Hattiesburg Was Nuked.

Via Metafilter. 

For all the Mississippians who read this blog (and there are a few… recent site numbers indicate that Mississippi comes in a solid fourth or fifth on average as far as weekly visits are concerned.  A distant fourth or fifth, but who counts, right?) I thought I’d link this post from Facing South, a southern progressive blog.

 The short version is that in 1964 (Freedom Summer), a nuclear bomb was detonated 28 miles southwest of Hattiesburg near Baxterville.  I wonder how many Mississippians know this.  I have spent a lot of time in Hattiesburg, and while one wouldn’t expect this little tidbit to be offered up as a conversation starter, I am somewhat surprised that I had never heard that a nuclear test detonation happened there.

 The timing is interesting as well. 

A Twang in the Back and a Few Days at a Casino.

Apologies for my silence lately.  A combination of inclement factors augmented my own natural laziness and served to silence the old keyboard for a bit. 

 About a week ago a friend and I were attempting to manhandle a china hutch into a freshly floored dining room and I pulled my back out.  All the way out.  At 24.  It hurt.  I spent three full days in a recliner, moving only to use the restroom and sneak an occaisional cigarette.  I had a lot of time to think…and wasted most of it.

 I did get a fair amount of reading done, though.  I finished Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and a book of criticism/speculations on the same (Robert Borski’s Solar Labyrinth).  I was impressed at the artistry, the scope, the puzzles, and above all the natural, unforced nature of the prose.  Wolfe’s magnum opus is a true accomplishment and I recommend it to any fan of speculative fiction.  The books are laced with Borges references, and the nods to I, Claudius are tastefully and subtlely done.  I’d like to thank allofthemwitches, “Badlands” Daugherty, and a few others who nudged me into reading Wolfe.  It is well worth the time.

 As soon as I was able to crawl out of the recliner and scuttle around, I was sent to a Workers’ Compensation conference in Philadelphia, MS, home of a Choctaw reservation and two casinos.  The majority of my time there was spent blitzed on muscle relaxers in my hotel room, cigarette in mouth and Nerval’s Aurelia in hand.  Good times. 

 I did jot down a few thoughts while I was in Casinoland, and I thought I’d put them here:

 Random Observations at the 19th Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference

– I am unsuited to this line of work.  Profoundly unsuited.

– Parties are all the same everywhere, no matter the location, occaision, or average age of the guests. 

– A woman taking pictures of the photos on the Casino’s “wall of fame” is perhaps the most pathetic thing I have seen in quite some time, not so much because of the obvious absurdity of the act but because of its (assumed) motivation.  Are we so lost that a photo of a second rate celebrity ,erits a second glance, much less a picture, a permanent memory all its own?

 – Casinos are bastions of banality, kitsch, consumerism, and waste.  Why, then, do I feel that the Choctaws are somehow justified in foisting them on these poor, rural, uneducated, uninteresting, and incurious people?

– Soft drinks are fucking expensive here.

– One of the seminar speakers made a Kundera reference.  I wonder who else got it.

“independent” verfication of Bosnian “pyramid”

What or who is the BiH Survey Burea, and do they have any credibility?

VISOKO, April 17 (FENA) – The third day of work in search of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun has come with an independent confirmation of the thesis of the pyramid’s existence, the Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation stated on Monday.

“The BiH Survey Bureau has analysed the dimensions of the north face of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun. The configuration of the pyramid matches that of the design of the Cheop’s pyramid in Egypt.

The Visoko Municipality Land Registry Office has provided independent confirmation that the Bosnian Pyramids of the Sun, Moon and Dragon form a same-sided triangle (equilateral).

This fascinating news confirms the impressive precision of the ancient builders, the Foundation stated on Monday.

Economic Advisor to the Egyptian Embassy Maged Mosleh is the first foreign diplomat to visit the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun. He offered training in the field of pyramids and archaeology for young BiH experts in Egypt.

Representatives of the leading international media have also visited Visocica. A steady flow of visitors from BiH and abroad continue to visit this site.

Black Swan Green again

I lied. i bought the damned thing. It is indeed well-written, but so far, that’s not going to be enough for me. I don’t like mundane worlds in miniature, no matter how well crafted. Mitchell has my admiration, but not my love this time around so far.

Obviously i’ll followup as i go along.

neolithic dentistry without anesthesia?

It’s bugging me that these stories that report dentistry in Pakistan dating back 9,000 years ago are insisting that this drilling was done without the knowledge of anesthesia. That is just pure supposition. If current cultures classified as neolithic have relatively sophisiticated knowledge of medicinal use of herbs, why would it be assumed that there was no knowledge of anesthesia in a culture advanced enough to use drills to work on teeth?

It’s not known whether there was indeed anesthesia, but the way that is reported that it had not been invented yet just seems peculiar. Yes, there is concrete evidence for surgery and dentistry, but humans are have a long history for experimenting with plants as well. Agriculture dates from this time. It would seem that if humans were beginning to delve into agriculture, that hunter-gatherers would already be familiar with certain medicinal herbs.

Pamuk Roundup

There’s this, which few of you have likely seen:

In an exclusive interview given to the paper Corriere della Sera Pamuk said that article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code was used against those who said things that the state did not like.

Discussing Turkey’s European Union membership bid, Pamuk said that although he favoured in Turkey’s membership that he observed resistance to it in both sides.

Pamuk stressed the importance of Turkey resolving its own identity and answering this question of its own identity which comes from a rich and diverse background.

Pamuk also stressed that the term of “good Muslim” has become even more complex in the western world. However, he added that he did not believe in the theory of the clash of civilisations.

In the past few years, Turkey become richer in the EU process but that this was reflected onto the poor and warned that there was a growing gap between rich and poor in Turkey, Pamuk said.

And this, which most of you who are interested in the man at all have probably already seen.

So when do I get my Museum of Innocence?


I finally got around to reading the cover story in April’s Atlantic today.  It is an article about the ruthless world of double agents in the IRA.  All well and good.  The author of the piece, Matthew Teague, describes a meeting with Denis Donaldson:

In Belfast I met with Denis Donaldson, a Sinn Féin party leader and an IRA veteran alleged to have run the IRA’s intelligence wing. He’s a folk hero who led hunger strikes early in the Troubles, and British investigators say he traveled the world, cultivating terrorist contacts in Spain, Palestine, El Salvador, and elsewhere: a hard IRA man if there ever was one.

When I mentioned the names of Scappaticci and Fulton, Donaldson’s shoulders slumped. “I still can’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head. “My God.”

So here we have an IRA man expressing shock at the effectiveness of the spies.  Flip on to the end of the article and we get this:

A few weeks later, back in the United States, I received a phone call early one morning from a source in the United Kingdom. He said, “Yer man Denis Donaldson”—the legendary IRA hunger-striker who had met with me in his kitchen—“has just been expelled from Sinn Féin, about three minutes ago. For being a British spy.”

Donaldson, it turned out, had been spying on the IRA for two decades.

A revelation!  In the context of the article as a whole, it was an effective one. 

I closed the article and prepared to get some work done, when this caught my eye on the Reuters feed:

LONDON (Reuters) – A former senior member of Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, expelled by the party in December after he admitted he had been spying for Britain, was found shot dead on Tuesday, Britain’s Sky television reported.

Denis Donaldson was found dead in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, the report said, without giving further details.

Donaldson was a convicted IRA bomber who spent time in prison with now Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and was head of Sinn Fein’s international department.

Donaldson and two other men were arrested in 2002 and accused of spying for the Irish Republican Army’s political ally Sinn Fein at the Stormont parliament in Belfast.

It later emerged that he had in fact been a mole for the British inside the IRA for two decades.

Donaldson, who went into hiding after the revelations, said he deeply regretted his activities and apologized to his family and the Republican movement.

Adams said Donaldson had approached the party after police informed him his cover was about to be blown and his life was in danger.

I got chills.

Kadare in Village Voice

This article is from November 2005, but I thought it was worth mentioning for a few reasons.

First, I like Ben Ehrenreich’s brief presentation of Kadare’s own views on his “dissident” status:

In a polite interview conducted through his translator, Kadare asserted that he had never claimed to be a dissident. “Open opposition to Hoxha’s regime,” he said, “was simply impossible. Dissidence was a position no one could occupy, even for a few days, without facing the firing squad. On the other hand, my books themselves constitute a very obvious form of resistance.”

To anyone who had been able to locate copies of those books, the controversy could only have come off as slightly ironic. With the exception of one untranslated novel featuring an embarrassingly flattering portrait of the tyrant Hoxha himself (according to his translator, Kadare has called the book “the price he had to pay for his freedom”), Kadare’s novels have largely been about collective guilt and the impenetrability of truth. After all, he writes, “ancient tragedies dealt exclusively with that: how to expunge the crime, how to detach it from the clan.” Covering his tracks with layers of myth and metaphor, Kadare again and again buried inexpiable crimes in the very foundations of the state, often quite literally. Blood spills into blood. Everybody hides their sullied hands, even from themselves. Truth itself becomes a labyrinth.

A tad purple, perhaps, but it raises questions on the nature of the life/art divide. Kadare did what he had to to speak out (however obliquely). Would he have been more valuable as a martyr than he has been as an author? Who can judge? Stanislav sent me a link to an Albanian rap video that featured Kadare’s visage rather prominently. The song itself was about Albanian pride, and Kadare was shown as one of the reasons to be proud of Albania. Would Albanian youth respect a craven opportunist? Perhaps, perhaps not…

The question was addressed at length on this very site. The Village Voice article refers to Ms. Renata Dumitrascu’s piece on MobyLives, but neglects to mention the prolonged debate that was carried out here, here, here, and here. David Bellos himself (Kadare’s translator here in the states, as well as the author of a remarkable biography of Georges Perec) even joined the fray.

Not bad for a site that is virtually ignored by the LitBlogs.

I’m sure this issue is long forgotten almost everywhere, but I thought a recap would be nice.