The Fooled By Randomness author and deadlifter describes going to Africa and seeing lots of giraffes and impalas but only one lion:
It turned out that I had squarely made the error that I warn against, of mistaking the lurid for the empirical: there are very, very few predators compared to what one can call collaborative animals. The camp in the wild reserve was next to a watering hole, and in the afternoon it got crowded with hundreds of animals of different species who apparently got along rather well with one another. But of the thousands of animals that I spotted cumulatively, the image of the lion in a state of majestic calm dominates my memory. It may make sense from a risk-management point of view to overestimate the role of the lion — but not in our interpretation of world affairs.
If the “law of the jungle” means anything, it means collaboration for the most part, with a few perceptional distortions caused by our otherwise well-functioning risk management intuitions. Even predators end up in some type of arrangement with their prey.
via Tyler Cowen I learn about Nigerian artist Prince Twins Seven Seven
or more formally Prince Taiwo Olaniyi Wyewale-Toyeje Oyekale Osuntoki. He received his nickname because he was the only surviving child from seven distinct sets of twins.
He came to the United States in the late 1980s and settled in the Philadelphia area, although he traveled abroad frequently. His life entered a turbulent period, filled with drinking and gambling, he said. Destitute, he found work as a parking-lot attendant for Material Culture, a large Philadelphia store that sells antiquities, furnishings and carpets.
When the owner learned that Prince Twins Seven-Seven was an artist, he had him decorate the store’s wrapping paper. Later, he was given a small room to use as a studio.
from his obituary
This woman’s name is Thuli Madonsela, and she just ended her seven year term in the job of Public Protector in South Africa.
The ancient al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez isn’t just the oldest library in Africa. Founded in 859, it’s the oldest working library in the world, holding ancient manuscripts that date as far back as 12 centuries.
so I learn from this interesting thing linked by Tyler Cowen.
The al-Qarawiyyin Library was created by a woman, challenging commonly held assumptions about the contribution of women in Muslim civilization. The al-Qarawiyyin, which includes a mosque, library, and university, was founded by Fatima El-Fihriya, the daughter of a rich immigrant from al-Qayrawan (Tunisia today). Well educated and devout, she vowed to spend her entire inheritance on building a mosque and knowledge center for her community.
Among the library hounds was Ibn Khaldun who wrote Muqaddim, The Introduction, which is full of interesting ideas:
Topics dealt with in this work include politics, urban life, economics, and knowledge. The work is based around Ibn Khaldun’s central concept of ‘‘aṣabiyyah, which has been translated as “social cohesion“, “group solidarity”, or “tribalism“. This social cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups; it can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology. Ibn Khaldun’s analysis looks at how this cohesion carries groups to power but contains within itself the seeds – psychological, sociological, economic, political – of the group’s downfall, to be replaced by a new group, dynasty or empire bound by a stronger (or at least younger and more vigorous) cohesion.
Perhaps the most frequently cited observation drawn from Ibn Khaldūn’s work is the notion that when a society becomes a great civilization (and, presumably, the dominant culture in its region), its high point is followed by a period of decay. This means that the next cohesive group that conquers the diminished civilization is, by comparison, a group of barbarians. Once the barbarians solidify their control over the conquered society, however, they become attracted to its more refined aspects, such as literacy and arts, and either assimilate into or appropriate such cultural practices. Then, eventually, the former barbarians will be conquered by a new set of barbarians, who will repeat the process. Some contemporary readers of Khaldun have read this as an early business cycle theory, though set in the historical circumstances of the mature Islamic empire.
Sorry I haven’t been posting more. Trying to finish my book and get Great Debates Live organized (get your tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are legit almost sold out). Honestly it’s a LITTLE unfair to be mad at me for not producing enough free content.
A few items too good to ignore came across our desk:
1) Reader Robert P. in Los Angeles sends us this item:
Thought you might enjoy this wiki. There’s a great part about a riddle and another great part about conducting a trial. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Numbers_Gang
Gotta say, this is one of the most intriguing Wikipedia pages I can remember. I love when Wikipedia takes myth at face value.
2) Re: our recent post about Tanya Tucker, reader Bobby M. writes:
Saw that Tanya Tucker’s Delta Dawn popped up. Love that one. We like to joke that the lyrics are a conversation wherein some jerk is taunting an insanse person. “Oh, and, Delta? Did I hear you say he was meeting you here today? And (aside to chittering friend: ‘get a load of this’) did I also hear you say he’d be taking you to his mansion. In the sky? Yeah, that’s what I thought you said, Delta. Nice flower you have on.” Midler’s version blows.
Bobby M. is one of the contributors to Lost Almanac, a truly funny print and online comedy mag.
3) We ran into reader Leila S. in New York City. She was reading the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and sends in some highlights:
to John Peale Bishop, March, 1925, he wrote “I am quite drunk” at the top of the paper above the date, then later in the letter: “I have lost my pen so I will have to continue in pencil. It turned up– I was writing with it all the time and hadn’t noticed.”to H.L. Mencken, May 4, 1925, re: Great Gatsby:
“You say, ‘the story is fundamentally trivial.'”
to Gertrude Stein, June 1925, after a long letter kissing her ass:
“Like Gatsby, I have only hope.” Dude quoted his own book he just wrote!to Mrs. Bayard Turnbull, May 31, 1934, after a long apology about his embarrassing behavior at a tea party:
“P.S. I’m sorry this is typed but I seem to have contracted Scottie’s poison ivy and my hands are swathed in bandages.”
to Joseph Hergesheimer, Fall 1935, re: Tender Is The Night“I could tell in the Stafford Bar that afternoon when you said that it was ‘almost impossible to write a book about an actress’ that you hadn’t read it thru because the actress fades out of it in the first third and is only a catalytic agent.”to Arnold Gingrich, March 20, 1936:“In my ‘Ant’ satire, the phrase ‘Lebanon School for the Blind’ should be changed to ‘New Jersey School for Drug Addicts.'” [The letter continues about other things, then at the very end, emphasis his] “Please don’t forget this change in ‘Ants.'”
to Ernest Hemingway, August, 1936
“Please lay off me in print.”
As always you can reach helytimes at helphely at gmail.com
Egyptologists have been pumped for this moment ever since the discovery of the Kahun Papyri.
That’s of course in the collection of Flinders Petrie.
He described Egypt as “a house on fire, so rapid was the destruction” and felt his duty to be that of a “salvage man, to get all I could, as quickly as possible and then, when I was 60, I would sit and write it all.”
And what happened to Flinders’ head, you wonder?
When he died in 1942, Petrie donated his head (and thus his brain) to the Royal College of Surgeons of London while his body was interred in the Protestant Cemetery on Mt. Zion. World War II was then at its height, and the head was delayed in transit. After being stored in a jar in the college basement, its label fell off and no one knew who the head belonged to. It was identified however, and is now stored, but not displayed, at the Royal College of Surgeons of London.
Was Flinders related to Australia explorer Captain Matthew Flinders, you wonder? Yes, is the answer, he was his grandson.
Please please Wikipedia tell me Flinders was an unambiguous hero I can get behind without reservations:
Petrie remains a controversial figure for his pro-eugenics views and opinions on other social topics…
Petrie was a dedicated follower of eugenics, believing that there was no such thing as cultural or social innovation in human society, but rather that all social change is the result of biological change, such as migration and foreign conquest resulting in interbreeding. Petrie claimed that his “Dynastic Race”, in which he never ceased to believe, was a “fine” Caucasian race that entered Egypt from the south in latepredynastic times, conquered the “inferior” and “exhausted” “mulatto” race then inhabiting Egypt, and slowly introduced the finer Dynastic civilization as they interbred with the inferior indigenous people. Petrie, who was also affiliated with a variety of far right-wing groups and anti-democratic thought in England and was a dedicated believer in the superiority of the Northern peoples over the Latinate and Southern peoples, derided Budge’s belief that the ancient Egyptians were an African people with roots in eastern Africa as impossible and “unscientific”, as did his followers.
Oh well. I doubt Sobekhotep was a peach either.
Thursday I went to meet somebody for lunch at a restaurant here in Los Angeles. I got there a little early, it was a sunny day, and this restaurant has a very pleasant outdoor bar. So I sat down at the bar and ordered an iced tea.
The bartender was a friendly dude. We joked around a little. When he came back with my iced tea I was staring at my phone.
“Would you like to hear some world news?” I said.
“Well, Nelson Mandela died.”
He thought about this.
“Hasta luego, brother,” the bartender said.
He went back to work for a bit.
I kept reading my phone. A little while later he came back.
“What else are they saying about Mandela?”
“Well, it says here he was 95.”
“Huh,” said the bartender. “So he kicked it for a long time.”
(photo: “Long lines of people outside the polling station in the black township of Soweto, a southwest suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 27, 1994. Photograph by Denis Farrell/AP.”)