Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bombay Burning

After  graduation [from Holy Cross (me) and Bucknell (Margo)] we got married during Peace Corps training and headed off for two years in Maharashtra - 1967-1969. We lived in Vasai (Bassein) 50 km from downtown Bombay.  An old Portuguese fort now in ruins once housed a Jesuit Colegio, and in its shadow was Sao Pedru Church, which served the Catholic fishermen with whom I worked the first year.

40 years ago we may have spent Thanksgiving  weekend (as we did many) at the Salvation Army Red Shield hostel down the block from the Taj (now seen in flames).  Got suits tailor-made  there that I quickly “outgrew” on return to American diet.  Took  the electric train from Bassein Rd. to VT (Victoria Terminus) - now the scene of gunmen with AK 47's randomly shooting down passengers, vehicles burning out front.

What  went wrong?

As Margo reminded me in an email the other night - when we were there the partition bloodshed was 20 years in the past.  The U.S., with urban riots, the ML King and RF Kennedy assassinations, was a cauldron.  And the Vietnam War of comfortably hazy memory ground on through the heavy killing years that  yielded Khe Sanh, carpet bombing,  My Lai, Tet, and Hue.

Attention now will go to the Muslim gunmen who targeted civilians - India’s 9/11.  This may have been the outgrowth of Kashmiri Muslim nationalism as it appears.  But the consequences may be gravest for India’s Muslims - an often persecuted minority.  

The “communal disturbances” - coverage of which is banned in the Indian press - usually take the form of Hindu nationalist  pogroms.  I remember a village about 20 miles from us where a Hindu mob surrounded the Muslim section and tossed torches onto the thatched roofs, burning out an entire neighborhood and trapping an unknown number in their flaming huts.

Such pogroms are not ancient history. There was a systematic assault in 2000 in Surat, Gujarat about 40 miles north of us.  Here is a report.  

The Shiv Sena - the Maratha nationalist party - was in its early stages - inveighing against South Indians who thrived in the Bombay financial district now assaulted.  They broadened their base by moving from Maratha nationalism to Hindu nationalism.

For the first time I am really worried about the future of India.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Krugman - what do you mean by "we"

Paul Krugman
"The story of how we failed to see this coming has a clear policy implication — that financial market reform should be pressed quickly, and that it should not wait until the crisis is resolved"
More than any other prominent commentator, Krugman, who will soon accept the Nobel Prize for Economics, has the right to say he saw it coming and that it would be a deep crisis when the housing bubble burst.  In today's column he finally says `I told you so': "what do you mean when you say `we', whiteman?" he said a few months back to a room full of  economists, etc.  Here it is.
When the Nobel Committee announced the award back in October I posted kudos on the site - HERE.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

50 knots - under sail

Published: November 27, 2008 - New York Times
The World Sailing Speed Record Council belatedly decided to dismiss the mark set by Sebastian Cattelan in Namibia because he broke the 50-knot barrier on a kiteboard.  Here's the video.  The headline above gives you the NY Times story.

The Gates Pick

In a TPM post on the Gates pick.  I support it.  He was plucked from the Iraq Study Group, which called it straight - as this NY Times  archive piece shows.

Late to the party

I was late to the Obama party.  I feared a weak candidate - thin resume, the Rev. Wright problems, feared the war hero's appeal, etc.  So I didn't exult in the big crowds, the youthful followings, etc. that were the first stirrings since 1968 that felt and looked like a genuine popular mass movement.  
The Boston Globe has put together a photo essay that cures that problem.  It is photo-hagiography at its best.  Huge crowds, closeups of the candidate, private moments, casual moments, joyful, hopeful, adulatory faces, a youthful candidate in full stride on the basketball court (didn't do John Kerry any good to scrimmage on the ice with the Bruins. Oh well.  Spilt milk, etc.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to dress in New York - Bill Cunningham `On the Street'

Bill Cunningham has a great eye: the classic way to dress in New York - in Manhattan that is when the good, cold weather arrives, is a jacket, scarf, and gloves.  And for me, of course, a hat.  Bill Cunningham sees it On The Street.  

Southbound 650 reaches Peru

Pascale, Jesse's embarazada girlfriend, met Jesse and Andy in Colombia.  They headed out on the 650 for Quito.  Fortunately after more than 40 miles of bad road she hopped a glorious looking bus.  They did get to Quito without mishap - despite passing through the tail end of a Columbian riot and other hazards.

And Jesse and Andy, after Pascale flew back to N.H., headed south to Peru where this latest post was made.  Still southbound - and maybe splitting up - Andy to Bolivia, Jesse to Patagonia via Chile.  Here's the rest of a spectacular array of shots.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Diving 1,200 feet under the earth - The Rondout Tunnel

The Rondout branch tunnel which carries most of New York City's water from the Catskills, is now leaking 36 million gallons/day - and flooding a lot of people's homes, too.  The New York Times describes the lives and work of the men who are living in a diving bell - in a helium and 2% oxygen atmospere, so that they cann work in the tunnel, 1,200 fee below ground. Here it is.  
The photos depict the Delaware Aqueduct tunnel under constructoin in 1937, and the diving bell in which the men live full-time - except when they are diving in the tunnel.

Friday, November 21, 2008

VOR - It's really got a hold on me...

Volvo Ocean Race, leg 2 - Capetown to Cochin - the old fashioned way - under sail.

November 21, 2008    
6 days out of Capetown 
2,300 nm to Cochin
12 - 14 knots - Fleet Average Boat Speed   (8 boats)
78 nm - Distance from front to back of fleet 
Data from Team Data Centre

There's email, audio, video, commentary.
There's passing footage to die for, mishaps and astonishing skill and competitive spirit.

Highlights of the week:

Ericsson 3 passes Telefonica Blue - in rough seas in the Indian Ocean, November 16
Team Russia: Chinese Gybe 
Delta Lloyd: Hits a whale
Ken Read, skipper of Puma reports on day 17  out of Capetown, Tuesday 18 November 2008 10:57 GMT -  3,000 miles from Cochin:

"We got about as vertical in a sailboat as you would ever want to be when...we found another beauty of a wave, except this one had no face in front of it and ---whoosh. Take off!  

"The inevitable silence of a boat that feels like it is literally flying, followed up with a massive SMASH into the not very soft Indian Ocean. But this one was different than the other 10,872 smashes that have occurred over the past 48 hours or so. This one had a horrid CRACK along with it. I was working with Justin on the sail at the time and had on my headlamp and ran to the bow to quickly find several cracks in our longitudinal frames in the bow section. "
 See  Puma Team email for reports of fabricating carbon fibre splints underway, more damage, despair, and recovery.

Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Wolfe, the right wing cynic, made the phrase famous.  But the people who deserve the appellation, the bull marketeers, have only recently gotten their comeuppance (at least on November 4).   (We now have to revive the fallen beast.)  Michael Lewis (Liars Poker) has this acccount of  'The End'  on Conde Nast Portfolio.  Thanks to Brad Meehan for the tip.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Volvo Race - mid-Indian Ocean mark

Torben Grael, the great Brazilian Olympian, and America's Cup sailor leads the fleet at the mid-Indian Ocean scoring gate - an imaginary point about 3,000 miles southwest of Cochin, at India's southern tip.  The VOR now takes the northerly trade route - not the traditonal southern ocean route.  Check out the  VOR site.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama, Afghanistan and the `Yes, we can' Trap

My friend Russ Hoyle has a new, cautionary post on The Daily Beast, the new webzine edited by Tina Brown, with political editing by Sid Blumenthal, long-time Hillary friend and adviser.

Russ's message is: "The danger is that Petraeus’s full-blown, can-do, war-fighting doctrine will so dazzle the usually cautious but change-minded new president that Afghanistan policy could well turn into a “Yes, we can!” trap."  The essay is here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Araboolies of Liberty Street

The 1989 children's book by Sam Swope has been turned into an acrobatic musical - with music composed by Hudson Heights' Kim D. Sherman - a regular at Vicky's Diner, where I have breakfast practically every morning with James J.Muldoon tied up outside to the iron fence around the tree. Kim's website reveals a composer of amazing range - musical theatre, opera, choral music, and the somber, moving Bosnia-inspired Graveside.
Kim's music and the Araboolies (who speak Araboolean and don't follow rules) have gotten some play on NPR's ATC which gives you some snippets of Kim's music.

Issuma puts in to La Paloma, Uruguay for repairs, rest

Richard and George entered the Rio Plata, and are moored at La Paloma, Uruguay, next to a warship.  As you'll see from their post it was a bit of a rocky arrival - with the engine dying and the cable that pulls up the swing keel parting as they reached the dock.

Richard's post is a good example of his ability to describe in detail just how things go wrong - with apparent detachment.  Details are here

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Filibuster-proof Senate Trap

A 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate (the number needed to close debate and proceed to a vote) - a fervent wish of many - presents dangers for Democrats. As the Stevens-Begich count, the Coleman-Franken recount, and the Chambliss Georgia runoff approach, I post a warning on Talking Points Memo.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mayhem in the Bay of Biscay

45 knot winds, 7 meter waves and horrific Bay of Biscay weather has ravaged the Vendee Globe fleet in the first 32 hours.   8 of the 30 starters have headed back to port:  2 dismasted, legend Bernard Stamm's bowsprit destroyed in collison with a freighter, champion Michel Desjoyeaux with engine and electrical trouble, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) - hull damage (after recent repairs from a collison with a trawler). For more click on the bold text above.  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

East River Bass and Blues

The title refers to fish, not jazz.  A beautiful fall afternoon demonstrates the prescience of Judge Griesa of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.  25 years ago, in Sierra Club v. Army Corps of Engineers, the bold judge said  that they couldn't build Westway, an  interstate highway on the West Side of Manhattan,  because they hadn't studied the impact on "one of America's good game fish" the striped bass.  The breeding grounds among the piers and pilings of the west side of Manhattan would have been buried in landfill.

So for lack of an Environmental Impact Statement the striped bass were saved - and perhaps the bluefish too.  For me and John, and Terence, drifting on John and Capt. Mudd's Dyer 29 Alice, in our favorite spot:  on the ebb tide at Hell Gate, with live eels and bunker for bait, from the Triborough Bridge to Shooter's Island, just off 96th Street, where the Harlem River meets the East River.

In case you're wondering - that striper is 36", the blues 29", 26", and 26".  And Yes - we ate them.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Parkour - Urban Flight Sport

I first encountered Parkour as I watched a young guy scale a 5 foot brick wall on Ft. Washington Ave. with the swift moves that a cat - or a rock climbing Lab like James - would make.  I spoke to the fellow who told me abbut Parkour - an urban flight sport (as in fight or flight) that gives you the skills a stunt man needs to elude the police in one of those chase films I love.  The Times has a video about it.  Seems that women are taking it up now.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Maya Lin's Wave Fields

Maya Lin - the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - has a new project - Wave Fields.Just what it says: earthen waves.  The elegance and surprise are inimitable.   Above is an existing one.    There's another on the way.   Here's  a video essay fom the Times.

Election Night in New York - On the Street with Bill Cunningham

A night on the town to be remembered.  There is no iconic image yet - except for Obama on stage alone in Grant Park Chicago with Michelle and the girls.  There are no sailors in dress whites kissing girls, no adulatory crowds greeting the GI's on the streets of Paris, no flowers in rifle barrels.

But the scene in New York, in Chicago, and in homes across the country - and around the world - was the greatest moment of collective joy I have ever witnessed - and experienced.  The revolution is always a party.  Bill Cunningham, the New York Times fashion photographer was there for it  And he knows style when he sees it.   Here is his photo-essay.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

cock-eyed optimist

“I think this is going to be very liberating for Republicans in Congress.”

With Democrats firmly in control of both chambers of CongressRepublicans have a chance “to get back on offense.”

Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is eyeing a leadership role in the new Congress and is seen by some in the party as presidential timber.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rounding Antarctica clockwise - The Vendee Globe

The Vendee Globe - November 9, 2008 >>>> o/a February 9, 2009

The rules are simple:

Depart Les SablesD'Olonne, France
Sail around the world 
No outside assistance
Leave Antarctica to starboard
Return to France

For the route, click here.

The French are obsessive about this.  But others have tried their hand: the amazing Brit Ellen MacArthur (at the top of the mast) [2000-2001 - 2d - 94d4h25'40"]; a Mainer transplanted from California - Bruce Schwab in Ocean Planet (a cold-molded woodie)[2004-2005 - 9th, 109d] ; and now Rich Wilson (once a speechwriter for Michael Dukakis seen here with the day after election day French paper in hand) has tried his hand for the 2008-2009 rendition.  [Rich will not be on the Obama transition team.]

It's not easy to beat extemporaneous inventors - people like Michel Desjoyeaux [2000-2001, 1st, 93d3h57'32''], a Frenchman who jury-rigged his diesel motor (needed for electronics and water ballast pumps) to start with wind-power via lines from boom to engine, a line wrapped around the flywheel, like an outboard motor!

The most dramatic parts are the southern ocean (the seas surrounding the white continent) where appalling storms and icebergs threaten the Open 60 skippers.  Don't ask why someone would undertake this voyage.  Just be grateful that someone else is doing it, and you can see the pictures and hear the tales via email and transmissions from the lonely planetary travelers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

from slavery to freedom

>Victory speech

Fired up Ready to Go

Obama's last night of campaigning - in Virginia
Fired up. Ready to Go!

Voting in Manhattan

Maurice (Mickey) Carroll

Maurice (Mickey) Carroll, Director, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute:

Forgive me for putting on my ain't-it-great-to-be-an-American act, but Election Day brings that out. There was a 15-minute line of neighbors at the school on West 84th Street and Columbus Avenue in Manhattan waiting to vote, a mother with kids in a stroller, a shaky old lady with a walker, people I ride with every day in the elevator at 241 Central Park West. Some paused at the school bake sale. Everyone was in a good mood. "In New York, it's Obama in a landslide." I told the woman in line behind me. "I know," she said, "but I still want to do my duty." 

Personally - I was disappointed that we didn't get ink stains on our forefingers to prove that we voted today.

I want physical evidence that I voted for Obama and Biden.

I have never before walked up to the polls fighting back tears.

I keep thinking about Frederick Douglass, and DuBois and King, and even Booker T. Washington.

And I think about Robert Kennedy - the only other candidate in my lifetime to whom I attached so much hope.

- George

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Friendship, Maine 04547

When I was 10 my father took me out for a sail on his friend Lou Peretti's Friendship sloop, which he moored in Hempstead Harbor. I remember two things about it - the wide teak decks and the graceful, reassuring movement of the boat as the wind built. The beamy gaffer, a stable platform conceived for fishermen in much tougher seas reassured the nervous boy. In June 1994 when we were compelled to change our summer plans I saw a little mid-week classified ad in the Times for a house in Friendship, Maine. The memory of Lou Peretti reassured me and an afternoon sail on Gladiator, a Friendship carrying passengers, did the same for Taisy, if not quite for Marilyn.

Yesterday, Halloween 2008, Marilyn and I closed on a friendship - a cottage on "the Back River, so-called" says the warranty deed. The post office says it's the Cushing Road in East Friendship 04547. We'll take posession from the tenants, Gabriel and Misty, earnest Nicholas and sweet Corinne, in May. But we started shopping today - a new stove and icebox at Lowe's in Thomaston. Maine in late fall is beautiful. Here are some shots of the Back River, the cottage, James J. Muldoon's splashdown, Marilyn at our lawyer Jim Strong's in Thomaston (the Halloween capital of the Mid-Coast), the Friendship United Methodist Church, and Wallace's store.

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