DAY 13

December 12th, 2012 § 0 comments

Winifred Nicholson ‘Cyclamen and Primula’, c. 1923.

You may have seen that there’s a Winifred Nicholson exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; you may even have got to see it. If not (and if you prefer Nicholson to such fashionable dabblers as Freud and Rothko), better hurry as it closes on the 21st, I think.

I seem to have been impossibly ambitious about how often I keep this updated, and I’m sure many professional blogistas out there are happy if they can fit in comments once a week in the intervals of their hectic existences as postal workers, human rights lawyers, hedge fund managers and what not. Only a life of retired idleness has encouraged me to set myself such an absurd and surely unreadable rate of output.

I’m often asked, though, by readers who I run into around Archway or SOAS why I haven’t made any comments on the situation in Syria or Egypt, since I seem to be so free with my views on other parts of the middle east. Answer is that I frankly don’t know; I have received some interesting reports at least on Egypt which I’ll try to pass on soon. I know what I don’t want (the Americans etc involved in any way); but (a) that’s a minimum and (b) I bet it won’t happen.


On Information, and Sources of it

There’s a lot of loose talk about how much junk there is out on the internet. What doesn’t get mentioned is how much fascinating information there is – and valuable, too; but you have to be lucky enough to find it. I’ve had the idea that the scale of exploitaton in India, particularly at (say) call centres, was spectacular; and I found myself today directed to a huge online publication which details that and much, much, more. It’s called ‘Gurgaon Workers’ News’ and if that seems a bit obscure, here’s the detail:

‘Gurgaon Workers’ News’, appropriately subtitled ‘Workers News from the Special Exploitation Zone’, has grown in five years to a huge and detailed publication, combining statistics, personal stories, and analysis. Recent issue here - with much detail about call centres, my particular interest. What similar work is the working-class movement producing elsewhere?Gurgaon is a satellite town in the south of Delhi, a new development area…. The government of Haryana recently (i.e.2007) announced the opening of another Special Export Zone within the next few years, allegedly creating an additional 200,000 jobs. About five years ago Gurgaon became a call centre cluster. Several multi-nationals have off-shored their call centre work to Gurgaon or nearby Noida, South Delhi or Okhla: Microsoft, American Express, Dell, Amazon, IBM, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, HP etc.. Some of the call centres are huge, e.g. in the building of Genpact, formerly GE Capital, about 12,000 workers are employed. As one might expect, health and safety are disregarded, unions are sidelined, pay is minimal and conflicts can be sharp and brutal.

Call centre worker

Of course I should also draw your attention to the fact that there’s a fantastic amount of information available in things called ‘Books’. It’s a lot harder to find these, they may cost money, and they have other disadvantages. But they’re less likely to give you RSI or seized-up neck (see previous post). And I’d particularly recommend T. M. Porter’s ‘Trust inNumbers’. I’m currently reading it, and can’t honestly give a fair report yet; but the passages on how insurance companies arrived at the decision of who was a good life to insure (so as to stay profitable); or how the Chicago grain market, that model for all markets, graded grain into four categories – as Porter points out, this is essentially impossible, since the quality of grain is smoothly distributed – are already exciting tasters for future reading. (Does this sentence make any kind of sense?)

As it’s St Lucy’s day (Dec.13th), which was the shortest day in John Donne’s time, but hasn’t been since we (the Brits) switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, I thought the following would be an appropriate poem.
A Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day
By John Donne
‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
                The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
         For I am every dead thing,
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
                For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
         I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
         Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood
                Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
         Were I a man, that I were one
         I needs must know; I should prefer,
                If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.
But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
         At this time to the Goat is run
         To fetch new lust, and give it you,
                Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.
Musically, I seem to be back on the old French songs, with Ray Ventura’s classic: ‘Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise’ (1935), which ushered in the Popular Front, at least according to my folk-history. Promise to get out of this rut soon.

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