The United States of Haiti? Newly back from Haiti, Pooja Bhatia draws parallels between the beloved “dysfunctional little country” she left behind and the direction her homeland appears to be heading.
“…ensconced back home in the U.S., the Land of Plenty, I see reminders of Haiti everywhere,” Bhatia writes in an article for the Daily Beast. “Our infrastructure is crumbling. The able-bodied and quick-brained can’t find work. The chasm between the super-rich and everyone else has so widened that our elites seem to inhabit a different country.”
Overstated? Perhaps. But she raises some good questions. And I’m always pleased to see pieces that spotlight Haiti–a rarity since the earthquake-induced reporting frenzy died down and the majority of journalists moved on to other crises du jour.
The Amanda Knox Case and Journalistic Neutrality Speaking of media frenzies, the wrap-up of the Amanda Knox appeal and subsequent acquittal of the accused had more than 400 reporters descending on poor Perugia, which just wants to go back to being known for its chocolate. More interesting, is the polarization within both the public and the media over Knox’s perceived guilt or innocence. Shades of gray are all but nonexistent in the sensationalized murder case: the Seattle student is either a duplicitous, sexually-charged killer or the the victim of a sexist, arcane legal system.
Oddly, such polarization has crept into some of the media coverage, specifically within the reporting of two high-profile journalists. Rome-based Barbie Nadeau who has covered Italy for Newsweek for a number of years sides with the “guilty” camp, while Nina Burleigh, who moved to Perugia to write a book on the case, believes that Knox was a victim of misogyny at its worst.
But where is the line between reporter and advocate? asks the New York Times. And to what extent should a journalist allow her opinions to bleed through her reporting?
Snuff, Barf & Amusement Parks: Scenes from the Real Afghanistan
“There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.”
~ Beryl Markham, West with the Night (1942)
Lately, I have been amused and bewildered by the nature of spam comments turning up in my catcher. Whether they are pushing Canadian Viagra or Cartier replicas, the ads are a baffling combination of questionable SEO keywording skills and the bad, abstract poetry that tends to clog the notebooks of morose high school juniors with Edith Sitwell fetishes.
The following poem comprises the funnier bits of the latest of these spam opuses to grace my catcher. Read it and and tell me you don’t want to get your hands on bootleg Viagra or a fake Vuitton!
Spam Poem Untitled 1
you had since received sun and lake and a glow,
and i into them talked closely tanned the sort on its flesh in and back she called excited worried.
in the narrow panic once by his refuge in
holding her shrouds of your white repeater watches. cartier clones dropping silent shoulders from morning then shivering rage
and bore pistols to imagine the only five last wars which leaned
or turned him up.
Yagharek league. California giordino. Aston black martin in the zagato.
he would imagine the daytona – erased door in another bright existence.
On them roared, the creature brick, again as across the euphoria. Himself saw out this silver.
the shiny story which shook broken in their cage at the sign on the
World Hum recently ran a beautiful piece by Jeffrey Tayler that examines a bittersweet, often-overlooked side of travel–the roads not taken and the loves left behind. For me, it evoked the transiency inherent in human relationships; a transiency that is felt more acutely for us vagabond sorts.
The natural cycle of friendship unfolds faster for the wanderlust-prone. Intimacy and separations can occur suddenly, and those bonds that form so quickly on the road are often severed with equally jarring swiftness. Itineraries change. Alliances form and shatter. People dance in and out of your life. You share moments or weeks or months with someone, only to move on to a different city, country or decade; the relationships left behind gradually fading in the corner of your memory like postcards you forgot to send.
Over time, those people who played central roles, however briefly, in your daily life recede from your thoughts, occasionally reappearing as flickers of landscapes left behind. Friendships cultivated during my own trips abroad in my teens and early twenties will surface in an abbreviated jumble of sensations: A languid summer meal with Isabelle V. at Sormani in Paris, a dim train compartment en route to Calais with Ineke S., the sound of Marc G.’s buoyant tread on the staircase in a weathered Swiss chalet, the coconut-honey smell of Joey L.’s sunscreen as we lounge on a pebble-clotted Hydra shoreline.
“The burst of Chopin under a sky lit up with brilliancies…There wasn’t a breath of wind and the music spread all over the dark boat, like a heavenly injunction whose import was unknown, like an order from God whose meaning was inscrutable…and afterwards, she wept because she thought of the man from Cholon and suddenly she wasn’t sure she hadn’t loved him with a love she hadn’t seen because it had lost itself in the affair like water in sand and she rediscovered it only now, through this moment of music flung across the sea.”
~ Marguerite Duras, “The Lover” (1984)
Monday would have been Anaïs Nin’s 108th birthday. I remember reading her diaries as a teenager and yearning for transatlantic crossings, opium masquerades and rollicking affairs (just not with Henry Miller who, literary stature aside, I found rather trollish).
Mostly I remember being awestruck by her remarkable talent, insight and intense passion–for beauty, for creating and for living.
This passion is evident in much of her writing, but particularly so in this excerpt from her diary:
“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another…”
Well put, Madame.