Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the thing about the web, life, and larger stories

the thing about the web....
the name of my photo blog is... "once upon each day". and usually, i almost post daily. but right now, the days form a collage that makes me hesitate to post the next image: adding a photo might rather be a taking away from this chance constellation.

there are so many memories and places in the current 7 images: the feeling of journey, the most beautiful museum visit in Paris, the lovely flowers that are blooming right here in the garden, a moment from my trip to India...

and beyond this page, there are the other webpages and web projects i'm involved in ... the thing about webpages, especially those with forum / comment section / facebook page / blog... it's both great to work in this area, but also it sometimes make you wish for a "pause" button. yet the web never stops. and web projects are never finished. or, to put it more positive: they are a continuing thing with an own dynamic. like a garden. like life...


and not directly connected, but also vivid, some links from today and yesterday:

Emergence of Life
Coursera offers a new course: "Emergence of Life". It focuses on themes like: "How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe?". and: how did the take of science on this topic change in the last years?

The stories we leave behind
And again, the topic of time, this time from the perspective of a journalist from the Philippines who reflects on her work: "There is nothing in the world more fluid than the news. I’m not the first reporter who is thankful that stories expire at a (nearly) daily rate.. Then there are the stories (you don't want to) leave behind."

Monday, July 21, 2014

reading: hugo award stories + between borders + Nadine Gordimer

Reading this week: the Hugo Award stories 2014, and stories from between borders - and short stories by Nadine Gordimer: 

Hugo Awards 2014
The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year, and have a long tradition, reaching back to 1953. I read the nominated short stories - and it turned out, they are rather international this year, with stories and authors from Asia, Africa, Europe and America. And their themes: no space ships there, no aliens, but reflections on life and the universe, in form of the unusual mind games of speculative fiction: what if there was a tiny rain falling every time someone lie? Where do wishes go? What if you were a dinosaur?

Somalia, US
"Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar
"You're not going to Egypt," I tell Mona. "We're going to Colorado. Remember?" - That's our big dream, to go to Colorado..."

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu
The water that falls on you from nowhere when you lie is perfectly ordinary, but perfectly pure. True fact. I tested it myself when the water started falling a few weeks ago. Everyone on Earth did...

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky
"If we lived in a world of magic where anything was possible, then you would be a dinosaur, my love. You’d be a creature of courage and strength but also gentleness. Your claws and fangs would intimidate your foes effortlessly. Whereas you—fragile, lovely, human you—must rely on wits and charm..."

quick detour into the past:  
The fourth nominated story was a real suprise: it is from a Dutch author (which is a Hugo Award first time). The story isn't set in Europe or in space, though... but in a place I've visited years ago. Such a beautiful way of arriving there again, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Here's a photo from my own trip, and below the story link: 

Netherlands / Thailand
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
"By now the surface of the river was teeming with krathongs. Like any other boy in Doi Saket, Tangmoo had been told the tragicomic story of Loi Krathong’s origins countless times, and so he was aware of the invaluable influence of the village he called home. Seven hundred years ago Neng Tanapong, daughter of a Brahman priest in the kingdom of Sukhothai, had been playing on the riverbank..." “

And the winning story from 2013 - set in Japan, and finally, a spaceship story... but of the different kind:

"Mono no aware" by Ken Liu


Somewhere Between Borders
It's exciting where this short story summer challenge is taking me, or rather: how it shifts the focus and leads to other places, and makes me more attentive to possible international short stories. When I browsed the current stories and essays on the homepage of London-based magazine Litro, I arrived at a story from Africa - and it turned out, it was more than a story. Here's the link and a quote:

"Somewhere between the borders: Night-Train to Kalaki"  by Tara Isabelle Burton (Uganda)
"I told him about the old Black Sea Express train that went east from Constantinople to Kalaki...."

More borders
Reading the story, I noticed that the first part of the title also is a blog tag: "Somewhere between the borders" ... and when I clicked it, I arrived at a series of stories from other places. Here are some direct links:

"Supersonic Bus" by Jowhor Ile (Nigeria)
"You are travelling from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa. Everybody knows the best place to board a cheap bus is at Mile One Bus Park, right under the bridge.  A man is ringing a bell and shouting, “Yenagoa, five hundred naira! Three per seat, five hundred naira.”

"'Til God" (Cyprus) by Polis Loizou
"On the other side of the window, the tips of the cypress trees met five metres above the road, vehicles running between them like children at the feet of kissing relatives. Only fifteen minutes ‘til God from here. The Holy House would sort him out."

"Crying Poverty in Guatemala Airport" by David Hutt
"I waited for my plane back to Britain in the Guatemala City airport I felt the satisfaction and aches of a man who knows he has done a job well. One twenty quetzales note sat in my pocket, kept as a souvenir..."

And an extra link from the current Litro features: a visit to a German town that once was utopia, and a reflection on Berlin... which again brought back memories of an own trip... and a visit of photo files:

"Futures Past" by E.E. Mason
"I walked around and looked and fell in love with this scuffed and battered city. Sleazy, insouciant, grouchy, bleak. Blunt, cheap, edgy. Ah, what great days. I thought I would stay forever..."


Nadine Gordimer
And in honour of Nadine Gordimer and her life work, I read some of her stories - Open Culture has a feature up with links, one of the stories is an audio with Gordimer reading: 5 Free Short Stories by Nadine Gordimer. And Granta Magazine has a special feature, too: In memory of Nadine Gordimer

Here's a direct link:
"The Ultimate Safari" by Nadine Gordimer

And a second one, following the city theme that is running through the current short stories. Especially the night train to Kalaki made me think of the book "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvinowhich includes 55 portraits of imaginary cities, and each city reads like a zen riddle that hints at society, architecture, the shapes we form to live in. So here the final link, a story I have to read yet:
City of the Dead, City of the Living
"The street delves down between two rows of houses like the abandoned bed of a river that has changed course...."


Links & More

Reading the world:  a note on the reading journey can be found here:  reading the (missing parts of) the world 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

La Isla, or: i is for i/dentity

photo friday's theme "Solitude" brought me back to this reflection on going on a walk alone, and on language... this is for the A to Z challenge: i is for identity, islands, and "i" . 

La Isla

There was something magical about the island. Maybe it was the closeness to the elements that made the difference, the presence of those fire mountains that were only sleeping, that would wake again one day.

Isla de fuerta, the island once was named. Now it is called Lanzarote. She had been there years ago, in the time before digital cameras, in the time of just taking a few photos with a pocket camera. The intensity of its colours remained in her memory anyway. The white houses. The black beaches. The red hills. The green plants that were growing on lava earth. The blue water. And the sand that sometimes was carried by the wind, all the way from the Sahara, white like snow.

When she woke the next morning, she looked out of the window, and was drawn to the beach. She walked through the sand barefoot. Picked up a black stone and a white shell. Like back then. She even remembered the words she had learned, all those years ago, those Spanish basics of life: Yo soy - I am. Tu eres - You are. And the common greeting phrase: Buenos Dias. Good Day.

Everything was moving there, every single grain of sand. That's what she realized some days later, at the beach, where she stood still and watched the wind move across the ground. And was stunned. For what she saw was the miniature of a dune desert: the beach, a lake of motion, a genesis of sand, following the path of the wind. She kneeled down, and touched one of the tiny dunes, wondering where it came from, and how far it could travel. The dune gave its answer by gliding on underneath her hand.

Back at the bungalow, she looked for a book to read and picked up the one she brought from the library, a book of essays from Adolf Muschg, titled „Die Insel, die Kolumbus nicht gefunden hat“ – „The island that Columbus hasn't found." The book, it was about Japan, not about Lanzarote. She knew that much when she picked it, without idea how fitting it was nevertheless: one of the places Kolumbus wanted to find was Nippon, this city Marco Polo told silver roof stories about. And the islands Kolumbus started his journey from was - the Canary Islands. The very string of islands Lanzarote belonged to.

In those days, Lanzarote was covered with forest. Later, the forest was turned to sailing boats by the Spanish sailors and the army. A fact that was hard to believe when you saw the effort it nowadays took to just grow one single grapevine.

To protect the plants from the wind, and with it, from the moving sand, the farmers built strings of stone circles on their fields, which made the fields look like landscapes of abstract art. The wind didn't seem to mind. It kept blowing, across the fields, across the mountains, changing its direction with the names of the days, lunes to jueves, viernes to domingo.

The story of Columbus made her curious for more snippets of history, and so she headed towards Teguise, the oldest town of the island.

There, she learned that the first settlers of Lanzarote probably were Arab Berber groups who sailed to the islands from North Africa. After the Berbers came the Spanish sailors, in the 13th century. And with them came colonialization. And the slave trade.

Walking down the streets, she tried to imagine life back then, and arrived at the church in the middle of Teguise: Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, it was called. She tested the doors, but they were closed.

In a sidestreet, she noticed a flag, it’s presence a reminder of the closeness to Africa and the ongoing conflicts there. The flag, it carried a plea for a different life, noted not in Arab or English, but in French: Sahara Libre.

Back in her apartment, she looked up Arab key phrases and words, something she had never done before. The first word she learned was marhaban – which meant Hello. And next, in the unyielding logic of being, ila al’likaa – Goodbye.

That evening, in good time for sunset, she went for a walk along the shores of the island. She watched the seagulls while she followed the curved line that separated water from sand. The sky kept changing its color as the sun neared the horizon. She took a photo, then another, and kept walking, on and on, until it was only her and the ocean, her and das Meer, her and la mare.

Walking back, she followed her own trails for a while, and couldn’t help but wonder how it would have been to grow up here, on this island, surrounded by water. She would have been another Yo, that much was sure.


Related links:

Friday, July 18, 2014

today: the sky & the world

today: blue summer sky
today: memories of driving through Lanzarote island
today: the world, in an ongoing stream of painful news
today: the beauty and cruelty of the human mind.
today: reading Nadine Gordimer.
today: the next thing on the to-do-list
today: pink flowers in the garden
today: "and how are you?" - "okay, apart from the world"
today: july 18
today: sky friday.


the news about the missing plane, and that it might have been shot down, i heard it while driving through a forest yesterday evening. such a terrible tragedy. and to think, to plan and pack for a journey, to leave, and then to lose your life on the way - and probably by mistake. and then there is Israel and Gaza. and so many small tragedies that happen without ever reaching the news. but then, there are also so many beautiful and inspiring stories - which don't make the news, either. today i am glad for the garden here, the colors it offers, the daylilies in bloom. and for skywatch friday, with its positive vibe around the world. 

road quotes

may the road... road quotes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

links that touched me: look in the mirror, 61 things....

When I come across an interesting link / video / story that touches me, I often copy the link to blog about it at a later point. Yet by then, there's already another interesting link that is waiting... to keep the links from vanishing unblogged, I started this "links-that-touched-me" series. Here's the next part

Previous links:
- December 2013: This is Water, Dear Sugar, Does Moneymake you mean, Banksy...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reading (+crowdfunding) a global walk through time & stories of migration

Reading this week: trail notes from one of the longest walks through the world and modern stories of migration: 

Since April, I am reading the trek notes of a global walk: Paul Salopek, a journalist who won the Pulitzer, is walking the world, following the trail of humans from the origins in Africa along the directions they walked to migrate and spread. The name of his project is “Out of Eden Walk”, it’s supported by National Geographic.

The walk will be 7 years long, leading through 4 continents. Salopek started walking a year ago, in Ethopia. From there, his journey took him to Djibuti, and to Saudi Arabei. His journey notes are collected in an online archive: Out of Eden Walk - Notes

I only learned about the walk in April, and am following Salopek's notes since then, or rather: am catching up on his first months of walking: Today, as I visited the Eden Walk webpage, I saw that he started a crowdfunding campaign to support his walk. I just backed it. Here's the kickstarter link: Out of Eden Walk.

And good to see that projects like this are possible and get support. Especially as just some day ago, I read an article about the difficulty of realizing longer journalistic projects, and the current crisis at the longform non-fiction platform Byliner (german article, and i just saw this litragger byline article that digs a bit deeper) and a disillusioning article in the NY Times: "a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers:";I was a Digital Best Seller


But back to theme of migration:

Migration and Migrant Labor - a reflection in short stories 
"In 2005, the United Nations reported that there were nearly 191 million international migrants worldwide, about 3 percent of the world population. Europe hosted the largest number of immigrants, with 70 million people in 2005.  The numbers of people living outside their country of birth is expected to rise in the future.."  - That are numbers from the wikipedia Immigration page

The July issue of Words without Borders picks up the topic of migration, and explores it from a literary angle, to tell the stories beyond the numbers: "this month we present writing about migrant labor. Through official channels or underground networks, fleeing poverty or chasing dreams, the characters here leave their homelands in search of work and new lives, finding nothing is quite as they expected."

I started to read the issue last week - as part of my "reading the world" journey. And so far, each story was like an own little universe, loaded with humorous, hopeful, tragic moments. Here are some direct links and quotes:   

Me and Mycobacterium tuberculosi by Shahaduz Zaman (Bangladesh)
"I waited. Everyone advised me to prepare myself by buying winter clothing. The very name of England brought to mind snow and ice.... Still, I made a brief visit to Banga Bazar. I lost myself in the lanes and alleyways of that kingdom of clothing..."

Piece by Piece They’re Taking My World Away by Christos Ikonomou (Greece)
"He shouted and cursed and at one point it almost came to blows. But eventually he got tired of shouting and cursing and fighting. What was the point? What difference did it make, today or tomorrow. What was the point. A soul that’s ready to leave will leave.."

Slaves of Moscow (nonfiction by Victoria Lomasko, Russia). 
This is the most painful text of the issue: a reportage of modern slavery. In October 2012, a group of civil society activists in Moscow freed twelve slaves from the Produkty grocery store, owned by a Kazakhstani couple.Victoria Lomasko is a graphic reportage artisst, she works with human rights organizations, and put this reportag together.

The Bed
by Vladimir Vertlib (Russia / US)
"C’est la vie. If you don’t take it like it comes, you won’t be nothing but a loser all your life. Why you always got something to gripe about?.."

** Links & More **

Saturday, July 12, 2014

t is for translation, trails, and a way of looking at things

By definition, translation is "the process of turning an original or "source" text into a text in another language"

Interesting word history: "The word translation derives from the Latin translatio (which itself comes from trans- and fero, the supine form of which is latum, together meaning "to carry across" or "to bring across")."

In German, "translation" is called "übersetzen" - which still has the second meaning of carrying across, for example: the passage of a ferry from one side to the other side of a river is also called "übersetzen".

Trails & Photos
The image above is a translation, too: the original photo is in color, and has a different format: it's a landscape photo. It's from France - which is called "Frankreich" in German.
Seen from a camera angle, every photo is a translation, too: a snapshot of reality as it presented itself at a certain time and place, seen from our angle.

A way of looking at things
And a beautiful link: Nobel laureate Herta Müller who grew up in Romania, yet learned German as mother language there, reflected on the art of translation in a speech, which itself got translated in over 10 languages. Here's a quote:
"The art of translation is looking at words in order to see how those words see the world...  Each sentence is a way of looking at things, crafted by its speakers in a very particular way. Each language sees the world differently, inventing its entire vocabulary from its own perspective and weaving it into the web of its grammar in its own way. Each language has different eyes sitting inside its words."
And here's the text page with links: The Space between Languages


Related links: