DAY 129 Cucumbers

May 3rd, 2015 § 0 comments

Readers complain that I give a completely negative picture of the Israeli occupation of the West bank, with some justice. And indeed I have learned recently that this year the Palestinian peasants have been benefiting handsomely5609-1-350x247from the ‘sabbatical’ or shmita year. As dictated in Exodus 23:10-11, among other places, (you probably know) Jews who farm within the biblical borders of the Land of Israel must let their fields lie fallow every seventh year. I quote: ‘For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.’ (For the Masoretic text see here.) Right now in Israel, it’s 5775 (= 7 × 825) on the Jewish religious calendar, a shmita year. How then do Orthodox, in particular ultra-Orthodox Jews, get their cucumbers? There are various dodgy workarounds e.g. that ‘thousands of Israeli farmers technically sold their property to the government, which then sold it to a 25-year-old immigrant named George Shtraykhman

… though of mixed Jewish and Russian non-Jewish background, Shtraykhman is considered non-Jewish under traditional Jewish religious law’. Pshah! The Haredim will quite rightly have no truck with such legal fictions. Instead, employing Palestinian farmers as a sort of shabbas-goy, they buy their cucumbers et al. – through a circuitous route, as you can imagine – from the small farmers of the West Bank, and even Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli police force, who seem to be dispensed from the requirements of shmita, have been training the Baltimore force with predictable results. (I think haredim don’t get to serve in the police force, preferring to study Torah, and I don’t blame them.) In contrast, the International Solidarity Movement  sent a message:We, Palestinians struggling against Israeli Apartheid, stand in solidarity with the residents of Baltimore. We send our condolences to the family of Freddie Gray and all those murdered in police custody. We add our voices to the demand that the killers be held accountable. We send our solidarity to the families of the prisoners. Those arrested for demanding justice, for being black, brown or poor. We add our voices to the demand for their immediate and unconditional release. ‘


An arrest in Baltimore

As I try to follow the news of all this using the world’s favourite search engine, I’m worried to find that it seems incapable of translating the increasingly popular verb ‘to google’. It makes some effort at translating ‘I googled him’ into French and German; in the latter it comes up with ‘Ich ihn gegoogelt’ which is surely wrong, ditto the supposed Russian ‘Я гугле его’. The guys are incapable of creating a proper verb in any language but their own. In Arabic – which is of course where I was heading – things get worse since there is no ‘g’ except for Egyptians. I’m told that ‘Google ‘ translates as جوجل (OK for Egyptians) – a four-letter root whose plural – Are you losing interest already?

My main point, I think, is that this is an elementary consequence of Gödel’s Theorem. A translating machine can’t translate its own name. Beautiful.

You ask:

Q: How much data is there in the world?

A: That’s a pretty vague question. But the intrepid Antoinette Rouvroy rouvroyof Namur has been out there counting the octets and has come up with an answer: ‘L’univers numérique se compose, dit-on, [Don’t you just love that ‘dit-on’? – what a get-out clause] de plus de mille-deux-cent milliards de milliards d’octets, dont quatre-vingt-dix pourcents auraient été produits dans des deux dernières années, et dont le nombre devrait être multiplié par dix d’ici 2020 en raison de la mise en réseau d’un nombre croissants d’objets équipés de puces RFID et capables de communiquer entre eux, et donc de produire, eux aussi, des quantités gigantesques de données.’ (So the French for RFID tag is ‘puce RFID’. Well, I haven’t tried Google Translate on it, usually an acronym gets translated anagrammatically like AIDS = SIDA or PLO = OLP. Where the fleas come in, I don’t know.) Antoinette’s Facebook page or ‘mur’ gives her age as 101, which looks like a bit of guerrilla war against Big Data in itself.

Q. Can I grow my own pine nuts?

A. So you’re trying to combat a) the world shortage, b) the allergy (see previous post). It’s probably better to go for an umbrella pine (Pinus pinea) than for one of the transatlantic varieties unless you’re one of my US or Canadian readers; and what with global warming and that, they seem to be adapting to the South East. See here for a touching story of cultivation in Essex  going back to 1975. And don’t forget that you have to work hard after you’ve harvested the nut to get something edible.

Q. Is the fundamental nature of individuals changing in this new world (less of a need for alliance, belonging, affiliation, more transient definitions of self, increased satisfaction/dissatisfaction)?

A. It’s a bit late for me to answer that, (question from Kakul Srivastava, ‘on a mission to create fun and social software for people at work’); and I’m not at all sure I understand it.

kakulKakul Srivastava

Luckily, Stowe Boyd answered it as follows:

‘The individual’s world is larger — more connections, more innovative ideas flowing past — but it may be perceived as more discontinuous, since longer periods of time pass between communications with loosely connected colleagues.One aspect of the shift of affiliation is where individuals are choosing who to follow rather than being situated in a role with predefined close connections, which is the case in the conventional postmodern business.’ Since I had no idea that there was such a thing as a conventional postmodern business, I got lost in the rest of Stowe’s answer. I do have a more transient definition of self, but I thought that was just me. And increased satisfaction/dissatisfaction (which do you mean?).


Sticking with the theme of pine-trees, the reader will – with luck – be pleased to note that this erotic Neruda number is not only successfully bilingual, but in two colours as well.

Ebrio de trementina y largos besos,
estival, el velero de las rosas dirijo,
torcido hacia la muerte del delgado día,
cimentado en el sólido frenesí marino.
Drunk with pines and long kisses,
like summer I steer the fast sail of the roses,
bent towards the death of the thin day,
stuck into my solid marine madness.
Pálido y amarrado a mi agua devorante
cruzo en el agrio olor del clima descubierto,
aún vestido de gris y sonidos amargos,
y una cimera triste de abandonada espuma.
Pale and lashed to my ravenous water,
I cruise in the sour smell of the naked climate,
still dressed in grey and bitter sounds
and a sad crest of abandoned spray.
Voy, duro de pasiones, montado en mi ola única,
lunar, solar, ardiente y frío, repentino,
dormido en la garganta de las afortunadas
islas blancas y dulces como caderas frescas.
Hardened by passions, I go mounted on my one wave,
lunar, solar, burning and cold, all at once,
becalmed in the throat of the fortunate isles
that are white and sweet as cool hips.
Tiembla en la noche húmeda mi vestido de besos
locamente cargado de eléctricas gestiones,
de modo heroico dividido en sueños
y embriagadoras rosas practicándose en mí.
In the moist night my garment of kisses trembles
charged to insanity with electric currents,
heroically divided into dreams
and intoxicating roses practicing on me.
Aguas arriba, en medio de las olas externas,
tu paralelo cuerpo se sujeta en mis brazos
como un pez infinitamente pegado a mi alma
rápido y lento en la energía subceleste.
Upstream, in the midst of the outer waves,
your parallel body yields to my arms
like a fish infinitely fastened to my soul,
quick and slow, in the energy under the sky.


‘A fish infinitely fastened to my soul’! I can dig it.

I’m always being asked to post an Andalusian muwashshah. This one, ‘Waṣlah de maqām ḥijāz’, is predictably from Aleppo.

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