A quick summer Tikkunista, while in the midst of hosting family reunion, and other chaotic events. But some news is timely, and none more so than the Israel/ Gaza conflict. Three brief perspectives: looking at Israeli actions, looking at Hamas, looking at public opinion. We start by looking at what some Jews are saying about Israel’s action. A wise a nuanced piece by my favourite Israeli writer, David Grossman, calls for an end to “the grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The Rabbinical Council of the JVP “stand with all people of conscience who reject the ways of militarism and occupation and who seek a path to a truly just peace in Israel/Palestine.” Gabor Maté, son of Holocaust survivors, looks at how the Jewish “beautiful dream” has become the Israeli nightmare. And Kevin Coval, the great American Jewish poet, writes that “your jewishness is not dependent/ upon an undying loyalty to a state/ that murders in your name.”
“Hamas’s Chances” is Nathan Thrall’s very intelligent analysis (from the London Review of Books) of how the current Gaza war came about. It’s a must read. Foreign Politics Magazine takes a realist’s view of the war, concluding that you can’t kill Hamas, you can only make it stronger. And Mustafa Barghouti says that behind the conflict in Gaza is the same old problem – an occupation which makes peace impossible
And finally a look at how these duelling narratives are being received. Here’s a graphic of American sympathies in Israeli Palestinian conflict. Mondoweiss observes that Israel is starting to alienate the US mainstream media. (Tnx, Amy). And a useful map of the world shows those countries that recognize Palestine.
Maps are useful ways of summing up a lot of information, sometimes useful, sometimes not. Here are pointless but fascination maps of countries whose largest city is not their capital and countries whose flag has red or blue. Slightly more useful are maps that show countries that are poorer than Bill Gates, or a map of WWII deaths as a percentage of countries’ populations. Very useful are maps which show how Asia is scared of China or four maps that explain Islam in Africa.
While we’re on religion, here’s a quartet of pieces to savour. Parts of the US Muslim movement embrace gay and interfaith marriages, female imams and mixed prayers. That’s an example of how Richard Dawkins in 2014 has become a figure of mockery. As the Guardian article quotes, “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.” A fine piece on Paganism argues that, “If you’re going to explore Pagan stuff, you need to be twice as sceptical as the muggles.”
Summertime is the time for reading (so are fall, winter and spring, of course.) The New Yorker has all its current and all its past archives open for free all summer. Amazon has announced a deal through which you get unlimited reading and listening for $10 a month. Books make me think of English teachers, and here are a very useful “55 Thoughts for English Teachers”. This was the month in which “Weird Al” Yankovic’s video “Word Crimes” went to #1 on the charts. Want more Weird Al? Here’s his “Mission Statement”, and a fine Guardian backgrounder on the man himself (Mad Magazine, Tom Lehrer, Monty Python were all shapers.) And you can test your knowledge of English in this quiz, and feel superior if you beat my 84%.
While it’s been a cool summer in Toronto, the world has just broken the monthly heat record twice in a row. In China, the worst drought in 40 years damaged over 1,000,000 hectares (4000 square miles) of cropland. So to fiddle while the world burns, here are “30 classic summer songs that don’t get old”. Not a bad selection. Or watch this impressive video on how to cool a drink in under two minutes. Very useful!
A trio of gender politics pieces: the good, bad, ugly. The good is Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker essay, No More Mr. Tough Guy”, deconstructing the obsession on masculinity and the presidency. The bad is the hilarious list some guy posted on “OK Cupid”, an online dating site, listing all the reasons he doesn’t want to hear from women. Hilarious, in a hideous kind of way. And the ugly is Eliza Bennet’s ‘flesh as canvas’ embroidery, entitled “A Woman’s Work is Never Done”. Not for the squeamish. Perhaps that calls for some cheering essays? Choose among Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live with Presence, E.B. White’s Beautiful Letter to a Man Who Had Lost Faith in Humanity, Sherwood Anderson: The Best Resignation Letter Ever Written, or the Moth podcast, a 15 minute story by Shannon Cason, a banker who had a serious gambling addiction. (It is cheering, in the end…)
Time for some comedy? Let’s start with animals, and this lovely 1 minute gif of what happens when good dogs go bad. Watch John Oliver starts a mass movement #gogetthosegeckos. And in what has to be an apocalyptically bad idea, a Safari park boss just took two young chimps to see the Planet of the Apes. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver takes on the Wealth Gap (starts out lightly, and gets better). And for you graphic designers, here is the worst layout ever of an author’s name.
And we end with some lovely photographs. Here are 15 of Kathy Klein’s flower mandalas, the winners of the 2014 Nat Geo traveler photo contest, and Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. As well, an impressive watermelon crocodile, some terrifyingly beautiful pictures from the roofs of Hong Kong, and what it looks like inside a kilometre long barrel wave on a surfboard. And we’ll end (tnx, Ginny) with some stunning geometric designs you can use on your next tattoo. Have fun!
We haven’t had a quote of the week for awhile: Leonard Cohen on creative discipline: “The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”