DAY 66 – Kwame

October 21st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

While we’re on the subject of first names, we should deal with Kwame Nkrumah’s date of birth – an important one as it’s celebrated as Founders Day in Ghana. Wikipedia gives it as 21st September 1909, according to Kwame a ‘guess’ by the priest who baptized him. A bad guess, however. The most definite piece of information we have (natives didn’t get birth certificates in 1909) is that he was born on Saturday, hence Kwame.nkrumah That rules out 21st September 1909 anyway, since it was a Tuesday. It’s generally agreed that he was born in the middle of September; but which year? Some memories of a 1913 shipwreck seem to confirm 1909, and so on p.3 of Ghana we’re told ‘It seems likely, therefore, that I was born on Saturday 18th September 1909’.

The point (if you’re still attending) is that this inverts a Western feeling about dates of birth. Nkrumah is sure about the day of the week, pretty sure about the month, and a bit vague about the year; while most Brits know the date (day, month, year), and are vague on the day of the week unless they’ve had it drummed into them that they’re fair of face or full of woe.

Malala urges drone ban

Meeting: Barack Obama with Malala Yousafzai
Meeting: Barack Obama with Malala Yousafzai

‘Brave Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’ is currently, if you believe the Press stories, a cross between Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, besides being younger and better looking than either. She was tipped for the Nobel Peace Prize, which would in this blog’s view have been have been a badge of ignominy, since previous winners have included Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Barack Obama, and the E. U. Having avoided that danger, she met US President Barack Obama today and urged him to end drone strikes in her country.

The 16-year-old said the strikes were only “fuelling terrorism” and begged him to focus on education instead.

“I expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people,” she said after the meeting.

“If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

badgersOut of the poetry slot – perhaps in the nature corner? I find I have to include Carol Ann Duffy’s inspired tribute (in the Guardian) to the Environment Secretary; who, when accused of moving the goal-posts by extending the time frame, said: “The badgers have moved the goal-posts. We are dealing with a wild animal.”

22 Reasons for the Bedroom Tax

Because the Badgers are moving the goalposts.
The Ferrets are bending the rules.
The Weasels are taking the hindmost.
The Otters are downing tools.

The Hedgehogs are changing the game-plan
The Grass-snakes are spitting tacks.

The Squirrels are playing the blame-game.
The Skunks are twisting the facts.

The Pole-cats are upping the ante.
The Foxes are jumping the gun.
The Voles are crashing the party.
The Stoats are dismantling the Sun.

The Rabbits are taking the biscuit.
The Hares are losing the plot.
The Eagles are kicking the bucket.
The Rats are joining the dots.

The Herons are throwing a curveball.
The Shrews are fanning the flames.
The Field mice are sinking the 8-ball.
The Swans are passing the blame.

And the Pheasants are draining the oil from the tank-
but only the Bustards have broken the bank.

On a closely related theme (are you sure?), here is a picture of the Sudoku themed mathematical gravestone tombstonewhich Farndon Parish Council ordered to be dismantled last week. This seems distressing – Archimedes demanded a model of a sphere and a cylinder on his tomb, and I can’t recall Syracuse council objecting even though it must have been run by the Romans who had been responsible for his death; in fact the model was still there when Cicero came along and scraped it out of the underbrush in 75 B. C. (Tusculan Disputations Book 5). Nor have Highgate objected to having a tombstone bearing the inflammatory words ‘Workers of all countries, Unite!’ The only disadvantage I can see is that if you have a sudoku on your grave, passers-by will naturally come along with magic markers and try to solve it. Even worse with a crossword – so don’t even think of having one of them on your grave.

A second poem – maybe something by Jackie Kay is overdue.

Late Love

How they strut about, people in love,
how tall they grow, pleased with themselves,
their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don't remember who they have been.

How filmic they are just for this time.
How important they've become – secret, above
the order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.

How dull the lot that are not in love.
Their clothes shabby, their skin lustreless;
how clueless they are, hair a mess; how they trudge
up and down streets in the rain,

remembering one kiss in a dark alley,
a touch in a changing-room, if lucky, a lovely wait
for the phone to ring, maybe, baby.
The past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush

already miles away, dimming now, in the late day.
Philosopher of the Week (a new heading): Pico della Mirandola.
Music Corner: the totally memorable Ace of Base 1993 hit ‘All that she wants‘.

DAY 65

October 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Saudi Women Driving Clerics Crazy Warning (reprinted from our sister blog Jadaliyya)

While all Saudis live under a hyper capitalist, sectarian and and brutal authoritarian regime, a Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa making it official that being a woman in Saudi Arabia sucks extra bad. This » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 64 – Lampedusa

October 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Or, the current frontier of Europe. Here, the Italian government’s rule is that the dead (over 250) will be given posthumous Italian citizenship, while the survivors are deported and fined 5000 euros. You couldn’t have made it up.

EU-Innenminister reden über FlüchtlingswelleSee also the Greek camp of Amygdaleza, where

Amygdaleza-centre-for-immigrants-in-Greecethere have been protests for some time, inmates have set fire to their bedding,.. Europe’s boundaries are currently in such places, and it’s not pleasant to be there. I might as well (to save myself the trouble) quote at length from opendemocracy’s report – which, naturally, mentions Lampedusa in particular:

‘On 25 January 2012, Nicanor Haon, coordinator of Boats 4 People, a project that saves migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean sea, wrote of a recent experience on Air France flight 2184 from Paris Charles-De-Gaulle airport bound for Tunisia. He described the scene:

“Four people from the border police, accompanied by an officer of another body of the national police, were guarding the front door of the plane. (…) In the last row, two strongly built plainclothes policemen held down a young man about twenty years old. (…) I thought that this young man certainly had done nothing but to be in France without papers, and I tried to draw the attention of people sitting around me on this. At that moment someone started to shout: ‘Deportations are completely normal, sir, there are rules! If people are illegal, they are expelled, otherwise this would turn into anarchy! May I remind you that this is a democracy!”

Tunisia, Libya, Malta, Lampedusa (Italy), the border between Morocco and the colonial cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the Canary Islands (Spain), the Greek border with Turkey, the Mediterranean Sea itself, have all become a sort of laboratory of neoliberal regimes for the selective control of migrations.  The EU is developing an immigration regime with strategies of innovation and privatization and technologies of externalization. The policies of expulsion, detention centres for foreigners, identity checks at railway or bus stations and the use of borderzones equipped with advanced technology devices, all make up for what Nicholas de Genova and Nathalie Peutz have called the ‘deportation regime’.’

On a happier note, Iranians have hastened to clarify the Israeli PM’s confusion (i.e. that they are making nuclear weapons because their repressive regime won’t let them wear jeans or listen to Western music):

BV5SullCYAARKUareplies to this slur posted on #iranjeans apparently went mildly viral, as shown.

Those of you who have a weakness for the channel ‘Sky Arts 2’ – and I realize there may not be that many of you – will certainly have shared my wish that someone in the Viennese underworld (Mayerling?) take out the unstoppable fiddler-conductor André Rieu, who sometimes clogs up the evening schedules seven days a week with an odious grin, while he saws away at waltzes and other kitsch.Rieu
I’ve pointed out that his actual death, however desirable, would be useless, since the Murdoch gang certainly have about ten years of Rieu recordings in their archives which they could recycle endlessly. What is needed is a virus which, when it recognizes the Rieu-face on the screen, deconstructs the programme in the process of transmission (at the satellite, I suppose), and rebuilds the images and sound as Monteverdi madrigals (say) sung by a Slovenian lesbian choir. It shouldn’t be beyond the technological expertise of a Media Studies BA, indeed it could serve as an interesting final year project.

The other day, I heard Ngugi wa Thiong’o exhorting his audience to learn, and read, African languages – so many of them in need of preservation, and I’m coming to them too late to start. Although my sister Elizabeth who is by starting (at over 70) to learn Dongotono, which has too few speakers to be recognized by Wikipedia, puts us all to shame. My feeble contribution, until something better comes along, is Ahmad Bhalo’s poem in, and about, Kiswahili:

Risala enuka hima
sikae ukaatwilinina jambo takutuma
ubalegheshe suali
nipate jawabu njema
yenye amani na kweli

Nauliza Kiswahili
ni lugha ya watu gani.Lugha nyingi duniani
zatamkwa mbalimbali
na zote ulimwenguni
zina wenyewe mahali.

Si Hindi si Uzunguni

mewaumbia Jalali.

Nauliza Kiswahili…Wakamba wana kikwao
lugha yao ya aswili
na Wazungu pia nao
wana zao mbalimbali
na Wameru wana yao
wengini ni Wasomaii
ndizo matamshi yao.
Na yetu ni lugha gani.

Wahindi wana Kihindi
kwa kabila mbali mbali
na Wanandi ni Kinandi

ndizo zao akuwali
Wengine ni Wakilindi

wana yao ya aswili
Jee hichi Kiswahili
ni lugha ya watu gani.

Kuuliza si ujinga
musinifanye sahili
nautafuta muanga
tuzunduane akili
ndipo shairi ‘katunga
kubaleghesha suali.
Nielezwe Kiswahili

Ni lugha ya watu gani.

Mara nyingi husikiya
kuwa hichi Kiswahili
hakina mtu mmoya
ambaye ni yake kweli
Na wagine huteteya
Kina wenyewe aswili.
Ndipo ‘kamba Kiswahili

ni lugha ya watu gani

Masai ana kikwao
lugha ya tangu azali
na Mahara wana yao

wengine Mashelisheli

na Waluo lugha zao
si sawa na Maragoli

Jee hichi Kiswahili…

Na jamii wengineo
wana lugha mbalimbali
na kujua za wenzao
ni kujifunza ya pili
Lakini wana na zao
lugha za tangu aswili.
Jee hichi Kiswahili…

Sasa ambalo nataka
kwa wenye kujua hili
wa Kenya na Tanganyika
na walo kila mahali
nipani ilo hakika
tusifitane ukweli
Nambiani Kiswahili
ni lugha ya watu gani

Mimi mefikiri mno
kuamua jambo hili
na ‘kaona lugha hino
lazima ina aswili
kwa sababu kulla neno
lina mwanzo wa usuli
Ndipo ‘kamba Kiswahili
Ni lugha ya watu gani.

Na iwapo hivi sivyo
nilivyoamua hili
nioneshani vilivyo
mudhihirishe ukweli
nijue ambavyo ndivyo
tutoane mushikili

Kifunuke Kiswahili
ki lugha ya watu gani…

Na iwapo atakuja
wa kunijibu suali
namuomba jambo moja
twambiane kiakili
tusionyane miuja

jambo lisilokubali.
Na nambie Kiswahili
ni lugha ya watu gani?

Tamati ndio ahiri
jina langu ndilo hili
ahamadi wa Nasiri
na Bhalo ndilo la pili
mtungaji mashuhuri
mpenda msema kweli.

The Swahili Language
Messenger, rise quickly,don’t linger, don’t dawdle,I have an errand for you,
carry my question to the addressee
so that I may receive a good answer,
one that gives peace because
it contains the truth:
I ask, for what sort of people
is Swahili the language?There are many languages in the world,
pronounced in different ways,
and all the languages on earth
have people who belong to them,
in a special place
Not only in India, not only in
Europe and America
[but everywhere] has the Almighty
created language.
I ask…

The Kamba have their own language
which has been there since their genesis;
and the British too [or the Europeans]
have their own several languages;
and the Meru people have their own,
and the Somali are a different people again
and so they have their own language.
And which language is ours?

The Indians have Hindi
for various tribes,
and for the Nandi there is
the Nandi language,
that is their own speech;
and different again are the
people of Usambara,
they have their own original language.
Tell me, for what sort of people
is Swahili the language?

Asking is not stupidity;
do not think that my question is easy,
I am searching for light,
that we may shake the minds awake,
that is why I made a poem
in order to communicate this problem.
Let it be explained to me,
for what sort of people
is the Swahili language?

One often hears
of this Swahili language, that
there isn’t anyone
for whom it is his own language.
And others argue
that it does have original speakers [owners].
that is why I am saying,
for what sort of people
Is Swahili…

The Masai has his home language
ever since the beginning of Creation,
and the people of the island
of Socotra have theirs;
the people of the Seychelles
are different again;
and the Nilotes have their languages,
which are different from those
of the Ragoli people.
Tell me, for what sort of people…

And all the others
have different languages
and some know the languages of their neighbors,
which means studying a second language;
but they still have their own languages
ever since their origin.
Tell me, for what sort of people…

Now that which I am asking,
from those who know this,
the people of Kenya and Tanganyika
and that means those who live everywhere,
give me a true answer,
let us not hide the truth from one another!
Tell me, for what sort of people…

I have thought a great deal
to solve this problem,
and I have realized that this language
must have an origin;
because every word
has a beginning for its roots.
So I say, for what sort of people
is Swahili…

And if this is not so,
as I have solved it,
show me how it is,
make the truth clear,
that I may know how it really is,
that we may help each other
out of the difficulty!
May it be discovered for what sort of people
is Swahili…

And if there arrives
a person who can solve my problem,
I beg of him one thing:
let us talk together in an intelligent manner,
let us not show each other miracles
[throw dust in each other’s eyes]
[by saying] something that is not acceptable.
So tell me, for what sort of people
is Swahili…

Finish, this is the end,
my name is as follows,
Ahmad, son of Nassir,
and Bhalo, that is my second surname,
a famous poet,
a lover and speaker of the truth.


And, to conclude – from South Africa, the Mzansi Youth Choir.

DAY 63

October 5th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The US Government has finally acknowledged that I was right all along. (About the essential role that mathematicians play in underpinning its dark corners – if that isn’t a mixed metaphor.) As a result of the shutdown, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has told a Senate panel that an estimated 70% of intelligence workers had been placed on unpaid leave, and accordingly would likely be hanging around on the street corners of Washington to see what the Russians could offer them.

Gen Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, said the electronic spying agency had placed thousands of mathematicians and computer scientists on unpaid leave.

Our nation needs people like this,” he said. Or like this one – remember?


To quote the NSA’s attractive prospectus for math graduates:

In the Graduate Mathematics Program (GMP), you’ll collaborate with top mathematicians and statisticians in the country, solving problems critical to the success of our missions. You’ll have the opportunity to learn and develop cryptomathematical theory and to apply the theory to operational problems. GMP participants work together on problems involving mathematics, statistical, data analysis, cryptology and communications technology. Students document their work in technical papers which are internally published at the agency. State-of-the-art computing resources are available, as well as computational software packages, such as Mathematica, MATLAB, Magma MAPLE, and S-PLUS R.

But I wouldn’t rush to apply, as the webpage seems to be in suspension due to the shutdown.

Back on the theme of assigning blame in tragedy, a reader from Cornwall writes that she has been having a hard time persuading her sisters that Lear is responsible for the whole mess in the play of that name; and that they end up being sorry for the enraged bully. I find this hard to believe. What we have to observe is the desperate attempt of the daughters first to play up to the old man’s childish demands for flattery, and then to plan together some damage-limitation plan for his twilight years. If this goes hopelessly off the rails, it’s because the king (who has ever but slenderly known himself) and all his drunken knights, are too much for the Regan household; and I suspect the Fool is up to no good too. The Cornwalls (one thinks of Mrs Parker-Bowles) have to draw what these days is called a red line.

Meanwhile, one Andrew Wiles has taken the curious step of claiming that financial greed ‘threatens the good name of maths’ (See his speech as reported in the Times.) Those of us who have been toiling in the fields of financial greed for decades know that it’s the other way round;


no one worried about it until the mathematicians threatened its good name with their fancy calculations. Financial mathematics has seriously confused us so that when we’re approached for advice on the best way to screw everyone and make a dishonest buck, all we have to offer is something like

finmathwhich has neither good name nor ethical punch to recommend it.

In any case, why not lay off the mathematicians and let’s see how soon the nation crumbles – as politicians, doctors, scientists, security officers and criminals all reach for their pocket calculators by candlelight. (Because you have to have mathematicians to control the flow of electricity, even corruptly – remember Enron?)


Here is that great – and appropriate – poem ‘My hand is weary with writing’, Gaelic, around 1200. I have much more to say, but I think this says it all.

Is scíth mo chrob ón scríbainn;

Ní dígainn mo glés géroll;

Sceithid penn – gulban caelda –

Dig ndaelda do dub glégorm.

Bruinnid srúaim n-ecna ndedairn

As mo láim degduinn desmais;

Doirtid a dig for duilinn

Do dub in chuilinn chnesglais.

Sínim mo phenn mbec mbraenach

Tar aenach lebar lígoll

Cen scor fri selba ségonn,

Dían scíth mo chrob ón scríbonn.

My hand is weary with writing,

My sharp quill is not steady,

My slender-beaked pen jets forth

A black draught of shining dark-blue ink.

A stream of wisdom of blessèd God

Springs from my fair-brown shapely hand:

On the page it squirts its draught

Of ink of the green-skinned holly.

My little dripping pen travels

Across the plain of shining books,

Without ceasing for the wealth of the great―

Whence my hand is weary with writing.

I don’t think I’ve posted anything by Stockhausen. Here an angelically youthful Simon Rattle (from the looks) conducts the first of three parts of ‘Gruppen‘.

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