Barbarian Days

sometimes reading “the news” I am reminded of this part from Barbarian Days:

In the cemeteries in Tonga, late in the day, there always seemed to be old women tending the graves of their parents – combing the coral-sand mounds into proper coffin-top shape, sweeping away leaves, hand-washing faded wreaths of plastic flowers, rearranging the haunting patterns of tropical peppercorns, orange and green on bleached white sand.

A shiver of secondhand sorrow ran through me.  And an ache of something else.  It wasn’t exactly homesickness.  It felt like I had sailed off the edge of the known world.  That was actually fine with me.  The world was mapped in so many different ways.  For worldly Americans, the whole globe was covered by the foreign bureaus of the better newspapers – the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal – and, at that time, the big newsweeklies.  Every place on earth was part of somebody’s beat.  Bryan understood that map before I did, having gone to Yale.  But when I’d found an old copy of Newsweek on Captain Brett Hilder’s bridge, and tried to read a George Will column, I’d burst out laughing.  His Beltway airs and provincialism were impenetrable.  The truth was, we were wandering now through a world that would never be a part of any correspondent’s beat (let alone George Will’s purview).  It was full of news, but all of it was oblique, mysterious, important only if you listened and watched and felt its weight.

As the Jamaican cab driver said, the news is a Babylon thing.

 


Things I learned reading The Economist this week

  • If you invest $100,000 in the island nation of Saint Lucia, they’ll make you a citizen.
  • South Africa has an unemployment rate of 26%.
  • Bernard Henri-Levy has been performing a one-man show about Brexit at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea.

Confident prediction about the world

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-53-01-pm

It will get weirder.  NY Times piece about the President’s doctor:bornstein-nyt


Whole Foods didn’t have the mezcal I like

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You can call that the ultimate #firstworldproblem.  But I bet not being able to find your favorite alcohol is a relatable problem in every nation on Earth, among every race* and at every level of wealth and poverty.

* how many races are there?  is this a useful way to categorize people?  was it ever?  (was thinking the other day about “Asian/Pacific Islander.”  Are a Tongan and a Han Chinese in Beijing any more related than a white guy from Dublin and a black man from Senegal? )


Photo of Greenland

From this NY Times slideshow, credited to Andrew Testa:


Sure