21 May 2007

Sydney's 'safe and secure APEC Forum' a model, but of what?

The Australian Government confirmed its commitment to host a safe and secure Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in 2007. — Australian government site, Hosting a Safe and Secure APEC

Oddly enough, this invasion of aliens has not been given the Pacific Solution as the venue, though what else is Nauru good for? Nauru's too greedy? Then why can't we do what we've done before? House them in the outback. It doesn't have to be a prison. Hell, Australians could shout them a resort, if it's only for a week. But they want to be in an exciting city?

from 'Sydney an APEC battleground' by Simon Benson, The Daily Telegraph, 17 May 2007

HEAVILY-armed SAS troops could be ordered on to Sydney's streets to maintain control during the APEC summit later this year, a military law expert has warned.

This move, which includes orders for the troopers to shoot to kill, has further fanning the ire of Daily Telegraph readers, already up in arms over what they see as deprivation of civil liberties.

But Premier Morris Iemma maintained the added firepower was merely a sign of the times.

Is the Sign of the Times factory one of those government/industry partnerships — a subsidiary of Fear Industries, Inc?

There has been a growing boom in crowd control specialists and 'non-lethal' crowd control equipment to regimes who will look favourably on this sign of the times, like Mugabe who has used non-lethal equipment to lethal effect.

When crowd control is a riot

"CROWD CONTROL is controlling a crowd who are not a riot and not a demonstration. Examples are at football matches and when a sale of goods has attracted an excess of customers. It calls for gentler tactics than riot control." - Wikipedia

The MCCM uses 600 PVC balls (32 caliber) set in a two-layer matrix of inert binder chemically similar to children's "glow-dough". Sheet explosive of .042" thickness is used as the propellant . . .
- M5 Modular Crowd Control Munition description, from GlobalSecurity.org

Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free - Advance Australia Fair

As forceful as fungi

That woman! L. Timmel Duchamp on the Muse

L. Timmel Duchamp is one of those rare over-educated people whose writing makes me have at hand both a dictionary and a box of tissues, sometimes for cleaning up unladylike snorts. (see her story The Apprenticeship of Isabetta di Pietro Cavazzi that I was delighted to include in the Virtuous Medlar Circle)

The ever-stimulating Timmi — author, publisher, essayist has been thinking about 'the whole Muse thing', and that led to what she calls 'serendipity' (probably a Muse's curse).

First she had

'A Brief Conversation with Nisi Shawl'

and then

a conversation with me.

In the Kingdom of CCTVs

In the Kingdom of CCTVs
looking into the deeds of MPs
can give no information

deemed right for the nation
so they've ruled, so just smile and say 'cheese'.

20 May 2007

'Scientist' or 'Observer, then connecting the dots' ?

Spurred by an earlier posting, KooKee of Coqui Frog News commented:

Never liked the term "Scientist".

"Observer" would fit, then connecting the dots of what's observed.

The old saying of fooling some of the people all of the time....etc. until someone looks behind the curtain, sometimes it just takes a long time for that to happen.

This struck so many sympathetic chords in my soul that I must apologise to you, KooKee. I've been reeling from all that internal racket, so it's taken a long time to respond. I was going to shoot off my mouth, but now I think that's inappropriate. I'm no scientist, so it shouldn't be me doing the responding. Instead —

What do YOU think, you
Scientists who use Observers
Observers who use Scientists
Naturalists, Enthusiasts,
"Martin Lister (1638-1712) was a doctor and it may be said that he began the tradition which continues to this day, at least in Britain, that arachnologists are doctors, clergymen or schoolmasters — anything but professional zoologists." - Paul Hillyard, The Book of the Spider: From Arachnophobia to the Love of Spiders, Hutchinson, London, 1994
Bats, Cats,

Tables with 3 legs?

04 May 2007

Literary Titan, Asher E. (huh?) Treat

The greatest story ever told was penned by a man who not only never won a literary prize, but who would not have been invited to dinner anywhere it counts.

To be sure you have never read it, unless you also fall into the category of people whom other people think of rather like pet skunks.

For I am sure Asher E. Treat was a rotten dinner guest, and never occupied himself with who slandered whom or who was cheating on . . . and he probably knew not a single Hemingway anecdote.

But with the certainty of a fanatic and the purity of rainwater in the Himalayas, he wrote, "At whatever point one picks up the story of the moth ear mite, he is almost sure to be fascinated by what he sees."

And he proceeds to tell you all about it, leaving no milestone unturned in the tumultuous life of a creature that you host in the thousands in each ear, with the society in your left and your right being as alien as you would feel wandering in a strange land where everyone was busy and you could not understand one word.

Not only does Mr. Treat go into minutiae about minutiae. He makes the saga into a page-turner with an exactitude of word and attention to detail that is poetic, even about even more unpromising subjects than his protagonist:

"The fecal matter is hygroscopic, swelling and softening in moist air, reversibly shrinking, darkening, and hardening when the atmosphere is dry. One wonders how this affects the microclimate of the colony . . . ."

And by gum, one does wonder! What makes his writing so compelling? Partly his enthusiasm and certainty that we will fall under the spell, too. But bores often think themselves fascinators. Treat's charm wells from his complete honesty of reporting. We know there is no spin or set of preconceived notions packaged neatly as a report of scientific "findings."

No—here is science as it once was, and always still is amongst the great. The science of the initially clueless, with a mind open to surprises, hungry for revelations though not willing to invent them, not for any reason. Dedication such as is only practiced amongst those whose back is bent, both figuratively, and in his case I am sure, literally, though most likely, he never noticed it. No more than a prospector who can't stop panning.

The clincher to the charm of his story, and his science, is the fact that his subjects are not objects. He has an unembarrassed passionate relationship with these tiny subjects. He loves them and clutches them to his curiosity as an old prospector does that gold nugget he will never sell. And so as he learns, he reveals, with the skill of Poe.

"Since the previous summer I had been examining the ears of almost every kind of tympanate moth that came to my collecting light. On the night of 5 July, 1952, I found a 'volunteer' that had somehow got into the attic of the country house where we spent our summers; it was flying about the lamp on my laboratory table. I had finished work for the night but couldn't resist the temptation to inspect the ears of one more moth."

It is rare to find writing that contains information that you know you didn't know, but which also has the ability to make you laugh, and cry. But the beauty of a dedicated life of unprejudiced inquiry combined with a never-to-be-dulled brilliance of aha! (as they say in haiku) about the natural world, makes the life of Mr. Treat nothing less than that of a prospector who becomes a wealthy man. But he is a philanthropist here, because in writing his great story, we can share his wealth.

For us, the readers, his tale is nothing less than unforgettable, for it is his humility that finally does what only the greatest literature can. When you least expect it, the words reach out from the depths of his story, and clutch your heart with a truth so profound, it's simple:

"The magic of the microscope is not that it makes little creatures larger, but that it makes a large one smaller. We are too big for our world. The microscope takes us down from our proud and lonely immensity and makes us, for a time, fellow citizens with the great majority of living things. It lets us share with them the strange and beautiful world where a meter amounts to a mile and yesterday was years ago. Let us shrink to the height of a moth ear mite. . . ."

So there we have it. Plot, motivation, drama, an open mind endlessly discovering and revealing surprises—and an author being true to truth, and himself. What else could be more the essence of greatness in science, literature, and . . . come to think of it, life itself?

Book hunt:

Mites of Moths and Butterflies by Asher E. Treat, Cornell University Press, 1975.

The quotes above are excerpted from this book, as the chapter entitled "An Earful of Mites" in Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, edited by Erich Hoyt and Ted Schultz, John Wiley & Sons, 1999.

"Literary Titan: Asher E. (huh?) Treat" copyright Anna Tambour, was originally published in the sadly RIP online magazine, Public Scrutiny: The Mississippi Review, May 2002, and is reprinted here since this tribute no longer appears online.

Scribblers worth studying


"The scribbly gum is an icon of the Australian bush; a striking white-trunked Eucalypt with dark graffiti scribbled over it. The name derives not from the plant itself, but a phytophagous insect. The scrawl is the scar left by a small moth larva that burrows and feeds just under the bark. The scribbly gum moth was described 70 years ago, but since then almost nothing has been learned about it. The scribbles are extraordinarily variable, and about 20 different species of eucalypt are 'scribbly barks'. It may be that a number of moth species are involved. There are several species of scribbly gum moth (Ogmograptis) in ANIC, however the adults are rarely collected. Only one species has been described, and almost nothing is known of the larval ecology. A current project in the Australian National Botanic Gardens has resulted this year in the rediscovery of larvae and pupae of the moth. There are many questions here in ecology and coevolution that would make an excellent honours project."
- DR. JOHN TRUEMAN, supervisor, Entomology or Computational Phylogenetics Lab, Faculty of Science, School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University:
"This lab offers honours projects in Entomology (often but not always in collaboration with research scientists at the CSIRO Division of Entomology) and other projects in computational methods for phylogenetic research and the delivery of biological data. Here are three representative projects and comments on some others . . ."

The scribbly gum project is only one of several fascinating forays listed.

Obit for that coracle-dwelling novelist

There was a coracle-dwelling novelist who sent all his work to his publisher by semaphore,
Who was submitting his latest (a vast,
heart-wrenching, occasionally sardonic and always brutally honest
exposé of meanings as shackles for words and non-human existence as metaphor)
When a gale blew his flags
into small bits of rags
And his best and last novel failed to reach the shore.

There festers at least one discussion that I've noticed lately, about a pet hate: fiction about writers. It isn't as if everyone is a writer now, someone said. Really! I've come to the conclusion that the only people who aren't Writers are people who are dead, and not all of them can claim that non-W distinction.

My refrigerator (brand name: Hell) was recently 'serviced' by a refrigeration engineer who had only just dropped the fridge door on the floor when he turned to me and said: "I bet you'd never guess that I've written two novels . . ."

I don't know about his work as a Writer (he's not sure that agents won't steal his manuscripts) but I'll give you his name if you want to see Hell freeze over.

02 May 2007

Out today - Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories

The brainchild of, and edited by John Klima

"This utterly original anthology of fantastical short stories based on beguiling spelling bee words arrives just in time for the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee."

Ask for it in your bookstore
or geddit ear: UK an ear: USA


Hal Duncan - “The Chiaroscurist
Liz Williams - “Lyceum”
David Prill - “Vivisepulture”
Clare Dudman - “Eczema”
Alex Irvine - “Semaphore”
Marly Youmans - “The Smaragdine Knot”
Michael Moorcock - “A Portrait in Ivory”
Daniel Abraham - “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics”
Michelle Richmond - “Logorrhea”
Anna Tambour - “Pococurante”
Tim Pratt - “From Around Here”
Elizabeth Hand - “Vignette”
Alan DeNiro - “Plight of the Sycophant”
Matthew Cheney - “The Last Elegy”
Jay Caselberg - “Eudaemonic”
Paolo Bacigalupi - “Softer”
Jay Lake - “Crossing the Seven”
Leslie What - “Tsuris”
Neil Williamson - “The Euonymist
Theodora Goss - “Singing of Mount Abora”
Jeff VanderMeer - “Appoggiatura”


to the unsung Autonomic Nervous System

Well, everything was going fine
until, before a breath,
she thought, "If I don't breathe in now,
I'll suffer from my death."

So breathe she did.
She sucked in air
and revelled in this solution,
and then she thought, "If I don't exhale
I'll die of self-pollution."

So she blew out air,
but then she thought
of her wretched memory.
One time she'd burnt the kettle
when she'd always just made tea.

So she thought, "Set a timer to take a breath
and another for exhalation."
And that worked so well for a breath or two
that she thought, "Felicitation!"

And then she thought about her blood,
and the way it always swishes,
and died of cardiac arrest, thinking,
"I forgot to wash the dishes."

May day

It's a miracle, maybe

As flies do rise
from meat corrupt
and Hope - obnoxiously upbeat - eternal springs -infernal!
so Medlar Comfits rose again
from netherworlds internal.

So why, oh why, the earthworm cries,
can't I?

Resurrected, regurgitated? or a miracle caused by You, Readers of Celestial-Level Discernment? The fact is: for bletter or wurst, Medlar Comfits lives again.

Perhaps the reason is simply that characters like this one demand their portraits to be displayed.