26 April 2019: allafrica.com/stories/201904290003.html, [P‐]accessed 21/3/2020.
88.7. Whitehall, Ottawa, Canberra
#adversarialism towards China
This is the most destablising aspect of Washington’s twenty‐first century world view — its relentless and unwavering anti‐China conviction. It has some adherents in the corridors of power in Whitehall, Ottawa and Canberra but less elsewhere. It is far from a universal view. Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, spoke for many when he told an audience of foreign and defence ministers at the 2019 Shangri‐La Dialogue: ‘This negative view of China has permeated the US establishment. It is not confined to the White House or the Administration, but is shared widely by Congress, the military, the media, academics and NGOs too’. He added: ‘Those inclined to a more positive view of China have been marginalised’.
⸻ pg. 250
I went into this paragraph imagining the first approaching string of capitalised words might possess something of the va‐va‐voom of “PARIS MILAN NEW YORK…”, that they would at least ring like a list of high‐profile foreign correspondents’ offices, and a slightly soggy cardboard surprise that brought me, as much more sense as it made.
Speech: Lee Hsien Loong, Keynote Address, IISS Shangri‐La Dialogue 2019, 31 May 2019.
89. [D] Ciel PIERLOT, Bluebird (London: Angry Robot 2022)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
90. [D] Michael POLLAN, The botany of desire: a plant’s‐eye view of the world (London: Bloomsbury 2002)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
90.1. noughties surprises hanging @ page 86
Between this and Noam Chomsky’s Failed States (both noughties surprises among my assigned loans this month), I cannot quite get over the library’s still hanging onto select books for more than five years. I had the impression that this lot turfed everything within a decade, nowdays, but… these aren’t even reprints.…
90.2. genes are archives of cultural information
After ten thousand years of coevolution, [domesticated plants’] genes are rich archives of cultural as well as natural information. The DNA of that tulip there, the ivory one with the petals attenuated like sabers, contains detailed instructions on how best to catch the eye not of a bee but of an Ottoman Turk; it has something to tell us about that age’s idea of beauty. Likewise, every Russet Burbank potato holds within it a treatise about our industrial food chain — and our taste for long, perfectly golden french fries.
⸻ pg. xv
Introduction, pg. xv
90.3. artificial as in artifact: a thing reflecting human will
[Charles] Darwin devoted the first chapter of The Origin of Species to a special case of natural selection called ‘artificial selection’ — his term for the process by which domesticated species come into the world. Darwin was using the word artificial not as in fake but as in artifact: a thing reflecting human will. There’s nothing fake about a hybrid rose or a butter pear, a cocker spaniel or a show pigeon.
⸻ pg. xx
‘Introduction’, pg xx
90.4. the redemptive American ground
In the process of changing the land, [John ‘Johnny Appleseed’] Chapman also changed the apple — or rather, made it possible for the apple to change itself. If Americans like Chapman had planted only grafted trees — if Americans had eaten rather than drunk their apples — the apple would not have been able to remake itself and thereby adapt to its now home. It was the seeds, and the cider, that gave the apple the opportunity to discover by trial and error the precise combination of traits required to prosper in the New World. From Chapman’s vast planting of nameless cider apple seeds came some of the great American cultivars of the nineteenth century.
Looked at from this angle, planting seeds instead of clones was an extraordinary act of faith in the American land, a vote in favor of the new and unpredictable as against the familiar and European. In this Chapman was making the pioneers’ classic wager, betting on the fresh possibilities that might grow from seeds planted in the redemptive American ground. This happens to be nature’s wager too, hybridization being one of the ways nature brings newness into the world. John Chapman’s millions of seeds and thousands of miles changed the apple, and the apple changed America. No wonder Johnny Appleseed has shaken off the historians and biographers and climbed into our mythology.
⸻ pg. 46
Was it though? Can faith be retrospectively injected?
90.5. Lâle Devri imperial gardens
#animals as fixtures
Each spring for a period of weeks the imperial gardens were filled with prize tulips (Turkish, Dutch, Iranian), all of them shown to their best advantage. Tulips whose petals had flexed too wide were held shut with fine threads hand‐tied. Most of the bulbs had been grown in place, but these were supplemented by thousands of cut stems held in glass bottles; the scale of the display was further compounded by mirrors placed strategically around the garden. Each variety was marked with a label made from silver filigree. In place of every fourth flower a candle, its wick trimmed to tulip height, was set into the ground. Songbirds in gilded cages supplied the music, and hundreds of giant tortoises carrying candles on their backs lumbered through the gardens, further illuminating the display. All the guests were required to dress in colors that flattered those of the tulips. At the appointed moment a cannon sounded, the doors the the harem were flung open, and the sultan’s mistresses stepped into the garden led by eunuchs bearing torches. The whole scene was repeated every night for as long as the tulips were in bloom, for as long as Sultan Ahmed [III] managed to cling to his throne.
⸻ pg. 90
In the Lâle Devri.
Would Pollan write like a damped‐down colonial travelogue about a modern Western expo? Quite possibly, the book’s a drowsy revel in unprompted questionable literary voice.
I’ve picked one of the subtler examples, because it was all too wearisome.
90.6. tulips as commodities, color breaks destroyed
The virus [responsible for broken tulips] works by partially and irregularly suppressing the anthocyanin, thereby allowing a portion of the underlying color to show through. It wasn’t until the 1920s, after the invention of the electron microscope, that scientists discovered the virus was being spread from tulip to tulip by Myzus persicae, the peach potato aphid[…]
By the 1920s the Dutch regarded their tulips as commodities to trade rather than jewels to display, and since the virus weakened the bulbs it infected (the reason the offsets of broken tulips were so small and few in number), Dutch growers set about ridding their fields of the infection. Color breaks, when they did occur, were promptly destroyed, and a certain peculiar manifestation of natural beauty abruptly lost its claim on human affection.
⸻ pg. 97
90.7. American jurisprudence, medieval animism
#war on drugs
[…] according to the somewhat magical reasoning of the federal asset‐forfeiture laws, my garden can be found guilty of violating the drug laws even if I am not. The titles of proceedings brought under these laws sound rather less like exercises in American jurisprudence than medieval animism: United States v. One 1974 Cadillac Eldorado Sedan.
⸻ pg. 136
90.8. forgetting is a mental operation
Don’t be so sure that forgetting is undesirable, [Raphael Mechoulam] suggested. ‘Do you really want to remember all the faces you saw on the New York City subway this morning?’
Mechoulam’s somewhat oblique comment helped me begin to appreciate that forgetting is vastly underrated as a mental operation — indeed, that it is a mental operation, rather than, as I’d always assumed, strictly a breakdown of one[…] Think how quickly the sheer volume and multiplicity of sensory information we receive every waking minute would overwhelm our consciousness if we couldn’t quickly forget a great deal more of it than we remember.
‘If we could hear the squirrel’s heartbeat, the sound of the grass growing, we should die of that roar,’ George Eliot once wrote. Our mental health depends on a mechanism for editing the moment‐by‐moment ocean of sensory data flowing into our consciousness down to a manageable trickle of the noticed and remembered. The cannabinoid network appears to be part of that mechanism, vigilantly sifting the vast chaff of sense impression from the kernels of perception we need to remember if we’re to get through the day and get done what needs to be done. Much depends on forgetting.
⸻ pg. 175
Elided is an inventory of the author’s observations in a given moment at his desk.
It seems to me that this chapter of Pollan’s (‘Marijuana’) tends to jumble ideas about qualia, short‐term memory, long‐term memory, sensory capacity, sensory perception, attention, and awareness more than always works for the specifics he is trying to get at.
However, his vague universalising does inadvertently invite various interesting questions about neurodiversity.
90.9. jealousy guard the borders
Even so, the use of drugs for spiritual purposes feels cheap and false. Perhaps it is our work ethic that is offended — you know, no pain, no gain. Or maybe it is the provenance of the chemicals that troubles us, the fact that they come from outside. Especially in the Judeo‐Christian West, we tend to define ourselves by the distance we’ve put between ourselves and nature, and we jealousy guard [sic] the borders between matter and spirit as proof of our ties to the angels. The notion that spirit might turn out in some sense to be matter (and plant matter, no less!) is a threat to our sense of separateness and godliness. Spiritual knowledge comes from above or within, but surely not from plants. Christians have a name for someone who believes otherwise: pagan.
The fact that witches and sorcerers were the first Europeans to exploit the psychoactive properties of cannabis probably sealed its fate in the West as a drug identified with feared outsiders and cultures conceived in opposition: pagans, Africans, hippies. The two stories fed each other and in turn the plant’s power: people who smoked cannabis were Other, and the cannabis they smoked threatened to let their Otherness loose in the land.
⸻ pp. 186 & 188
“The two stories” are of Hassan ibn al Sabbah’s Assassins and of witches using cannabis in the place of the Catholic Eucharist’s wine.
90.10. short‐circuits the metaphysics of desire
#drugs, religion, medicine, & consumerism
Paracelsus’ grand project, which arguably is still going on today, represents one of the many ways the Judeo‐Christian tradition has deployed its genius to absorb, or co‐opt, the power of the pagan faith it set out to uproot. In much the same way that the new monotheism folded into its rituals the people’s traditional pagan holidays and spectacles, it desperately needed to do something about their ancient devotion to magic plants. Indeed, the story of the forbidden fruit in Genesis suggests that nothing was more important.
Christianity and capitalism are both probably right to detest a plant like cannabis. Both faiths bid us to set our sights on the future; both reject the pleasures of the moment and the senses in favor of the expectation of a fulfillment yet to come — whether by earning salvation or by getting and spending. More even than most plant drugs, cannabis, by immersing us in the present and offering something like fulfillment here and now, short‐circuits the metaphysics of desire on which Christianity and capitalism (and so much else in our civilization) depend.
⸻ pp. 189–190
Which each include a footnote — respectively, one on the quest to ‘pharmaceuticalize’ medicine…
[…] that doctors can prescribe, corporations patent, and governments regulate. Whenever possible, Paracelsus’s lab‐coated descendants have synthesized the active ingredients in plant drugs, allowing medicine to dispense with the plant itself — and any reminders of its pagan past.
…and another expanding on an economic reading of highs:
David Lenson draws a useful distinction between drugs of desire (cocaine, for example) and drugs of pleasure, such as cannabis. ‘Cocaine promises the greatest pleasure ever known in just a minute more … But that future never comes.’ In this respect the cocaine experience is a ‘savage mimicry of consumer consciousness.’ With cannabis or the psychedelics, on the other hand, ‘pleasure can come from natural beauty, domestic tasks, friends and relatives, conversation, or any number of objects that do not need to be purchased.’
90.11. for every ecological niche
The Incas figured out how to grow impressive yields of potatoes under the most inauspicious conditions, developing an approach that is still in use in parts of the Andes today. A more or less vertical habitat presents special challenges to both plants and their cultivators, because the microclimate changes dramatically with every change in altitude or orientation to the sun and wind. A potato that thrives on one side of a ridge at one altitude will languish in another plot only a few steps away. No monoculture could succeed under such circumstances, so the Incas developed a method of farming that is monoculture’s exact opposite. Instead of betting the farm on a single cultivar, the Andean farmer, then as now, made a great many bets, at least one for every ecological niche. Instead of attempting, as most farmers do, to change the environment to suit a single optimal spud — the Russet Burbank, say — the Incas developed a different spud for every environment.
To Western eyes, the resulting farms look patchy and chaotic […]
Since the margins and hedgerows of the Andean farm were, and still are, populated by weedy wild potatoes, the farmer’s cultivated varieties have regularly crossed with their wild relatives, in the process refreshing the gene pool and producing new hybrids. Whenever one of these new potatoes proves its worth — surviving a drought or storm, say, or winning praise at the dinner table — it is promoted from the margins to the fields and, in time, to the neighbors’ fields as well. Artificial selection is thus a continual local process, each new potato the product of an ongoing back‐and‐forth between the land and its cultivators, mediated by the universe of all possible potatoes: the species’ genome.
⸻ pp. 207–208
Much of the framing here and throughout the book irritates me. Part of it is that although Pollan periodically acknowledges that his own present culture’s dominating interpretations of the world aren’t universal, he still writes as though they apply everywhere and furnishes them positions of supremacy: No monoculture could survive… so the Incas developed a method. What’s inauspicious about country optimised to support a fantastically diverse crop? Which “Western eyes”, even, are these, considering that even among Western traditions of food production there are more than the regimes of vast uniformity Pollan suggests? (Would that better be “the Westernised”?)
Further nuisances: Talking up the value of involving wild potatoes but making their own “worth” select. The obsession with inviolate species. The stubborn maintenance of dichotomy. And so on. Perhaps the more flagrant turns prime the hypersensitivity in me?
90.12. thoughtlessly chalking
One sultry afternoon I watched the bumblebees making their rounds of my [Monsanto NewLeaf] potato blossoms, thoughtlessly chalking themselves with yellow pollen grains before lumbering off to appointments with other blossoms, other species.
The [/Bacillus thuringiensis/ (Bt)] toxin, which is produced by a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil, is generally thought to be safe for humans, yet the Bt in genetically modified crops is behaving a little differently from the ordinary Bt that farmers have been spraying on their crops for years. Instead of quickly breaking down in nature, as it usually does, genetically modified Bt toxin seems to be building up in the soil. This may be insignificant; we don’t know. (We don’t really know what Bt is doing in soil in the first place.) We also don’t know what effect all this new Bt in the environment may have on the insects we don’t want to kill, though there are reasons to be concerned. In laboratory experiments scientists have found that the pollen from Bt corn is lethal to monarch butterflies. Monarchs don’t eat corn pollen, but they do eat, exclusively, the leaves of milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a weed that is common in American cornfields. When monarch caterpillars eat milkweed leaves dusted with Bt corn pollen, they sicken and die. Will this happen in the field? And how serious will the problem be if it does? We don’t know.
⸻ pp. 226–227
How cute an opening to a horror story can you get.
91. [A] Nina Mingya POWLES, Small bodies of water (Canongate Books 2021), audiobook download
- Took notes circa June/July 2022.
91.1. distribute notations
Listening to the spoken recording now, and have been offered a read of a print copy soon too. Not sure how the BookWyrm software will react to attempts to distribute notations across multiple editions of the one title. Hope it works!
91.2. salon talking‐bookery
Powles commits to the reading — deft and soft — as though performing poetry, expertly.
92. [D] Leah PURCELL, The drover’s wife: the legend of Molly Johnson (Hamish Hamilton 2019)
- Took notes in August 2022.
It’s annoyin’, when anythin’ and everythin’ endin’ in a particular syllable cops one of them blasted needless apostrophes slappin’ right into it.
You can just stop at the n, people!
93. Queer Out Here Issue 00 (29 November 2017), audiozine download
- Took notes circa January 2023.
93.1. wanting to read
Alrighty, BookWyrms — you’ve got a fair few zines now, on top of audiobooks. How about a lovely audiozine?
This one’s probably up a lot of our alleys, actually! Certainly I feel like wending through the back issues afresh, once I run out of current audiobook, in a couple of hours’ listening time.
Meanwhile, for a few short more weeks, Allysse and Jonathan are inviting people to contribute to Queer Out Here Issue 08, with the optional theme of direction!
93.2. submissions close on a full moon
Submissions for the first episode close on the first full moon of January[…]
⸻ Allysse, 1:01–1:05
I forgot that the production cycle, too, was embedded in the embodied!
93.3. walking enquiries
So I did a little project, several years ago now, called Walking out of the city, which, you know, on the surface of it was just a walk from one of the inner suburbs of Melbourne to out beyond one of the outer suburbs — but as part of that, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what a city is, what the signifiers are of cities and suburbs, the history and meaning of place, where borders were, what kind of borderlands and liminal spaces exist within a city. So that’s kind of walking as research, but also the walk as the product of research, and reporting on the walk being the kind of creative, well, research output from that.
⸻ Jonathan, 16:37–17:19
This is perhaps not the most evocative portion of the discussion, but on a personal note, it does remind me of how much walking used to feed directly into writing, field‐recording, and art‐making I did. I miss this kind of freedom, the ease of physical traversal of thought processes that goes along with a walk taken as a foremost creative or reflective act. Enquiry, perhaps.
Still on creative walks, Jonathan recommends the work of Richard Long, who maybe one day I’ll bother looking up. The approach sounds maybe a bit contrived for me — I am getting burnt out (or edge‐seared) on certain takings‐on of nature/writing and related endeavours, so come wary to starkly abstracted concepts from unfamiliar figures, but perhaps a future moment I’ll feel more open to this particular one, given the interest of someone whose interests I have found of some interest myself!
94. [B] Claire RATINON & Sam AYRE, Horticultural appropriation: why horticulture needs decolonising: a conversation in the gardens of West Dean (Wendover: Rough Trade Books 2021)
- Took notes in August 2022 and January 2023.
94.1. horticulture is rarely seen as violent or associated with pillage and theft
#colonialism and slavery
Horticulture is rarely seen as violent or associated with pillage and theft but how else do we think the plants from other parts of the world got to be here? How do we think that the breadfruit and manioc that fed enslaved people were moved from one country to another? And what about commodity crops like rubber and cinchona? Is it not evident that all of those journeys and actions are connected? The routes where spices and sugar and cotton and animals and people were transported back and forth, they were all part of a system of imperialism and exploitation, extracting from, altering and decimating colonised landscapes, ecosystems and the people who lived within them, and to me, they are inseparable from horticulture and agriculture because there were plants and seeds on those fateful voyages, destined to be deployed as weapons of imperialism. They were taken by men who declared them ‘discovered’ and renamed them, and in doing so, erased their identities and histories while appropriating indigenous knowledge and capitalising on it for their own gain. Sound familiar? Yeah, the slave trade did that to people too.
⸻ Claire Ratinon, pp. 9–10 (if counting front cover as page 1)
I have forgotten whether this pamphlet goes much into why or how this benign reputation came to dominate (at least in a Western European context)⸺how come.
Surely a lot (how much?) depends on the situation of the experiencer.
I feel as though many encounters with gardening — “Australian” agriculture and the explicitly “horticultural” realms especially — have always shocked me with their palpable imperial auras and wide‐flung aggression, to at least some extent. (But maybe the emphasis in my memories has flexed somewhere that would have become somewhat unfamiliar to me the child‐directly?)
Since last the first time I read Hortiprope, Annie‐B Parson had a chance to become a source of somethings I am reminded of, and in this case, right this second, those are thus (though I am not thinking in terms of individual people, here):
I walk outside and see a young blonde man in a stretchy gray track suit walking his dog while loudly talking about his body on the phone, and then he slows down to peer into his screen,
And in this pause, which he and I now must share because we pedestrians share these intersections of time and space, I wonder: what would be the equivalent to this experience in Ancient Greece, and Menelaus floats through my mind. I imagine big blonde Menelaus arriving, with some fanfare, into the agora of Sparta with his entourage, his body oblivious to the other Ancient Greeks’ bodies, who are going about their business of buying and selling,
Then, still in our pause, I change my mind because from a spatial perspective Menelaus of the big blonde hair is not really like the blonde dog walker on the phone. The dog walker is oblivious to the space around him, but Menelaus is like a movie star as he enters the agora with big steps and large‐scale gestures, highly aware of his use of space, though not at all aware of the others in their space, which for me brings up the choreographic term kinesphere, Menelaus has a large kinesphere, he takes up a lot of space, but the dog walker has a small kinesphere,
a bubble of tiny actions.
I bring this up later with Paul, this idea of an Ancient Greek equivalent to the blonde man on the phone. I am thinking that from a personal use of space he’s actually more like Heracles than Menelaus. Yes, Paul says, you mean Heracles in the Euripides play when he is partying outside of King Admetos’s palace, while meanwhile inside the palace the King is grieving the death of his wife, a death which the King himself is responsible for, but it takes the King most of the play to face what he did. Yeah, I say, the dog walker is actually a lot like Heracles, blind,
from a spatial perspective.
⸻ Annie‐B Parson, The Choreography of Everyday Life, pp. 5–6
94.2. gardening as performance
#COVID‐19 pandemic lockdowns
Sam: […] the reason why people argue for their notion of ‘historical accuracy’ is so that the histories they’ve invested in can continue to be retold and reperformed, which embeds the belief that there’s nothing to be reconsidered.
Claire: I see most gardening as performance — especially the displays in formal gardens like those at West Dean — and being able to perform the same dance, year on year, with minor variations is considered the height of skill and aptitude. When we visited in July, after lockdown had eased enough for us to travel, we walked around the gardens that had not had their usual army of gardeners and volunteers tending them over the three months prior. While I found it all quite beautiful — even the areas where things had gotten a little ‘unruly’ — it was obvious that there was a sense of slipping standards and unmet expectations in the air. The head gardener told us about all the annual happenings that hadn’t taken place this year, all the jettisoned plans and weeds left to prosper, the unsown seeds and greenhouses left empty. While I can imagine the frustration of not being able to execute plans and watch them bloom, I was grateful for the honesty of it. In this most disruptive of years, I think I would have found it unsettling to have visited and seen everything growing and going ‘as normal’.
This solidified the idea of gardening as performance for me. There’s a strong attachment to the garden’s performance every year without fail. Deviation from the annual choreography is seen as a shortcoming as opposed to a creative opportunity or, as it was in 2020, a necessary adjustment. But no one seems to ask, who created these aesthetic expectations? And who are they being performed for? And who do they fail to speak to?
All this control and perfectionism, the performing and re‐performing of the garden’s aesthetic, the somewhat rigid determinations of what plants have worth and which do not, what belongs and what ought to be removed — it all feels limiting. A curtailment of imagination, a refusal to adapt to change — even when it is thrust upon you during a pandemic. And it speaks to a colonial mindset, an imperialist mentality, an expression of the desire to coerce and control, a demand that things remain unchanged and that demonstrations of power and privilege — especially ‘beautiful’ ones — remain the same.
Sam: Performing and reperforming the expectations of the dead without question is one of the most traditional of traditions.
⸻ pp. 10–11 (if counting front cover as page 1)
This is the passage I’ve found the most enduring. The (figurative) plot presented here stands simultaneously humus‐rich and barren‐limited — with both characteristics receptive to elaboration, to further comparison, to further thought and action.
(Watch as I don’t elaborate. At least not in this heat.)
94.3. plants outside, in their homeland, growing freely
I know we’ve recognised sub‐tropical plants growing in the ground when we visited Mauritius and it was amazing to see how happy they were when growing in their ideal environment and not in pots inside a house. Seeing them in botanical glasshouses, which look to me like grand imperialist plant pots, gave me some idea of the climate they really needed in order to thrive but still, seeing the plants outside, in their homeland, growing freely was a revelation.
⸻ Sam Ayre, pp. 15–16 (if counting front cover as page 1)
A nicely timed, refreshing pause, this cheerily personifying segue.
94.4. already had names
British Scientists renaming species that already had names given by indigenous people is yet another form of oppression in the Colonial Project.
⸻ pg. 20
In a footnote defining “Botanical taxonomy”.
94.5. Mwazulu Diyabanza entering museums, picking up items and speaking to anyone
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a Pan‐African activist based in France called Mwazulu Diyabanza who is amplifying the conversation about repatriation of African artefacts by entering museums, picking up items and speaking to anyone who will listen about how objects were looted and stolen, and thus making the case for them to be returned.
⸻ Sam Ayre, pp. 22–23 (if counting front cover as page 1)
Alors, il semble que Diyabanza a encore un site web (en français) ? (Mais c’est Wix, boffff).
95. [C] Guillaume ROGER, On the grid: Australian electricity in transition (Clayton: Monash University Press 2022)
- Took notes circa February 2023.
95.1. [D] David HAVYATT, Chapter 1 ‘History of electricity reform in Australia’
95.1.1. individual uses of electrical lighting
While electricity had been used for lighting in various individual uses, such as illuminations in Sydney to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales in 1863 and a night football game at the MCG in August 1879 (Edwards 1969), the electricity supply industry in Australia dates from street lighting in Tamworth in 1888 (Tait 1925). The ESI is the generation of electricity in one place for consumption by one or more customers in multiple other locations[…]
⸻ pg. 5
Well that's one big “I’m sorry, what?” after another, isn’t it? Alas Havyatt moves straight on through the more obvious (tramways, economies of scale, etc).
95.2. [B] Stephen P. KING, Chapter 2 ‘How not to reform electricity transmission: lessons from Australia’
95.2.1. congestion rents and network augmentation
In the particular example here, it is obvious that no market participant could be rewarded by real‐time congestion rents to build the optimal level of capacity. If the optimal augmentation eliminates congestion, then the congestion rents disappear. The investor will receive no return for the socially optimal investment.
This is, however, a more general point. Congestion rents are maximised by limiting capacity below the socially optimal level. Even if optimal congestion from a social perspective involves some congestion rents, a private party who receives those rents will generally find it profitable to limit capacity below this socially optimal level.
It might be thought that this problem can be overcome by using forward sales of capacity; for example, through [transmission congestion contracts]. If the third party were able to lock in the current congestion rents going forward, then it might be thought that this would overcome the problem of augmentation reducing those rents. However, such forward sales would not occur at the current prices if the buyers of the relevant contracts were rational. They would see the increase in supply of forward contacts as reflecting the proposed increase in transmission. If the market for forward congestion contracts is efficient, then any forward sales will simply reflect future actual congestion rents and result in the third party seeking to maximise rents.
In summary, despite congestion rents being more than enough to efficiently augment transmission in our example, there is no simple way to allocate those rents that will create the incentives for a private party to fund efficient network augmentation. More broadly, there is no simple way to create a market which will align private and social incentives for transmission investment.
⸻ pg. 57
It kind of aches to read this chapter.
Why congestion rents, then?
These are associated with buying […] power at node A for [its local] total spot market cost […] and selling that power in the node B spot market for [more]. The congestion rent is the gain made on this transaction
⸻ ibid, pp. 52–53
In King’s example, generation costs are lower at node A, but load is higher at node B, and although A is able to produce sufficient surplus to meet a large proportion of B’s needs (which, assuming a competitive dynamic, would have had an equalising effect on spot market prices), the transmission capacity linking these nodes is limited, which leaves B more reliant on its pricey local sources. (Or something along those lines?)
95.2.2. regulatory whack‐a‐mole
#institutional nature of problems of wasteful energy infrastructure
The [Australian Energy Regulator (AER)] recognises that it is playing regulatory whack‐a‐mole. It has included additional provisions to prevent a [transmission network service provider (TNSP)] either artificially inflating planned capital expenditure (then retaining the portion that is not needed) or delaying efficient investment (and retaining the expenditure savings). However, these provisions involve relatively heavy‐handed interventions where the AER will revisit all investment at each five‐year review to check that it is efficient, and will set incentives to try and offset any incentives to reduce quality of service by delaying investment. As in the arcade game, each attempt by the AER to improve regulatory incentives simply creates another problem that needs correcting.
The incentives for overinvestment are exacerbated by the inability of the regulator to adjust the [regulated asset base (RAB)] for assets that are not needed — either due to demand changes or regulatory gaming. The Australian regulatory framework does not have procedures that allow the RAB to be modified ‘downwards’ for investments that are excessive to need. Indeed, the RAB cannot even be adjusted for assets that are no longer of any use (i.e. are ‘stranded’).
In this sense, the TNSPs face a one‐way bet. Once an asset is added to the RAB it cannot be removed. While the asset will depreciate over time, the TNSP will still earn a regulated return on the asset that is independent of whether it is used or useful. The TNSP is protected from standard market demand risks, despite the fact that the regulated [weighted average cost of capital (WACC)] is based on a commercial rate‐of‐return that includes compensation for demand risk. In such a situation it is unsurprising that TNSPs have found it profitable to overinvest.
The overinvestment will impact the [National Electricity Market (NEM)] for many years. As the AER notes, ‘consumers will continue to pay for the over‐investment in network assets from 2006 to 2013 for the economic lives of those assets, which may be up to 50 years’ (Australian Energy Regulator 2020, p. 134).
Overinvestment, however, has not been uniform across the NEM. There are a variety of factors at play in different states.
While the [Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)] approach used in Victoria involved a regulator that lacked ‘commercial pressures’ to minimise costs, the TNSP‐planned approach used in other states also lacked these incentives due to regulation. Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that having AEMO plan augmentations meant that a variety of distortions were removed from the planning process and led to better outcomes for Victorian electricity users.
⸻ pp. 60–62
Note that the National Energy Market is limited to the four eastern states, South Australia, and the A.C.T. Within Queensland, it only spans coastal regions. There are four other major electricity networks on the continent, and various local networks in more remote areas. As the above quote suggests, that is not the only sense in which “National” is a misnomer: the market was stitched together from state grids subjected to heavily privatisation.
95.3. Orrie JOHAN, Gordon LESLIE, Tom MEARES and Russell PENDLEBURY, Chapter 4 ‘Prospects for battery investment under more spatially granular electricity spot pricing’
95.3.1. assign value to the congestion impact
Under nodal market designs, profit‐seeking energy arbitrageurs can improve the efficiency of the network and help to achieve least‐cost supply outcomes for end‐users. This is because they face prices tied to their location in the network that assign value to the congestion impact of their actions. Zonal market designs with uniform‐price regions do not provide such a strong link between prices and network efficiency because they do not explicitly reward actions that relieve congestion.
[…] the co‐locating of batteries and renewables has obvious appeal because the battery can help firm output from the intermittent renewable resource. However, an independent merchant battery owner/operator seeking to site near an existing intermittent resource is at a competitive disadvantage compared to the owner of that intermittent resource under a zonal market design.
⸻ pp. 117 & 118
Maybe one of the most attractive arguments of this chapter was that moving the NEM away from zonal pricing could thus remove the need for state government subsidies for grid‐scale batteries, public funding which has tended to bolster those price‐distorting giants already dominating the generation and retail ends of the market.
It’s a shame, in some ways, this volume is too compact and unified to include even minor critique of any of the proposals its contributors advance. Everything comes off a notch or five less convincing — and, perhaps most unfairly, less rigorous — as a result. Fundamentally, all chapters build on assumptions I would not be convinced by anyway, but then, pragmatically speaking, those same assumptions already deeply inform the grid! So as a reformist manifesto, it’s well‐positioned, where its internal logic can dig neatly in.
95.4. Steven CALLANDER, Chapter 3 ‘Backsliding in Australian energy deregulation: lessons from the past and recommendations for the future of reform’
95.4.1. glued to corporate immortality
Like Steven Callander’s Chapter 3 ‘Backsliding in Australian Energy Deregulation: Lessons from the Past and Recommendations for the Future of Reform’ (pp 71–95) was tidy and reasonable, evidence proferred in a mathematically elegant fashion, but the model it presented was so glued to corporate immortality2 (and an uncanny, industrial stasis)3 that despite a cautious disposition, its predictions assume a plane of almost absurd certainty. It’s sleek, it’s cool, it’ll make ya faintly queasy!
96. [B] Arundhati ROY, Capitalism: a ghost story (London and New York: Verso 2015)
- Took notes circa August 2022.
97. [D] John RUTHVEN The whale in the living room: a wildlife documentary maker’s unique view of the sea (London: Robinson 2021)
- Took notes circa November 2022.
97.1. hoping to be loved
#purely hypothetical animal cruelty
It’s likely that a whale would fill your whole living room and spill over into the kitchen, with its tail bending uncomfortably up your stairs. If you’re in a bedsit or small apartment it would certainly block your way to the door, and that’s just your average whale and your average living room. In the more exclusive neighbourhoods of the world you might need a larger whale, but a blue is almost certainly too big.
Of course that is not what’s meant but ‘the whale in the room’ is also a cousin of ‘the elephant in the room’, and just occasionally in our busy lives we should take note that she’s right in front of us, waiting patiently to be noticed, hoping to be loved.
⸻ pg. 2
I’d subloaned this book to a nature‐lover, who greatly enjoyed it. My turn to rush through while chance is still there. Writing so far stumbles around good‐naturedly (this quote being a smoother), and should at least make the read lively?
98. [A] Garry SANKOWSKY, A field guide to butterflies of Australia: their life histories and larval host plants (Sydney and Auckland: Reed New Holland Publishers 2020)
- Took notes circa Q3 2022.
98.1. carefully squashed
When fixing the seed to a branch yourself you carefully squeeze the sticky seed out of the fruit and wipe in under a branch. Seeds positioned under a branch have a much better chance of survival because they will not be knocked off by birds and animals walking on the branch and very often at night a drop of dew will form on the seed thus giving it moisture. The fruit is usually red, yellow or orange when ripe. It should be picked carefully so as not to squash it, and be placed in a small plastic container, again to avoid squashing. Only when planting on a tree should the fruit be carefully squashed as it is pressed against a branch, using its own glue to fix it firmly.
[…] it may take a year or so before it looks like a plant.
It is not just a simple matter of collecting a few mistletoe seed, attaching them to branches and sitting back to watch them grow. The majority of seed is rejected and killed by the host tree after they attach. The attached seed can remain on a branch for a year or more without advancing any further, then it dies. This is much like our immune system preventing infections from invading our bodies. It is best to place ten or more seed on a branch to improve the chance of getting a mistletoe plant to grow. There is one exception, mistletoe plants themselves cannot reject the seeds so the ideal tree to use is Sandalwood, Santulum.
⸻ pp. 391–392
(Emphasis in the original).
Just the thing for those intrigued by Jones & Jones’ “Cultivation [b]y attaching”.
99. [A] Rob SCOTT, Neil BLAKE, Jeannie CAMPBELL, Doug EVANS, & Nicholas WILLIAMS, Indigenous plants of the Sandbelt: a gardening guide for South‐eastern Melbourne (Melbourne: Earthcare St Kilda 2002)
- Took notes circa March/April 2022.
99.1. plants as expression of geology
To appreciate the character of local plants it is worth considering them as an expression of the geology of the broader region which has been sculpted by nature over millions of years.
⸻ pg. 6
99.2. ferns of Swamp Scrub
In very old stands of Swamp Scrub ground ferns and even tree‐ferns can be present.
⸻ pg. 19
Footnotes: “11. Blechnum species, Calochlaena dubia, Gleichenia species, Pteris tremula, Hypolepis rugosula 12. e.g. Dicksonia antartica”
I would like to make visits to some of these Swamp Scrub tree‐ferns!
99.3. cliffs removed
The Little Red Bluff cliffs at Point Ormond were removed in ‘beautification’ works in the early 1900s.
⸻ pg. 25
Unbelievable — by which I mean, look, I do believe…
99.4. salt‐prune dependence
[…] Cushion Bush and Coast Atriplex[…] depend on the salt wind to prune them[…]
⸻ pg. 38
99.5. nutrients‐ soils
Indigenous plants have adapted to thrive in soils that are typically low in nutrients. Some species are fussier than others; for example, banksias, hakeas, acacias, daviesias and pultenaeas are sensitive to, and will not tolerate, high phosphorus (‘P’) levels.
Some species will grow to a larger size in more nutrient‐rich soils. For example, Blackwood growing in the richer soils of Victorian rainforests can become large trees, while specimens in the nutrient‐poor soils of the Sandbelt usually grow no larger than a tall shrub.
⸻ pg. 39
That Blackwood sort of detail I find so awing, given the species’ at‐homeness in both settings.
99.6. mulch–weed edge‐over
The main disadvantage of organic mulches is that they can add nutrients to the soil as they decompose and give weeds an edge over the local species[…]
Mulch is not used by some experienced indigenous plant gardeners and in certain revegetation projects where renewal of plants through natural self‐seeding is actively encouraged.
⸻ pg. 40
Worth a think about, when I have more time for weeding.
99.7. difficult choice need
Without the balance of a diverse and complex ecosystem as found in good quality natural bushland, some native animals, including insects, can be a nuisance. Possums and sawfly larvae can strip young eucalypts of their foliage, sometimes fatally. If the native animal is going to kill your desired plants the difficult choice needs to be made between fauna and flora.
⸻ pg. 47
Without case studies to consider, I am sceptical of this conclusion. For instance, possums could be obstructed from such struggling young trees until their preferred intensity of foliage‐stripping may be supported, and provided with other options in the interim.
99.8. first metre or so retained
Tree hollows provide important shelter for a range of animals, but are relatively rare in urban areas. You may have one or more mature trees on your property that from time to time may require the removal of an old or dead limb. When the time comes to have this limb removed you could arrange to have some of the hollow limb or dead wood (say the first metre or so) retained on the tree, thus making it safe and retaining value as habitat.
⸻ pg. 56
Gonna spend my travels peering hopefully at all big loppings now!
99.9. imagine you are the sun
Imagine you are the sun at midday in winter. Looking into your garden from the north, which area is most exposed to your gaze yet offers, or can be provided with, safe refuge immediately adjacent? Once you’ve identified this site your remaining design decisions can be fitted around it. This sunny spot may also be a good place to include some paving or seating, not only can it provide a place for skinks to bask, but like lizards, humans like to catch some rays in winter.
⸻ pg. 57
Echoes of Physics and Dance!
And yeah, humans too be wildlife / to attract to gardens.
99.10. ‘pests’ best
The impact of some ‘pests’ may only be short term, and simply tolerating them for a while can be the best solution. For example, the larvae of sawflies will often strip the foliage from 2–4‐year‐old eucalypts leaving the young tree looking bare and unhealthy. Typically the tree bounces back quickly with a flourish of new growth. Other ‘pests’ may be an important source of food for insect‐eating animals. For example the sugar secretions (lerps) produced by sap‐sucking psyllid insects are commonly found on the leaves of indigenous eucalypts. White‐plumed Honeyeaters regularly feed on lerps, as do some ant species, which go to the extent of tending and protecting the psyllids to maintain the supply.
⸻ pg. 58
99.11. 600m in a morning
This 600m stretch of Coast Saltbush at Point Ormond was planted in a morning by the community. It has halted soil erosion and provided habitat for Blue Wrens.
⸻ pg. 59
99.12. arthritis centella
Leaves from this plant [Centella cordifolia] are used widely to treat arthritis.
⸻ pg. 68
Tell me more!
99.13. untidy falling
[Elymus scaber] has an untidy habit of falling over and may not suit the formal garden[…]
⸻ pg. 95
Spiny‐headed Mat‐rush Lomandra longifolia
Useful for weaving mats, basket and fish traps, this plant was an important Kulin resource. The Wurundjeri name for the plant is Karawun.
⸻ pg. 99
99.15. interesting Philydrum
Woolly Water‐lily Philydrum lanuginosum
This is an interesting plant, which is in its own family. Unlike true lilies that have flower parts in threes; this plant has two petals. It can die back in dry periods but re‐shoots if it is not dry for too long. This is a good container plant. Used for Chinese medicine. A few plants were discovered in 2001 after not being seen locally for 80 years. Germinates prolifically from seed.
⸻ pg. 100
Just in time for inclusion in this guide!
99.16. a lovely grass
[Poa] morrisii Velvet Tussock‐grass is softer and can have greyish foliage — a lovely grass.
⸻ pg. 101
A lovely fondness.
99.17. Themeda emerald
The volcanic soil of South Melbourne supported this grass [Themeda triandra], giving the name Emerald Hill.
⸻ pg. 103
It was only recently I learnt that the name Emerald Hill was in reference to plant‐life, but I believe I heard it about a different family altogether.
99.18. climbers grown together
Many of these climbers can be grown together to create a more colourful and longer flowering mix[…]
⸻ pg. 104
99.19. Cranbourne Local‐Tragic
[Epacris impressa] is a beautiful plant best shown off in groups. A form from Cranbourne with double white flowers whose only known habitat has now been destroyed, is sold as ‘Cranbourne Bells’. Not available in large numbers.
⸻ pg. 111
“Not available in large numbers” is used in these listings to describe species as a whole. Anyway, more dotting of this friendly gardening guide with the Local‐Tragic.
99.20. Cassinia arcuata curry scent
99.21. acacia‐gum glue
Easily grown, this tree [Acacia mearnsii] is relatively short‐lived – around 15 years. It provides good insect habitat and is useful for out‐competing weeds. Few plants will survive under its canopy. The Kulin people used the wood for making weapons; the bark provided twine and medicine; and the gum was a source of food, drink and an adhesive when mixed with ash. Be sure to allow plenty of room for this tree.
⸻ pg. 125
First glue of the volume?
99.22. bursaria‐leaf sunscreen
[Bursaria spinosa] leaves contain a natural sunscreen.
⸻ pg. 127
And how could this be the first sunscreen of the volume?
99.23. Sandbelt Eucalyptus camaldulensis limbs
River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis
[…] There is a common perception that Red Gums drop limbs, but the local form does not exhibit this tendency.
⸻ pg. 130
99.24. mature Eucalyptus melliodora specimens
Yellow Box Eucalyptus melliodora
[…] There are few remaining remnant trees in the local region, however mature trees can be seen near the Moorabbin railway station and at Alma Park, St Kilda.
⸻ pg. 131
99.25. detecting vegetation community
You will need to do some detective work to identify the most likely vegetation community that occupied your site, including its species composition, relative species abundances and distribution, and the structure of the vegetation. Nearby patches of large, old trees, natural vegetation, historical sources such as old photographs and local historical accounts, hydrological and geological records will provide clues to the nature of the original community[…] When determining the vegetation community that you will try to recreate, it is also important to consider the extent to which the site has been altered from its original state. Prior land use may have severely altered the soil profile and drainage patterns of your site, making it practically impossible to recreate particular communities of vegetation.
⸻ pg. 133
From an appendix [pp. 133–140] on revegetation.
99.26. staging densities
Ideally, your aim is to create a community of plants with a similar composition of species occurring in similar proportions, densities and distributions to what exists in natural vegetation. However this does not necessarily mean that initial planting densities should be the same as the plant densities found in mature vegetation. The plants are usually quite small when planted, meaning they would be widely spaced with large areas of bare ground in between. This bare ground is very open to colonisation by weeds that could quickly become time‐consuming and/or costly to control. Alternatively, planting at densities higher than your desired final densities, and allowing natural thinning to occur as the plants mature, will result in greater competition for weeds, but requires more plants and more labour to plant them.
Staged plantings may also provide benefits in terms of weed control (see below), spreading the costs, and increasing diversity of plant ages.
⸻ pg. 135
As you’d expect.
Ongoing weed control after planting also requires careful planning. One strategy is to plant trees and shrubs but delay the groundstory planting until subsequent years when the shade and competition for moisture and nutrients from the trees and shrubs is likely to have reduced the number of weeds.
⸻ pp. 135–140
99.28. shared Heathy Woodland / Sand Heath strata
Heathy Woodland has a very similar species composition to Sand Heath but has a greater abundance of trees.
Consequently the shrub, groundlayer and climber lists for the two communities have been combined here to illustrate the species richness of these strata in both communities.
⸻ pg. 136
A generous, apt decision.
99.29. native fauna interacts with weeds
An important consideration when planning weed control is the existing use by native fauna of weeds on site. A process of staged weed removal with subsequent replacement of alternative habitat may be necessary. To do this you will need to identify what fauna is using a site and how it interacts with the vegetation.
⸻ pg. 140
What a relief they do mention this.
99.30. revegetation supplement, not substitute
Although the quality of recreated vegetation communities is developing and improving all the time, they will never fully attain the complexity and functioning of the original communities they are modelled on. Therefore revegetation needs to be viewed as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, the protection and improvement of existing remnant vegetation.
⸻ pg. 140
99.31. friends of the urban forest
Interesting to note the publication, in a list of community environment groups, of something with the term “urban forest” in it: “Friends of George St Reserve and the Urban Forest (Sandringham)” [pg 146]. I am curious as to who named it, when they did, and how it rang at the time.
99.32. a grounded grounding
Guess what sits top of the list Gardening in Naarm’s Sandbelt, where I wrote what seems review enough I figured I’d expand slightly on it with an actual one.
Grounded in the very geology of the place, this is a slim but rich introduction to a representative selection of local plant species, and assisting them in forming communities.
It is useful as! The authors strike a fine balance, which the clear presentation makes look so easy: being welcoming to beginners, reaching deep for the hardcore, and always keeping things convenient. It’s a surprise not to have met more books of this formula, as such guides could obviously be immensely beneficial in all kinds of places.
The text isn’t perfect. My biggest gripes are wordings that would confine Aboriginal practices to the past, and quite so readily condoning resort to rank pesticide.
I might have liked slightly more attention on incorporating indigenous plants in the kitchen garden, but that may make for a different book. The curation as is is not in need of upsetting. It is well suited to a good range of contexts.
Still an invaluable resource two decades on — indeed, only growing in urgency every month — this title is commonly held by public library services around the region, although remains worryingly out of print and pixel.
A revised edition would be so welcome! Meanwhile, I’d encourage anyone with so much as an egg carton in the area to reserve, show to friends, and cherish those remaining copies.
100. [A] Azfar SHAFI & Ilyas NAGDEE, Race to the bottom: reclaiming antiracism (London: Pluto Press 2022)
- Took notes in July 2022.
101. [A] Rubika SHAH (director), White riot (Smoking Bear 2019), D.V.D. video
- Took notes circa April 2022.
102. [D] Merlin SHELDRAKE, Entangled life: how fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures (Vintage 2021)
- Took notes circa March/April 2022.
102.1. open questions agoraphobia
I have tried to find ways to enjoy the ambiguities that fungi present, but it’s not always easy to be comfortable in the space created by open questions. Agoraphobia can set in. It’s tempting to hide in small rooms built from quick answers.
⸻ pg. 15
Not something that I have been finding at all with the fungi, but an intriguing metaphor.
102.2. chemical bodies
The eighteenth century French physician Théophile de Bordeu asserted that each organism ‘does not fail to spread exhalations, an odour, emanations around itself … These emanations have taken on its style and its demeanour; they are, in fact, genuine parts of itself.’ A truffle’s fragrance and an orchid bee’s perfume may circulate beyond the flesh of each organism, but these fields of odour make up a part of their chemical bodies which overlap with one another like ghosts at a disco.
⸻ pg. 33
Almost touching some of my favourite concepts of body!
102.3. speculation in bodily form
Mycelium is a living, growing, opportunistic investigation — speculation in bodily form.
⸻ pp. 57–58
Most plants – from a potted snapdragon to a giant sequoia – will develop differently when grown with different communities of mycorrhizal fungus. Basil plants for example, produce different profiles of the aromatic oils that make up their flavour when grown with different mycorrhizal strains. Some fungi have been found to make tomatoes sweeter than others; some change the essential oil profile of fennel, coriander and mint; some increase the concentration of iron and carotenoids in lettuce leaves, the antioxidant activity in artichoke heads, or the concentration of medicinal compounds in St John’s wort and echinacea.
⸻ pg. 148
Sheldrake often heavily uses “different” words (but not so many different ones).
102.5. involutionary momentum
The anthropologists Natasha Myers and Carla Hustak argue that the word ‘evolution’, which literally means ‘rolling outwards’, doesn’t capture the readiness of organisms to involve themselves in one another’s lives. Myers and Hustak suggest that the word ‘involution’ — from the word ‘involve’ — better describes this tendency: a ‘rolling, curling, turning inwards’. In their view, the concept of involution better captures the entangled pushing and pulling of ‘organisms constantly inventing new ways to live with and alongside one another’.
⸻ pg. 158
‘Involutionary momentum: affective ecologies and the science of plant/insect encounters’ on pages 74–118 of Differences 23 (2012) is the article Sheldrake cites of theirs.
102.6. may sound radical
These may sound like the delirious musings of someone buried up to their neck in decomposing wood chips, but a growing number of radical mycologists think exactly this.
⸻ pg. 196
Such is the determination with which this writer strives to present himself as so much wackier than he actually ever does come across, that I wonder how much it is a (subconscious?) recruitment tactic: see, Readers, radical mycology is not so strange to you, is it!
102.7. brewing a text on decomposition
Whatever their effect, I was fascinated by the process of brewing a historical text into being[…] Ultimately, these recipes were stories that made sense of how substances decomposed.
⸻ pg. 229
102.8. tell us delicious light coma depends physiology physiology
The ways in which we try to make sense of fungi often tell us as much about ourselves as the fungi we try to understand. The yellow staining mushroom (Agaricus xanthodermus) is described in most field guides as poisonous. A keen mushroom hunter with a large mycological library once told me about an old guidebook he owned, in which the same mushroom was described as ‘delicious, when fried’, although the author did add as an afterthought that the mushroom ‘may cause a light coma in those of weak constitution’. How you make sense of the yellow staining mushroom depends on your physiological make‐up. Although poisonous to most people, some are able to eat it without ill effect. How it is described will depend on the physiology of the person doing the describing.
⸻ pg. 233
Please, cull your manuscripts if they turn up like this, editors.
And by “this” I mean Sheldrake’s.
103. [E] Will STORR, The Status Game (London: William Collins 2021)
- Took notes in February 2023.
103.1. having started reading
Early reactions: What a contrived, grimy cage of a belief system. For that matter, oh for gentler book marketing and the in‐book writing it affects: for more proposals less certain, bombastic, universalising. Just be interested in a thing, boring white journos with book deals, and O their tedious enablers! Don’t aspire to convince anyone it is the thing, y’know? A little hush, you hype hopefuls. Try to keep your WEIRD projecting to yourselves.
103.2. found invariably had
When researchers analysed 186 premodern societies around the world, they found men of higher status ‘invariably had greater wealth and more wives and provided better nourishment for their children’. This was, and remains, the secret of maximising our capacity for survival and reproduction: the higher we rise, the more likely we are to live, love and procreate. It’s the essence of human thriving. It’s the status game
⸻ pg. 14
Storr’s favoured evidence hews all very like Fields and Fields’ racecraft, wherein your researchers (vaguely speaking) concoct their categories out of certain slippery indicators, point out select indicators and assign them to the categories, then present it as incontrovertible that their arbitrary categories are the root of the indicators. Excuse my absolutely appalling summary of the Fields sisters’ sharp scholarship. You get the vibe, though, I hope. This (Storr) is a writer on sociology who pads out half of “[identity politics’] new lexicon of insult” with utilitarian terminology like “cis” and “white” (pg 4). Rigour will be kept to a minimum, it seems.
His source regarding the hundred and eighty‐six is Evolutionary Psychology, David Buss (Routledge, 2015) p. 11.
104. [F] Max TEGMARK, Life 3.0: being human in the age of Artificial Intelligence (Allen Lane 2017)
- Took notes circa February 2022.
104.1. author as fuckwit @ page 38
tha z fuct (THA STKPW TPUBGT)
I never would’ve chosen this myself, but did hope to get a trashy sci‐fi buzz out of it at least! Sadly, that seems impossible in something this abysmally written and erroneously reasoned.
Willing to call it early: a staggering failure of a work, unless one considers the true object of it to be author as fuckwit.
(This overwhelming theme far surpassing singularity within a chapter).
104.2. kept losing
kept lose g (KEPT HRAOUZ G)
Burgeoning upstart companies typically weren’t publicly traded, with the justification that profit‐making share‐holders would block their massive spending on community projects. Thus the global stock market kept loosing value, threatening both finance tycoons and regular citizens who’d counted on their pension funds.
⸻ Max Tegmark, pg. 19
Here were the limited kicks’ best chance to be had. Tegmark awkwardly wedges in a dry fictional treatment he labels, with characteristic pretension, the “Prelude”. Oh what could have been! Now what was…
Shocker forthcoming: I am not a fin‐fiend – allowing this select plot point to spring from the page to me as a modest revelation. Back in the real world (i.e. outside of Tegmark’s billionaire‐buddies’ dinner‐party drivel), there’s been worry of late that a private take‐over of the local casino monopoly (hitherto share‐held) will frustrate efforts to sustain regulatory oversight and kill off a swathe of its accountability. So my mind had ventured to this territory. But I had never thought to consider… well, essentially, the size of stock markets relative to their surrounding economy affecting the size of stock markets relative to their surrounding economy. So thanks, gross book! You did me a learn!
104.2.1. kept losing [comment]
Perhaps the true failure was the reading we had in our hearts all along.
104.3. manifest destiny @ page 161
manu fest destn y (PHAPBL TPEFT TKEFPB KWREU)
There’s something ringing rather “manifest destiny” throughout this.
105. [D] Márcia TIBURI, The psycho‐cultural underpinnings of everyday fascism: dialogue as resistance (Bloombury Academic 2022)
- Took notes in July 2022.
105.1. murky slowing @ page 95(?)
Dipped around about a month ago, then launched in a week or two later, but in so‐often murky writing, the going is slowing.
106. [C] Miriam TOEWS, Women Talking (London: Faber & Faber 2018)
- Took notes circa March 2022.
106.1. to be seen not to
I replied that I came from a part of the world that had been established to be its own world, apart from the world. In a sense, I told her, my people (I remember drawing out the words “my people” ironically, and then immediately feeling ashamed and silently asking to be forgiven) don’t exist, or at least are supposed to be seen not to.
And perhaps it doesn’t take too long before you believe that you really don’t exist, she said. Or that your actual corporeal existence is a perversity.
⸻ pg. 9
106.2. perpetrated by or against
#violence, religious victim‐blameiness
By staying in Molotschna, she says, we women would be betraying the central tenet of the Mennonite faith, which is pacifism, because by staying we would knowingly be placing ourselves in a direct collision course with violence, perpetrated by us or against us.
⸻ pp. 103–104
107. [D] Jeff VANDERMEER, Dead Astronauts (London: 4th Estate 2021)
- Took notes circa May 2022.
107.1. intricate garden combat
Moss against Moss, when it happened, rare, was like intricate garden combat. Between plants. Between obstinate weeds. Pugnacious. Sped up, slowed down. First one in retreat across a dusty yard full of skeletons and then the other. Add a third, a fourth Moss, drawn to the same reality, and there was in the confluence, the flux of outspread filaments and curling grasp nothing but the bliss of tiny flowers and exploding spores.
Until, finally, there was no difference between attacker and attacked, and no shame in cease‐fire, because Moss could not tell herself from her self.
⸻ pg. 69
I don’t think this is brilliant, but have been thinking of collecting some more of these sorts of passages.
107.2. for the world to be so up against you
You don’t know where to look now, after the encounter with the salamander. You don’t know what to do. The eye of the salamander confronts you. Challenges you. The words it spoke to you in the language you’ll never understand. You can never ask it what it wants or what it needs. All you can do is try to understand what exists in the body. Try to feel what it’s like to live in water. What it means for a body to communicate with the world so intensely, so directly, for the world to be so up against you that you and it are the same thing.
If you’re born to it, if you’re like the salamander, it must be like heaven, as if heaven were on Earth. The hell must be that no one will leave you alone here in heaven. That people hunt you and people kill you and people just cannot be still in their own bodies and listen and watch and hear but must somehow escape the beat of their own hearts by ever being in motion, even when they come to rest.
⸻ pg. 192
107.3. most pride in
And I believe it was a test for all of my days — that the Company wanted me to sacrifice the thing I had the most pride in, that I might no longer have pride and that I might obey the Company in all things.
⸻ pg. 243
This would have been a spoiler, I suppose, had the text made clear that that pride was unparallelled outside of this sentence.
107.4. the desert gives way to the ghosts of trees, of streams
[…] They killed us with traps. They killed us with poisons. They killed us with snares. They killed us with guns. They killed us with knives. They strangled us. They trampled us. They tore us apart with hounds. They baited steel‐jawed traps. They starved us out. They burned us alive. They withheld water. They killed all our prey. They slit our throats. They filled in our burrows. They drowned us. They trampled us under horses’ hooves. They bred us for fur and bludgeoned us to death. They kept us in cages so small with so many we burst apart. They suffocated us with poison gas. They strangled us. They put us in sacks and beat us with clubs. They cut out our tongues so we bled to death. They skinned us alive. They detonated rock and stopped our hearts all unknowing. (Everywhere we walk, the desert gives way to the ghosts of trees, of streams.) They swung us by our tails and smashed our skulls against stones. They murdered us in each and every year. They murdered us on each and every day. They killed us with traps. They killed us with poisons. They killed us with snares. They killed us with guns. They killed us with knives. They strangled us. They trampled us. They tore us apart with hounds. (We walk forests like you walk a room you built). They baited steel‐jawed traps. They starved us out[…]
⸻ pg. 273
Five and a half pages of this, and it was very effective, very affecting.
It is the second of three times in the book that a chapter is filled with one cycling assertion like this. The first did not do much for me, but this and the final were very readable… Definitely some of the best pacing in the whole novel.
107.5. absurd of foxes
#deforestation, death by chainsaw
How tiresome it became too, for other reasons. Oh, how these dead people who lived in houses on lots where they had cut down most of the trees loved trees. How they loved to be out in the trees. The tales they told about the trees and how they loved them. Perhaps because trees did not resist. Trees fell over of their own accord, sometimes, as if to prove their love of the ax. The chain saw that felled most of them just completed a tree’s own inevitable thought.
The proof — that trees never turned chain saws against the ones that wielded them. The chain saws, which were even named, as if they were as alive as a tree, had a personality. Greta. Berta. Charlie. Frank. Sarah. So some we killed with chain saws, to remind them of what it really meant to be a tree. A messy business. Difficult for them and for us.
Absurd of foxes to do all of this. We had no hands. We did not walk upright. We were not made to use human tools. Yet still we did it, and did it well and with vigor.
⸻ pg. 285
107.6. we lived in joy
We lived in joy, the joy of living without interference, without persecution, without unnatural threat. The joy of running. The joy of digging. The joy of hunting earthworms through the dirt. The joy of the wind against fur. The joy of muddy paws. The joy of sleeping next to mate and kits. The joy of climbing trees. The joy of swimming in streams. The joy of mating and raising children. The joy of digging burrows. The joy of playing in meadows. The joy of snapping at fireflies at dusk. The joy of napping on smooth stones, on moss, on beds of ferns. The joy of the warmth on fur. We lived in joy, the joy of living without interference, without persecution, without unnatural threat[…]
But, in the end, joy cannot fend off evil. Joy can only remind you why you fight.
⸻ ‘iii. to the children i loved’, pp. 203–301
What welcome respite.
108. [A] Erna WALRAVEN, Care of Australian wildlife: for gardeners, landholders and wildlife carers revised edition (New Holland 2010)
108.1. decisive in a crisis, important in the ordinary
Exemplary, clear and thorough guidance on first aid, rehabilitation, and resolving awkward encounters, along with well‐rounded advice on planning garden spaces, managing habitat, and incorporating furnishings (such as nest boxes, birdbaths and possum thoroughfares) to support wildlife.
109. [C] WIENER PHILHARMONIKER Neujahrskonzert 2011 (Decca 2011), D.V.D. video
- Took notes circa January 2023.
110. [C] Raynor WINN, The wild silence
- Took notes circa November/December 2021.
110.1. crumbly for recitation, dulled contours
Many of these are crumbly sentences better suited to recitation, being shored into sense through practiced emphasis or author’s own knowledge, than to quick reading at a remove. (Not exactly a complaint).
The text in general is repetitive, making the big anxiety‐dulled plot pivots all the more frustratingly redundant to trace up close, as they each gouge the same contour.
But can Raynor Winn describe a sky!
111. [A] Tyson YUNKAPORTA, Sand talk: how Indigenous thinking can save the world (Bolinda Publishing 2022), audiobook download
- Took notes circa April/May 2022.
111.1. while reading these to
A couple of years have passed since I initially wrote this book, and a lot has changed since then, in my voice and in my knowledge. I stay true to the original message in this book and save the new messages for the next one. However, while I’m reading these pages to you, I may not be saying every word exactly as it is written, because I’m trying to honour a sense of intimacy and an us‐two, you‐and‐me connection/relationship from what I imagine that may be. So, it might be that in several places throughout this book, the words are not exactly as they are written in the print version — but I think that makes it a hell of a lot more exciting.
I have been hoping for (all of) this!
111.2. yarn up a little bit more
I can only describe a few of those threads in printed text, and it can never be more than a limited translation. I also can’t continue modifying and growing a print text after I’ve written it, or negotiate its meaning through feedback loops with other people, or termite mounds, or beefwood trees. Unless of course we’re doing an audio book, in which case I can yarn up a little bit more.
⸻ Track 12 ‘Displaced Apostrophes’, 25:03–25:29
Exacerbated by the industry’s phenomenal spite extending to the assignment of workers to worksites in such logistically preposterous combinations.
One might render it in coffee mug: “Old market players never die — they just consolidate”. Or, Callander argues, can actually be safely sotten‐and‐forgotten to compete ad infinitum…
As if the initial participants will always be functional and motivated to stay in the game.