Although covid-19 exact origins are still in dispute, it appears to be another case of the virus jumping from the animal kingdom into humans, like the bird flu or swine flu. It is almost certain it was a bat virus ingested by pangolins and passed on to humans, as Chinese medicine prizes pangolin scales (it is the only scaled mammal). It’s flesh is also prized.
Like hundreds of other extracts in Chinese medicine, this is based on unscientific, magical theory that you gain powers ingesting the beast you want to emulate. Bear bile is another prized medicine, though the active ingredient has been synthesized and there is no reason to torture bears to get it. Why this perverse fascination with destroying Nature?
A hidden positive effect of Corvid-19 is the immediate ban in China of such trade in wild life, where 900,000 pangolins were ground up and/or eaten last year. In February 2020, the Chinese government passed a law "prohibiting the illegal wildlife trade, abolishing the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protecting the lives and health of the people."
Immigration is like a tornado. It begins far away and grows till it touches down, disordering lives and rearranging hopes, depositing the detritus of new identities, writes Ziauddin Sardar in Balti Britain: A provocative journey through Asian Britain (2008). Learning to cope with multiple selves became the quest of Sardar’s adult life.
Asian Britons are all the direct product of the British empire, which steamrolled around the world, razing whatever got in its way, leaving a lot of detritus, creating new identities (for better or worse) for hundreds of millions, with a legacy that keeps giving today (for better or worse).
As a Muslim Canadian, I enjoyed Sardar’s dissection of the British Muslim experience, which has some parallels with US-Canada, but a big difference.
George Steiner, Grammars of Creation, Yale University Press, 2001.
(George Steiner: Real presences (1989) notes here)
Plato maxim: in all things natural and human, the origin is the most excellent. To begin is to act essentially. But our perception now is afternoon, twilight. Century of progress liberalism -> ‘long summer of 1914’. Collapse of humaneness not from distant steppe, nazism, fascism, stalinism from within the context of civilization.
Shoah (wind out of blackness) not ‘holocaust, a technical greek designation for religious sacrifice.
Future tense came relatively late into human speech. Ability to discuss possible events on the day after one’s funeral or in stellar space in a million years. Every use of ‘to be’ is negation of mortality. Every ‘if’ sentence tells of a refusal of the brute inevitability, the despotism, of the fact. Hope and fear are supreme fictions empowered by syntax. Fear has mustard seed of hope. Hope encloses fear of unfulfilment. ‘Hope to god’.
Gene Weingarten, One Day: The extraordinary story of an ordinary 24 hours in America, Blue Rider, 2019.
Denied entry to the US (who knows why, and welcome to the club),* I must take solace as a writer, traveller, travel writer, in others’ experiences in the creaking monster to the south (of Canada, but, hey, of most of the exploited world). In the writings of those ‘lucky’ enough in live there or at least visit at will.
Weingarten starts from literally scratch, pulling a year, month and date out of a hat with scribbled numbers on bits of paper. The only limit was in the year; between 1969 and 1989, ‘far enough in the past to feel like ‘history’ and have a future to explore, but not so far so witnesses would be hard to find.’
He landed on December 28, 1986, at first, in disappointment, as it was a Sunday (bad ‘news’ day) and worse yet, the news doldrums of post-Christmas. But he forged ahead, assuming fate had something to tell him. He started out interviewing a few HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) types he saw in 60 Minutes, but even they drew a blank (!)
But after 6 years of research and writing, it turns out Weingarten hit a winner, though his journalist talent alone could turn a pig skin into a gold mine.
He cleverly sketches out a full range of Americana: lots of murders, of course, but also a historic moment in medicine (longest surviving heart transplant), crazy politics of race (Koch blowing his chances at a fourth term as mayor of New York), miraculous escapes from death, a vicious lawyer turned nice transwoman, lots of ex-soldiers, corrupt police … A page-turner from start to finish.
James Clear, Atomic Habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones, Penguin Random House, 2018.
Rules: make obvious, fun, easy, satisfying. ie, hide 'bad' habit stimuli, see them as unpleasant, hard, unsatisfying, to break ‘bad’ habit.
-the more tasks you can handle without thinking, the more your brain is free to focus on other areas.
-little stresses compound into serious health issues.
-knowledge builds up, like compound interest. (buffett)
-if you see people as angry, unjust, selfish, you will see them everywhere.
-the more you help others, the more others want to help you. Build up connections (~ knowledge)
-not how successful you are right now. Your current trajectory rather than current results.
-fall in love with the process rather than the product. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. Your commitment to the process will determine your progress.
-true behaviour change is identity change. Start habit from motivation but stick with it because it becomes part of your identity. Must believe. Your habits are how you embody your identity. (when you write each day you embody identity of creative person.) Identity: proof in pudding. (what you do is what you are.) process of building habits is the process of becoming yourself.
Up at 8am and went out to catch cosmos heads as they burst, as they hang over the border onto the sidewalk. It’s nice to say good-bye to my floral friends, especially the catalpas.
Oshawa is the last stop on the GO train east from Toronto, 60km -- in theory. I’m sure there are many ace sportsmen who zip back and forth (terrifying walkers), but I’ve never met anyone who tried to do it. Undaunted, I packed my lunch, gathered my pump etc, and aimed for the 8:13 train.
With the new bike craze, there are bike lanes popping up where you least expect them. University Ave, Toronto’s stately boulevard of banks, the US consulate, the Ontario legislature (in that order of importance) now has a spiffy bright designated lane, and a trip down past spooky silent skyscrapers on an early Saturday morning was now a delight. Leisurely pedaling among the monolithsI felt like I owned this concrete paradise, not TD et al.
I’m struck by the fact that all our pandemics, in fact all pandemics are courtesy of ‘civilization’, by which I mean agriculture, overcrowded cities, full of shit both animal and human, home of rats and fleas, carriers of plague. Our obsession with cheap meat means overcrowding, force feeding and ...
World News with Eric Walberg