This video is insane.

From The Guardian:

Indigenous tribesmen living deep in the Peruvian rainforest have emerged into the outside world to seek help, after suffering a murderous attack by probable drug traffickers.

The contact took place across the border in Brazil and was recorded in a video released on Friday. The tribesmen caught a serious respiratory disease after contact, a major killer of isolated indigenous people, but have since recovered.

There’s a long version and a short version:

I found this video chilling and intense and fascinating.

The reporting in the article however is deeply frustrating.  What language are these people speaking?  When is this from, exactly?  How did this come about?  What’s up with the guy with the dreads?

Anyway, here’s some footage of a much less remote part of the Amazon shot by the blogger:

What I was trying to capture was the spooky creak of the metal boat.



Out of context this little passage from The Atlantic’s article about millenials traveling was funny:

These skills can translate into a competitive advantage in the workplace. Elizabeth Harper, 25, discovered her career interests while backpacking in Southeast Asia. Traveling gave her time to read for pleasure, and she ended up leafing through books passed around in hostels about atrocities that had occurred in the countries she was visiting. 


Bezos developed an ambition to travel into space and help mankind migrate from Earth. He was the valedictorian of his high school class and in his speech he quoted from Star Trek and described a plan to build permanent human colonies in orbit so that Earth could be turned into a nature preserve. Years later, his high school girlfriend told reporters that Bezos had always wanted to become rich so that he could “get to outer space.”

from Steve Coll’s profile of the man/review of The Everything Store in NYRB.

Wade Davis

reading up on ethnobotanist, photographer, anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis.  This guy goes to all the best conferences.

It’s interesting how these things change though. I find it fascinating that there is this ayahuasca phenomenon, it’s literally sweeping Europe and sweeping the United States. I meet young people who take ayahuasca and they speak so positively about the experience whereas I remember the whole point of ayahuascawas facing down the jaguar, being ripped away from the tit of jaguar woman. That was sort of what its point was.

I think our reaction to these substances can change over time too, almost as age cohorts move though. I’m someone who’s very happy to say that not only did I used psychedelics and enjoyed them but that they changed my life. I don’t think I would speak the way I speak, write the way I write, synthesise information the way I do, understand those notions of cultural relativism as reflexively as I do, if I hadn’t taken psychedelics.

I often think it’s interesting that if we look at the social changes of the last 30 years – everything from new attitudes towards the environment, new sense of the holistic integration of the Earth, women going from the kitchen to the board room, people of colour from the woodshed to the Whitehouse, gay people from the closet to the alter, that we always leave out of the recipe of social change that millions of people all around the world lay prostrate before the gates of awe after having taken some psychedelic.

We came out of a place with profound alienation of our cultures, experimenting with psychedelics in a very fresh way – there was not a lot of expectation. We rediscovered lots of new drugs and just tried them on ourselves so there were a number of things we could say we were the first to take. Not that I want to dwell on that, but the idea that were trying to find some idea of what it means to be human.

And also cultural relativism and just the idea that other peoples of the world aren’t failed attempts at being you, that comes powerfully from the psychedelic experience. I one point I remember I took some big heroic dose of some drug, I can’t remember exactly, San Pedro I think, and I was stopped by my friend just before I could send a telegram to my professor at Harvard that was going to say ‘Eureka! We’re all ambulatory plants!’ I don’t think that would have really got me too far.


This is good, too:

In his early 20s, Davis says he was so mixed up that he applied to both botany and law school at the University of B.C.

On one occasion, he stopped at the Vancouver law firm where his sister was articling. A receptionist demanded to know if he was the man who travelled in the Amazon and ate weird plants. Davis said he was.

She then marched him into a dusty law library, showed him a picture of an 18th-century English solicitor with a wig and crooked nose, and asked him if that’s what he wanted to become.

“I went back to the front desk, called UBC law school and retracted my application,” he says. “Thanks to that guardian angel, I went to graduate school in botany.”

(That, and top picture, from The Province, photo by Jenelle Schneider)

Turkish Coffee

From Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.
When they got to Istanbul, he hired a history professor to give his family a tour. At the end they went to a Turkish bath, where the professor’s lecture gave Jobs an insight about the globalization of youth:
‘I had a real revelation. We were all in robes, and they made some Turkish coffee for us. The professor explained how the coffee was made very different from anywhere else, and I realized, “So fucking what?” Which kids even in Turkey give a shit about Turkish coffee? All day I had looked at young people in Istanbul. They were all drinking what every other kid in the world drinks, and they were wearing clothes that look like they were bought at the Gap, and they are all using cell phones. They were like kids everywhere else. It hit me that, for young people, this whole world is the same now. When we’re making products, there is no such thing as a Turkish phone, or a music player that young people in Turkey would want that’s different from one young people elsewhere would want. We’re just one world now’.”
An advantage of Turkish coffee Jobs overlooked is you can tell your fortune in the grounds.

“A picture of Musashi engaged in fantastic combat”

That’s wikipedia’s caption for this picture by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)



Surf Beach, California



When I took this picture I was listening to Dave Brubeck’s version of “The Trolley Song.”

Real life super spies

I love this picture so much.  It is from the NY Times obituary of Jeanne Vertefeuille (center), who helped catch CIA mole Aldrich Ames.  It is credited to Central Intelligence Agency.

This woman was station chief in Gabon.



Inevitably, a ruler lived spider-like at the centre of a huge web of activities, surrounded by an army of clerks, cleaners, attendants, cooks, porters, messengers, carters, valets, maintenance workers, engineers, and so forth.

(so said the historian Ian Mabbett, writing about “Kingship in Angkor” for The Journal of the Siam Society, reported to me by the great Michael Coe in his book Angkor And The Khmer Civilization.)


Laugh Kills Lonesome (1925)

When Charles Russell died (a year after finishing this painting), all the kids in Great Falls, Montana, were let out of school to watch the funeral procession.

Charles C. Mann


Reading this great article by Charles C. Mann, one of my faves.

About 75,000 years ago, a huge volcano exploded on the island of Sumatra. The biggest blast for several million years, the eruption created Lake Toba, the world’s biggest crater lake, and ejected the equivalent of as much as 3,000 cubic kilometers of rock, enough to cover the District of Columbia in a layer of magma and ash that would reach to the stratosphere. A gigantic plume spread west, enveloping southern Asia in tephra (rock, ash, and dust)… In the long run, the eruption raised Asian soil fertility. In the short term, it was catastrophic. Dust hid the sun for as much as a decade, plunging the earth into a years-long winter accompanied by widespread drought….

At about this time, many geneticists believe, Homo sapiens’numbers shrank dramatically, perhaps to a few thousand people—the size of a big urban high school.

Talking about how fast bacteria can grow:

The cells in the time-lapse video seemed to shiver and boil, doubling in number every few seconds, colonies exploding out until the mass of bacteria filled the screen. In just thirty-six hours, she said, this single bacterium could cover the entire planet in a foot-deep layer of single-celled ooze. Twelve hours after that, it would create a living ball of bacteria the size of the earth.

On behavioral changes by humanity:

To get Crusoe on his unlucky voyage, Defoe made him an officer on a slave ship, transporting captured Africans to South America. Today, no writer would make a slave seller the admirable hero of a novel. But in 1720, when Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, no readers said boo about Crusoe’s occupation, because slavery was the norm from one end of the world to another. Rules and names differed from place to place, but coerced labor was everywhere, building roads, serving aristocrats, and fighting wars. Slaves teemed in the Ottoman Empire, Mughal India, and Ming China. Unfree hands were less common in continental Europe, but Portugal, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands happily exploited slaves by the million in their American colonies. Few protests were heard; slavery had been part of the fabric of life since the code of Hammurabi…

Even as the industrial North and agricultural South warred over the treatment of Africans, they regarded women identically: in neither half of the nation could they attend college, have a bank account, or own property. Equally confining were women’s lives in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Nowadays women are the majority of U.S. college students, the majority of the workforce, and the majority of voters.

Photo is of Lake Toba, I found it here.  

First Space Jump

Joseph Kittinger.

Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, and his right hand swelled to twice its normal size. Ignoring the pain, he rode the balloon up to 102,800 feet and said a short prayer — “Lord, take care of me now” — before stepping off.

Of the jumps from Excelsior, Kittinger said, “There’s no way you can visualize the speed. There’s nothing you can see to see how fast you’re going. You have no depth perception. If you’re in a car driving down the road and you close your eyes, you have no idea what your speed is. It’s the same thing if you’re free falling from space. There are no signposts. You know you are going very fast, but you don’t feel it. You don’t have a 614-mph wind blowing on you. I could only hear myself breathing in the helmet.”

Here is his gondola, on display at the National Air & Space Museum:

Kittinger was shot down on May 11, 1972, just before the end of his third tour of duty [in Vietnam]… Kittinger and his wingman were chasing a MiG-21 when Kittinger’s Phantom II was hit by an air-to-air missile that damaged the fighter’s starboard wing and set the airplane on fire. Kittinger and [Weapons Systems Operator William] Reich ejected a few miles from Thai Nguyen and were soon captured and taken to the city of Hanoi.

Kittinger and Reich spent 11 months as prisoners of war (POWs) in the “Hanoi Hilton” prison. Kittinger was put through “rope torture” soon after his arrival at the POW compound and this made a lasting impression on him.

Photos of Antarctica from The Atlantic

That snow’s not dirty – those are penguins.  On South Georgia Island, a Norwegian whalers’ church:

See ’em big.


The Hunza Valley is a mountainous valley in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Healthy living advocate J.I. Rodale wrote a book called The Healthy Hunzas in 1955 that asserted that the Hunzas, noted for their longevity and many centenarians, were long-lived because of their consumption of healthy organic foods such as dried apricots and almonds, as well as them getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. He often mentioned them in his Prevention magazine as exemplary of the benefits of leading a healthy live style.

Dr. John Clark stayed among the Hunza people for 20 months and in his book Hunza – Lost Kingdom of the Himalayas[19] writes: “I wish also to express my regrets to those travelers whose impressions have been contradicted by my experience. On my first trip through Hunza, I acquired almost all the misconceptions they did: The Healthy Hunzas, the Democratic Court, The Land Where There Are No Poor, and the rest—and only long-continued living in Hunza revealed the actual situations”. Regarding the misconception about Hunza people’s health, John Clark also writes that most of patients had malaria, dysentery, worms, trachoma, and other things easily diagnosed and quickly treated; in his first two trips he treated 5,684 patients.

Furthermore, Clark reports that Hunza do not measure their age solely by calendar (metaphorically speaking, as he also said there were no calendars), but also by personal estimation of wisdom, leading to notions of typical lifespans of 120 or greater.

Sean Connery

on “believability”:

PLAYBOY: This brings up a point raised by many of Fleming’s critics:  While conceding that Bond’s adventures are entertaining, they denounce him as a caricature of sex appeal, and his erotic exploits as impossibly farfetched. Do you feel that’s valid?

CONNERY: No, I don’t. The main concern for an actor or a writer is not believability but the removal of time, as I see it. Because I really think the only occasions you really are enjoying yourself, being happy, swinging, as they say, are when you don’t know what time it is–when you’re totally absorbed in a play, a film or a party and you don’t know what time it is or how long it has been going on; then you’ll usually find there is contentment and happiness. When an artist can suspend time like that for an audience, he has succeeded. It doesn’t really matter, I think, whether it is “believable” or not. The believability comes afterward; or it doesn’t. If you want to question it afterward, that’s up to you. But the writer’s and the actor’s job is to remove time–while you’re still in the book or the theater. That’s exactly what Fleming achieved for millions of readers; and that’s what I’ve tried to achieve in the Bond films.

on Ian Fleming:

CONNERY: He had great energy and curiosity and he was a marvelous man to talk to and have a drink with because of the many wide interests he had. What made him a success and caused all the controversy was that his writing was such good journalism. He always contrived extraordinary situations and arranged extravagant meetings for his characters, and he always knew his facts. He was always madly accurate, and this derived from his curiosity. When he was discussing anything, like how a truck worked or a machine or a permutation at bridge, there was a brain at work and an enormous amount of research involved; it wasn’t just a lot of drivel he was talking. That’s what I admired most about him–his energy and his curiosity.

possibly Romney-esque in politics?:

CONNERY: … This sort of motivation is the great thing that’s lacking in present-day society. Everything is so smooth-running, so attainable, that one is deprived of initiative, lured into a false sense of security. In the days before the War, with high unemployment, many people simply put in an appearance every morning at the factory although they knew there was no chance of work. Sheeplike, they felt they just had to go. Today everything’s handed to them on a platter:  They know they can get work and enough food, and socialized medicine has taken the worry out of being ill. If there is a malnutrition of any kind in this country–and I think there is–it’s self-inflicted. The only competition you’ll find today is the conflict between those few who try to correct a wrong, and the majority who hope it will just cure itself in the end.

a controversial view:

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about roughing up a woman, as Bond sometimes has to do?

CONNERY: I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman–although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man. An openhanded slap is justified–if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it. I think a man has to be slightly advanced, ahead of the woman. I really do–by virtue of the way a man is built, if nothing else. But I wouldn’t call myself sadistic. I think one of the appeals that Bond has for women, however, is that he is decisive, cruel even. By their nature women aren’t decisive–“Shall I wear this? Shall I wear that?”–and along comes a man who is absolutely sure of everything and he’s a godsend. And, of course, Bond is never in love with a girl and that helps. He always does what he wants, and women like that. It explains why so many women are crazy about men who don’t give a rap for them.

a recipe:

CONNERY: Well, for three or four people with some left over, I take a pound of the best beef and do it in olive oil and garlic for half an hour in a pot with a lid on it, so that all the juice is drained away from it, and while that’s going on I finely chop onions and carrots and have fresh tomatoes and tinned tomatoes all ready. Then I fry the carrots and the onions in butter, and once the steak has been cooking for about half an hour in the pot, I take it out and dice it up into squares–one- or two-inch squares–and then roll it in flour, salt, pepper and seasoning, and line the bottom of the bowl or stone dish. Then I cover all the meat with the onions and the carrots and the tomato–fresh and tinned–and the oil that’s left over in the juice that’s been taken from the meat I pour over the top. I then add a tube of Italian tomato purèe, and top it all off with either good stock or boiled water, and bake it in the oven for three hours and medium heat. It’s superb.

All these are from an interview in the Nov. 1965 issue of Playboy.

The Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City

Is an under-visited place.  Pittsburgh Office told us about it awhile ago

H.P. Lovecraft referred to the “strange and disturbing paintings of Nicholas Roerich” in his Antarctic horror story At the Mountains of Madness.

Wandering vs. staying put



I had an idea of myself as someone free and unencumbered, and virtuous for being so. Of course, one cannot live like this— I can’t, anyway. And in fact, I find that all the best things in my life have come about precisely through the things that hold me in place: family, work, routine, everything that contradicts my old idea of the good life. For years I lived mostly out of a backpack, traveling light and living cheap, often bestowing my mendicant presence on my brother, Geoffrey, and his wife, Priscilla, on my patient friends. But, you know, it seems as time goes on that the deepest good for me as man and writer is to be found in ordinary life. It’s the gravity of daily obligations and habit, the connections you have to your friends and your work, your family, your place— even the compromises that are required of you to get through this life. The compromises don’t diminish us, they humanize us—it’s the people who won’t, or who think they don’t, who end up monsters in this world. I’m not talking about dishonesty, I’m talking about having some give, sometimes letting go of things that you aren’t inclined to let go of, that you may even have attached the name of principle to, to justify your fear of bending.

(Tobias in the Paris Review, picture from the collection of the blogger)

Finis Mitchell

One thing led to another and I got to reading about Finis Mitchell:

In 1906, as a young boy, Finis came to the Wind River Range [in Wyoming] with his father in a boxcar along with the rest of his family… Not bowing down to the fierce obstacles wielded by a stark and barren land with winters lasting 9 months a year, Finis spent the next 7 years carefully carrying five-gallon cans of water and wild trout on horseback over steep rugged trails to more than 300 remote Wyoming lakes. Due to the glacial topography of the upper mountains, these lakes had no native populations of fish. These isolated lakes, which had never seen a trout before, began to team with these newcomers. Miraculously, as though knowing the way, these fish migrated to over 700 more lakes in the upper mountains. With his life-long friend and wife Emma, he carved a life in this unknown wilderness.

Here’s a photo, from this Forest Service website, of Finis and Emma:

During the Depression, he and his wife stocked lakes in the Wind River Range with over 2.5 million trout. He served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1955 to 1958. At the age of 67 he retired from his job as a railroad foreman and dedicated himself full-time to exploring and writing about the Wind River Range of mountains…

…At the age of 73, while on a glacier, he twisted his knee in a snow-covered crevasse. He hacked crude crutches out of pine wood and hobbled 18 miles to find a doctor, and was able to resume climbing until the age of 84, when further injury to the knee from a fall put an end to his solo climbing career.

Here’s a quote from Finis:

A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things. He thinks the world is his without bonds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only when he tramps the mountains alone, communing with nature, observing other insignificant creatures about him, to come and go as he will, does he awaken to his own short-lived presence on earth.

The Wind River Range:

Finis Mitchell is of course not to be confused with Finesse Mitchell:


Now that my readership has doubled 10,000, I would like to ask for everyone’s help.  Summer before last, in the legendary harsh Twelve Bens wilderness of western Ireland I met these people, and took this lovely picture.  I would like the Internet’s help in sending the picture to the photographed heroes.  Their names are Rob and Lou, and they live in Belfast.  Lou at one time worked in the schools of Kankakee, Illinois.  Those are all the clues I can provide.

Amazing moment

recounted in this Will Leitch interview with Spike Lee:

What do you think of Romney?
You know what’s funny? I met him in an airport, Reagan National Airport, and we said hello. It was, like, two, three years ago. I was just in D.C. and he was there and he said, “What’s up, Spike?” and I said, “What’s happening, Mitt?” We were in line getting something to eat. So I said what’s up and shook hands. I think it is going to be very, very, very close.

Readers, are you as surprised as I am that Mitt could recognize Spike Lee?