DAY 138: Leibniz and world peace

July 30th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Well, more of him later – he’s waited a good while already. In a predictable if slightly farcical follow-up to our report on Susya (last post), under the pressure of interventions from the EU and the White House, there were steps towards a climb-down. As reported by +972 magazine:

‘With more or less the entire Western world warning Israel not to demolish the Palestinian village of Susya and forcefully displace its residents, it is no surprise that the Israeli army might be seeking a way to climb down the tree it is stuck on.

So how does one announce that it might not demolish that village which it has been claiming for years has no right to exist? As a first step, you might look for an internal document you discarded years ago, one that argues the residents of Susya do actually own the land from which you want to expel them, and then leak it to the press.’


Palestinian girls chant slogans at the protest against the demolition of their village, Susya, July 24, 2015. (Keren Manor/

Of course, the village’s inhabitants – now possibly allowed to go on living there – are not going to be allowed to build. And meanwhile Israeli military forces shot and killed three Palestinians in the last week. All three killings took place during raidsmourning in the middle of the night to detain suspects in crimes we know nothing about.

Here in Britain we can  – in contrast to the citizens of Texas like Sandra Bland,


or Hebron – on the whole go to bed without the fear that the police will haul us out and shoot us. Thank God for relative freedom. And yet we must worry at the mounting attempts to brand the eminently cuddly and sensible Jeremy Corbyn jeremy-corbyn-smallas a dangerous Islamic terrorist at worst and a mischievous idealist at best,. To quote from the totally unreliable ‘’:

‘Leadership challenger, Yvette Cooper, said, “Jeremy Corbyn would force your averagely-bright child to sit with the thickest, while having lessons in double gayness shoved down his throat by a bearded woman in dungarees. What a bastard!”

Unrealistic challenger, Liz Kendall, opined, “Three-day week. Coal miners. Greenham Common. Duffel coats. Cold winters. The right to strike. Investment in the NHS. Social justice. Is this the kind of Britain you want?”’

But back (or on) to Leibniz. He, like me – or like I? – would have worried about how the Chinese manage to do texting. There they all are sitting inscrutably in front of a screen which can surely contain no more than ten characters. They have a thousand or more available, and they’re trying to, send a message like 他妈的闭嘴 or ‘Shut the fuck up’ (Google Translate informs me). Look at those characters. How do they do it?

I hope you’ll be charmed to learn, as I am, that there are at least five answers. One is to use Pinyin (i.e. write it like it sounds) in which our phrase above reads ‘Tā mā de bì zuǐ’. After you’ve typed a syllable with its tone, the phone may still not be sure which character you mean, and offer you a list. Or it may work it out the whole sequence from the context – it’s a smart phone, remember. Another is (naturally) to describe how you’d write the character – the sequence of different strokes that go to make it up. (My source says this is called Wubi.) Each of these is quite variable, as we’re living in a competitive capitalist society; and you’ll likely be using a different method again if you’re from Taiwan or Hong Kong. (Two or three methods in each, I think.)

Here, as my interest was roused by observing a Taiwanese friend’s keyboard, I should note that their method, or one of them, is called ‘cangjie’

cangjieCangjie phone keyboard

with 24 graphological units and – Have you lost interest already?

And yet the point is more than academic, since Leibniz, like me, realized that Chinese writing represented not sounds, but thoughts – which is why it doesn’t matter how you pronounce it. Here, then, we have a step towards a single means of communication between all peoples which can lead to world peace, because we shall all understand each other. This is the ‘universal characteristic’ which Leibniz dreamed of.  Did I hear you say ‘他妈的闭嘴’?


In my ceaseless attempt to be democratic among the world’s languages, I hit on some terrific poems by Albania’s Ujko Byk. who deserves a much wider audience. For example:


Së rishmi

Once again

Sidomos nesër

Especially tomorrow

Në vend të autopsikografisë

In lieu of autopsychography



Fjala e fundit e botës.

The world’s last word.

Shkruaj në shenjë:

Write to me as a sign:

Gjuha shqipe nuk është aq e vështirë.

Albanian isn’t that difficult a language



The last line is a complete clincher.


I’ve been meaning to offer a track by the late renowned South African tin whistle player Spokes Mashiyane. So here it is, complete with statue. Title is ‘Meva‘. (Footnote: I’m amazed that Bud Shank, who I remember as a West Coast flautist in the 1950s, facilitated Spokes’ performing at Newport in 1965.)

DAY 137: Back

July 25th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

800px-RozdestvoHristovo_RublevBlagSoborMKNativity (Rublev)

Yes, comrades and friends who’ve surely been missing these reflections while I’ve been sunning myself for two weeks in the West Bank (noon temp. 32 degrees most days).  Here is a selection of my holiday snaps.

(I soon realized that with a selection of 100+ photos of variable quality, my best bet was to make a slideshow of the ten or so best and embed that. But while making a slideshow in iPhoto is almost easy for the 76-year-old, you just try embedding that in WordPress. The internet is flooded with the tears of those who have run into the brutal rules about what file format you can use; and something you’d have thought was childsplay turns out to involve: (a) turning your slideshow into a quicktime movie; (b) uploading the movie to Youtube; (c) embedding the link to that. And then they put an idiotic soundtrack on the slideshow, I ask you. I naturally replaced it with the Goldberg Variations, but still.)

I didn’t get to demonstrate against the proposed demolition of Susya – a bit far,

YI019053Activists march to Susya, July 24th

and I didn’t want to get teargassed. But more power to those who did; and here are Amira Hass’s reflections on the campaign’s international profile and distinguished support. [Including our own diplomats – if not the PM.] “The British Government’s position against displacement of communities in Area C is clear,” wrote the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem last month following a Ramadan iftar meal in Susya, attended by Consul-General Alastair McPhail. “Demolitions of property and the evictions of entire communities from their villages cause great suffering to ordinary Palestinians and are harmful to the peace process. They are, in all but the most limited circumstances, contrary to international humanitarian law.”.

I should interpose, though, that I was shocked to hear almost immediately on arrival that my country had been struck not only by the habitual rain, but by a plague of middle-class alcoholism – as if the threat of Daesh bombings wasn’t enough to worry about. I was used to the middle class starting the day with sherry (as my father did) at 11, so it must be something worse to make the headlines of the Daily Mail. Luckily, we have a system of controlling who buys drink tightly enforced in this country; and it shouldn’t be hard to extend it from banning the youth to banning the middle class.

289652AE00000578-3078260-Middle_class_women_are_drinking_to_excess_to_join_in_with_a_mach-a-7_1431436779887Fake photo of actors posed by Daily Mail

There are any number of places where your class can be worked out, I suppose the BBC is as good as any (readers will be pleased to know that I’m ‘technical middle class’, but I won’t reveal what that means). So the supermarket can, in principle, find out if you’re middle class and refuse to sell you vodka if you are. If the supermarket is Lidl they should reckon you’re prima facie working class I would imagine. Eventually everyone will carry an ID card which broadcasts their class; which, again, would make it easier to know who to line up against a wall come the revolution.

Anyway, back to Beit Sahour. I thoroughly recommend it (or Bethlehem for that matter) for a holiday; excellent reliable weather, good food, reasonable prices, and you know your money is going to a good cause. NB I think that Basil from Ilforno restaurant featured in Tripadvisor is the IT graduate-cum-pizza chef who fixed my iphone when it had developed an appalling syndrome which I won’t bore you by describing. I have to say that I didn’t run into the brutality of the occupation, as probably many of my hosts did daily.

As for the Palestine Museum of Natural History, where I was ‘working’, here’s their mission statement:


The Palestine Institute of Biodiversity Research and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) will work to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world, culture and heritage and use knowledge to promote responsible human interactions with our environment.


  1. Explore and research the diversity of the fauna, flora, and human ethnography via collections and research.
  2. Environmental protection and responsible interaction between people and the environment. This includes building environmental awareness and encouraging conservation of natural resources including connecting this to Palestinian heritage.
  3. Use the knowledge gained and the books and databases and collections to promote science education so that this institute becomes one that helps all segments of society in areas like biology, ecology, technology, archaeology, ethnology etc.
  4. Cataloging and building a physical and an electronic data base of all animal and plant species existing as well as beginning to catalog and preserve objects/specimens related to natural history and biodiversity (including human diversity and history).
  5. Develop respect a) for ourselves (self empowerment), b) for our fellow human beings (regardless of background), and c) for all living creatures and our shared earth.

By the way if you visit the museum’s home you’ll find not only the above statement, but a much more professional slideshow than mine. I wonder who did it.

While on the subject of museums, here’s a poem:

In the Museum of Lost Objects

BY Rebecca Lindenberg

What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee; 
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage.
Ezra Pound

You’ll find labels describing what is gone:
an empress’s bones, a stolen painting
of a man in a feathered helmet
holding a flag-draped spear.
A vellum gospel, hidden somewhere long ago
forgotten, would have sat on that pedestal;
this glass cabinet could have kept the first
salts carried back from the Levant.
To help us comprehend the magnitude
of absence, huge rooms
lie empty of their wonders—the Colossus,
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and
in this gallery, empty shelves enough to hold
all the scrolls of Alexandria.
My love, I’ve petitioned the curator
who has acquired an empty chest
representing all the poems you will
now never write. It will be kept with others
in the poet’s gallery. Next door,
a vacant room echoes with the spill
of jewels buried by a pirate who died
before disclosing their whereabouts.
I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept
a few of your pieces
for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.
I make a habit, if not a principle, of being completely irrelevant here; so ignoring the temptation to play something which has to do with Beit Sahour or museums (Carnaval des animaux?), I’m using the fact that a friend got tickets for a Joan Baez concert in the packed amphitheatre at Lyon last week. Here, a fond hope, she’s singing ‘Forever Young’


DAY 136: Time is Money

July 1st, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

How’s that for a trite observation? (you’ll say). Not by the time I’m through wth it, since I bet you spend relatively little time (or indeed money) seriously considering the proper definition of these two » Read the rest of this entry «

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