DAY 116: HNY

January 6th, 2015 § 0 comments

2014 was so dreadful, it’s hard to think 2015 can be worse short of nuclear war. Which is why this blog is making no predictions. I note that the year of the Goat starts 19 February 2015, and that the Goat is of course a symbol of harmony, balance and stillness. The Goat possesses Yin energy. which is characterized as slow, soft,

goatyearyielding and receptive, but this may only be good news if you’re a Goat yourself – in which case you’re too slow soft and yielding to get off your backside and do anything about all our problems. I’d all the same call your attention to the Sun’s inferior conjunction with Mercury, patron of thieves, eloquence and financial gain, on May 30th. Make of it what you will; it’s about a fortnight after the UK general election..

Beginning of year: Settlers stone Americans, Americans shoot back,…

The U.S. State Department said on Friday it is “deeply concerned by the incident where U.S. diplomatic vehicle was attacked with stones by armed settlers in the West Bank.”

Settlers from the Adei Ad illegal outpost in the West Bank threw stones earlier on Friday January 2nd at an American consulate convoy, which arrived at the area to examine complaints that settlers destroyed Palestinian-owned olive groves the day before.


Jeff Rathke, Director of the Office of Press Relations at the State Department, said there were no injuries, adding that the U.S. is “working with Israeli authorities in their investigation of the incident, including by offering to provide video footage taken during the incident.”

The U.S. takes the safety and security of its personnel “very seriously,” Rathke said. “The Israeli authorities have also communicated to us that they acknowledge the seriousness of the incident and are looking to apprehend and take appropriate action against those responsible.”

Rathke also strongly denied earlier reports claiming American security guards drew their weapons. “I do want to correct one thing proactively from some of the reporting I’ve read on this incident,” he said. “No American personnel drew their weapons in the course of these events. What has been reported suggesting otherwise is inaccurate.”

The American diplomats from the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem arrived at the area after receiving complaints from Palestinians from the village of Turmusayya that settlers uprooted 5,000 olive saplings on Thursday. The saplings were planted in a plot which was only recently cultivated after years of legal battles. One of the landowners in the village is an American citizen, Israel Radio reported.

Having watched a load of DVDs over Christmas I can see the possibilities of developing the story into a movie since attacks on US embassy staff are always good box office.I think the Americans should be a black (Samuel L. Jackson) and a woman (Sandra Bullock), to emphasize the diversity of US embassy staff; I haven’t yet got round to casting the settlers, though Tom Cruise is at the back of my mind. Someone needs to storm the embassy, of course, and the embassy staff should escape by tunnelling under the separation wall aided by a Hamas militant – Hamas are good at tunnels –  with an olive-oil powered explosive. I’d like to see both the US and the settlers taken before the ICC (in the movie or in “real life”)?, but that would be pushing my luck.

You asked:

1: Q: How can I make Mexican mole sauce? I’ve a lot of left over turkey, and I think it might spice it up.

A: You’re right, but are you sure that’s what you want? DSC_1060_0The recipe I have is insanely complicated and asks you to use three kinds of chillies (guajillo, ancho and chipotle), as well as, of course, 5 ounces of dark chocolate, cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, tomatoes, chicken broth, coriander leaves…. You need to source all of these things, and your guests need iron stomachs. Perhaps HP sauce would do as well?

2. Q. I’m a thumb harp player, and I can’t keep up with the other guys since I got RSI. Is there an electronic workaround (I suppose I could use MIDI but I feel it would be cheating)?

A. Your scruples do you credit, not everyone would be held back by them in this day and age. And a MIDI thumb harp sound like a MIDI anything else, i.e. crap, and you don’t want that. This clip shows that, by using Arduino and Ableton Live (I assume you’ve got them), and a couple of j-omega circuitboards you can play things which even your more dexterous colleagues can’t manage. You’ll wow the audience, if they can avoid tripping over the wires you’ve had to install at the venue.

What’s beautiful about Captain Credible’s invention is that the MIDI signals are giving orders to his robotic chopstick arm so that it produces actual plucked thumb harp notes. Bach would have approved, I can’t see why only four people favorited it; and I’m sure there’s an opportunity for a grant to develop it for disabled musicians in the Third World.

3. Q. A square is 13 cubit, 12 finger on each side. What is its area?

A. It looks to me as though you’re an Old Babylonian (OB) scribe, and what’s worse you’ve got all these cubits and fingers to worry about. As you know, 12 cubits = 1 rod (about 3 m.), and 30 fingers = 1 cubit; so your length is 105/3600 rods. Squaring, you get 11025/36002 square rods or 3,03,45 square rods in floating point sexagesimal numbers (with a few 0′s thrown in). This would be easy but I suppose you want the answer in shekels or grains. (10800 grains to a square rod.) I leave it to you, it’s around 9 grains and a fifth of a grain.

Which brings me to a more reflective question: Has life in Iraq got better or worse since the Third Dynasty of Ur, or Ur III (21st century BCE)? Note that I don’t ask about the time of the khalif al-Ma’mun, when most of us except Daesh diehards – who don’t value the quality of life anyway – would agree it was better. But under Ur III, workers in gangs under foremen had to meet targets and were penalized for failing, though ‘the expected labor performance was in all likelihood

Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 09.25.44

simply beyond the capabilities of the normal worker. [Information thanks to my Ur III informant Robert Englund.] Moreover, an incentive for the workers to produce more was nonexistent; their remuneration consisted of no more than the minimum amount of grain and clothing to keep them able to produce’. Exactly according to Marx’s model, see Wages, Price and Profit.

Kateb Yacine

In an occasional attempt to stray beyond my usual obsessions, I’ve reproduced a tribute to Kateb from Jadaliyya, I don’t know why they put it in; furthermore I expect some time they’ll catch on to how often I’m pirating them and demand payment or send round the strong arm brigade.

[Algerian writer Kateb Yacine][Algerian writer Kateb Yacine]

 ['A Profile from the Archives' is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.]

Name: Kateb

Last Name: Yacine

Date of Birth: 1929

Date of Death: 1989

Place of Birth: Smondo – Constantine

Wife’s Name: Zobaida Sharghi

Category: Writer

Profession: Playwright, novelist, and poet

Kateb Yacine

  • Algerian national.
  • Born in a town called Smondo near Constantine on 6 August 1929.
  • His birth name is Yacine and his last name is Kateb. He decided to flip them around and thus he came to be known as Kateb Yacine.
  • [Note by me: Algerians commonly reverse name order, see Didouche Mourad, Ben M'hidi Larbi, Abane Ramdane. Like Hungarians. Has anyone written about this?]
  • His father was a lawyer.
  • Married Zobaida Sharghi; he named his eldest son Amazeigh.
  • Started writing poetry when he was eight years old.
  • Went to a Qu’ran school for a short time before he started going to the French School in Setif where he was introduced to Nerval, Baudelaire, and Verlaine.
  • Participated in Setif protests on 8 May 1945 against the French occupation before his sixteenth birthday. He was arrested in the demonstrations, detained at the central prison, and expelled from school.
  • After his release from prison, he roamed in Algeria and its desert and wrote poetry. His first collection of poems Soliloquy, monajat, was published in 1946.
  • Joined the Algerian Communist Party in 1947 and went on a trip to the Soviet Union in 1951.
  • Left Algeria for France and between 1948 and 1951, he worked as a correspondent for Alger Républicain (Algeria Republican) newspaper, which was established by the French writer Albert Camus.[My gifts of piracy aren't up to copying an interview in French, translated into English, in which Kateb Yacine criticizes the French writer Albert Camus and contrasts him with William Faulkner.]

Travelled to Europe in 1955 and met Bertolt Brecht. Left France for Italy and lived there for a period of time.

  • He visited Vietnam twice, once in 1967 and then in 1970.
  • Wrote novels, plays, and poems against the French occupation of Algeria and in defense of his nation’s cause. His most famous play was “The Enclosed Corpse” (Le Cadavre encerclé) which caused a stir in French cultural circles when it was released. He also published the novel A Star, Nedjma. Both novels alluded to Algeria and its suffering.
  • Went back to Algeria in 1970 and stopped writing in French and started writing in vernacular Algerian. He established a theater group that performed his plays on stages in Algerian cities and European capitals. He used to say: “Just as I rebelled against the French Algeria, I rebel against the Arab Muslim Algeria. I am not Arab or Muslim. I am Algerian.”
  • Awarded many literary awards including: Jean Amroush Award in Florence in 1963, the Lotus Award in 1975, and the Grand National Award for Literature in Paris.
  • Died on 28 October 1989 at the age of sixty in Grenoble due to leukemia.




  • A Poet is Like a Boxer, (Le Poète comme un boxeur), (journalistic interviews) 1944
  • Abdelkader and the Algerian Independance, Abdelkader et l’indépendance algérienne, 1948
  • Nedjma, Nedjma, 1956.
  • The Starry Polygon, Le Polygone étoilé, 1966.


  • Soliloquy, Soliloques, 1946.
  • Poems for the Oppressed Algeria, qasa’id ila al-jaza’ir al-modhtahada, 1948.
  • One Hundred Thousand Virgins, mi’et alf a’thraa, 1958.
  • Under the Cries of the Rooster, tahta sarkhat al-deekah, 1956.
  • The Circle of Reprisal, Le Cercle des représailles, 1959



  • The Enclosed Corpse, Le Cadavre encerclé, 1955.
  • The Intelligence Powder, La Poudre d’intelligence, 1959.
  • The Ancestors are Double The Ferocity, Les Ancêtres redoublent de férocité, 1959.
  • The Man with the Rubber Sandals, L’Homme aux sandales de caoutchouc, 1970.
  • The Savage Woman, al-mar’a al-motawahisha, 1963.
  • Muhammad: Carry Your Bag, Mohammed prends ta valise, 1971.
  • The Butchery of Hope, Boucherie de l’espérance, 1971.
  • Oanisa, 1972.
  • Because It’s a Woman. Parce que c’est une femme, 1972
  • The Two Thousand Year War, harb al-alfai sana, 1974.
  • King of the West, malek al-gharb, 1977.
  • Women’s Voice, sawt al-nisaa’.
  • The Deceived Palestine, falesteen al-makhdoo’
  • Moses the Sweeper, mosa al-kannas.
  • Nuggets of Creativity, shatharat ibdaa’, 1986.

    Poetry: Nedjma ou le poème ou le couteau.

    Nous avions préparé deux verres de sang Nedjma ouvrait ses yeux parmi les arbres.
    Un luth faisait mousser les plaines et les transformait en jardins
    Noirs comme du sang qui aurait absorber le soleil
    J’avais Nedjma sous le cœur frais fumais des bancs de chair précieuse
    -Nedjma depuis que nous rêvons bien des astres nous ont suivis…
    Je t’avais prévue immortelle ainsi que l’air et l’inconnu
    Et voilà que tu meurs et que je me perds et que tu ne peux me demander de pleurer…
    Où sont Nedjma les nuits sèches nous les portions sur notre dos pour abriter d’autres sommeils ;
    La fontaine où les saints galvanisaient les bendirs
    La mosquée pour penser la blanche lisse comme un chiffon de soie.
    La mer sifflée sur les visages grâce à des lunes suspendues dans l’eau telles des boules de peau de givre…
    C’était ce poème Nedjma qu’il fallait conserver.

    Nedjma je t’ai appris un diwan tout-puissant mais ma voix s’éboule je suis dans une musique déserte j’ai beau jeter ton cœur il me revient décomposé.
    Pourtant nous avions nom dans l’épopée nous avons parcouru le pays de complainte nous avons suivi les pleureuses quand elles riaient derrière le Nil…
    Maintenant Alger nous sépare une sirène nous a rendus sourds un treuil sournois déracine ta beauté.
    Peut-être Nedjma que le charme est passé mais ton eau gicle sous mes yeux déférents ;
    Et les mosquées croulaient sous les lances du soleil
    Comme si Constantine avait surgi du feu par de plus subtils incendies
    Nedjma mangeait des fruits malsains à l’ombre des broussailles
    Un poète désolait la ville suivi par un chien sournois
    Je suivis les murailles pour oublier les mosquées
    Nedjma fit un sourire trempa les fruits dans sa poitrine
    Le poète nous jetait des cailloux devant le chien et la noble ville… Et les émirs firent
    des présents aux peuples c’était la fin du Ramadhan
    Les matins s’élevaient du plus chaud des collines une
    pluie odorante ouvrait le ventre des cactus. Nedjma tenait mon coursier par la bride greffait des cristaux sur le sable
    Je dis Nedjma le sable est plein de nos empreintes gorgées d’or ;
    Les nomades nous guettent leurs cris crèvent nos mots ainsi que des bulles
    Nous ne verrons plus les palmiers poussés vers la grêle tendre des étoiles
    Nedjma les chameliers sont loin et la dernière étape est au Nord ;
    Nedjma tira sur la bride je sellai un dromadaire musclé comme un ancêtre.
    Lorsque je perdis l’andalouse je ne pus rien dire j’agonisais sous son souffle il me fallut le temps de la nommer
    Les palmiers pleuraient sur ma tête j’aurais pu oublier l’enfant pour le feuillage
    Mais Nedjma dormait restait immortelle et je pouvais toucher ses seins déconcertants…
    C’était à Bône au temps léger des jujubes Nedjma m’avait ouvert d’immenses palmeraies
    Nedjma dormait comme un navire l’amour saignait sous son cœur immobile.
    Nedjma ouvre tes yeux fameux le temps passe je mourrai dans sept et sept ans ne sois pas inhumaine ;
    Fouille les plus profonds bassins c’est là qu’elle coule quand ses yeux ferment les nuits comme des trappes.
    Coupez mes rêves tels des serpents ou bien portez-moi dans le sommeil de Nedjma je ne puis supporter cette solitude
    (Publié in « Mercure de
    France », 1er janvier 1948, Paris. Kateb Yacine à 18 ans.)

    (You can see why a lot of readers who have had to read Kateb for their lit courses either praise him as postmodern or damn him as obscure…)

    Nedjma, the Poem, the Knife

    We had prepared two glasses of blood Nedjma opened her eyes amid the trees
    A lute was making much of the plains transforming them into gardens
    As black as sun-soaked blood
    Nedjma lay beneath my soothed heart I breathed shoals of precious flesh
    -Many a star has followed us Nedjma while we have been dreaming I had imagined you as timeless as space and the unknown And now you are dying and I am going astray and you cannot ask me to cry…
    Where are Nedjma the rainless nights we were carrying them with us to shelter other rests!
    The fountains where holy men galvanized the bendirs (drums)
    The mosque to meditate as white and smooth as silk fabric
    The sea blown to our faces from the frost-skinned globes of liquescent moons
    This Nedjma was the Arabian poem we should have salvaged!

    Nedjma I taught you a powerful diwan (anthology) but my voice now crumbles I stand amid a desolate music in vain do I cast your heart away it comes back to me decomposed
    Yet our names were sung in the epic we roamed through the land of laments we followed the wailers laughing behind the Nile…
    Now Algiers stands between us a siren blast deafened us a sly winch uproots your splendor
    The spell may be gone Nedjma but water spurts from your spring before my worshipful eyes!

    And the mosques crumbled under the sun’s lances
    As if Constantine had arisen from the fire of more subtle conflagrations
    Nedjma was eating unhealthy fruits in the shade of the underbrush
    A poet followed by a sly-looking dog was spreading desolation through the city
    I hugged the walls to ignore the mosques
    Nedjma gave a smile dipped the fruits into her breast
    The poet was throwing stones at use before the dog and noble city

    And the emirs (princes) gave their subjects presents it was the end of Ramadan
    Mornings broke from the warmest hills a sweet-smelling rain opened the entrails of cactuses (cacti)
    Nedjma was holding my steed’s bridle inlaying crystals in the sand
    I said Nedjma our gold-surfeited tracks cover the sand
    The nomads lying in wait their war cry blasting our words likes bubbles
    We will no longer see the palm trees spurred toward the tender hail of stars
    The cameleers are far away Nedjma and our last stop is in the North!
    Nedjma pulled on the bridle I saddled a dromedary as brawny as a ancestor.

    There was nothing I could say when I lost the Andalusian girl I was agonizing under her breath I needed the time to utter her name
    Palm trees were shedding tears over my head the leaves could have stolen my heart from the maiden
    But Nedjma was asleep remained immortal and I could feel her disconcerting breasts…
    This was in Bône at the carefree time of jujubes Nedjma had opened boundless palm-groves to me

    Nedjma was asleep shiplike love was bleeding beneath her motionless heart
    Open your famed eyes Nedjma time passes I will die in seven and seven years do not be merciless!
    Search the deepest fountains for there she flows when her eyes close nights down like hatches
    Sever my dreams like snakes or else carry me into Nedjma’s sleep I cannot endure such solitude!

    Translated from the French
    by Bernard Aresu


    Country Music

    Nothing to do with any of the foregoing, but having just watched Robert Altman’s ‘Nashville’, I find it hard to get the closing Ronee Blakley song (My Idaho Home) out of my head. There are at least two versions on Youtube, you can obviously choose whether you want to include the shooting, the chaos, the blood and ‘It Don’t Worry Me’. I’ve opted for the minimum. You can also get ‘Tapedeck in his Tractor’ with Croatian subtitles, more of a connaisseur’s item.



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