Friday, May 09, 2003

Assuming each monkey typed a steady 120 characters a minute, mathematicians have calculated it would take 10 <+>813 (10 followed by 813 zeros) monkeys about five years to knock out a decent version of Shakespeare's Sonnet 3, which begins: "Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest, Now is the time that face should form another." And that's if they had a computer each.

--From a story in today's U.K. Guardian about a team of scientists who recently attempted to test the "infinite number of monkeys" theory.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Salam Pax is back.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

At Algeciras--A Meditation upon Death

The heron-billed pale cattle-birds
That feed on some foul parasite
Of the Moroccan flocks and herds
Cross the narrow Straits to light
In the rich midnight of the garden trees
Till the dawn break upon those mingled seas.

Often at evening when a boy
Would I carry to a friend--
Hoping more substantial joy
Did an older mind commend--
Not such as are in Newton’s metaphor,
But actual shells of Rosses’ level shore.

Greater glory in the sun,
An evening chill upon the air,
Bid imagination run
Much on the Great Questioner;
What He can question, what if questioned I
Can with a fitting confidence reply.

November 1928

--W.B. Yeats

Monday, May 05, 2003

Nobody articulates better than Phillips, who was born in St Kitts in the West Indies and raised in Leeds, the pain of leaving, the necessity for flight and the abandonment of ties. In novel after novel, he has quarried moving stories of the diaspora, tracing lives back to the point where home meant home. His overarching theme is cultural and social dislocation, particularly the migratory experience, whether it be as a result of the slave trade or through economic necessity -- or because of a repressive regime. All amount to much the same thing. To leave home other than through personal desire is something nobody considers.

--From Alan Taylor's review of Caryl Phillips's new novel, A Distant Shore, published in yesterday's Sunday Herald.
People often criticise us for being too hard on poor countries and letting Western democracies off lightly. "Moralising by the rich," they say. "It's your culture that's talking."...

Our answer is still the same. We firmly believe that attacks on the free flow of information are relative. We think the complete absence of press freedom in one country is more serious than simple flaws and abuses in another. We think journalists who cannot work without risking death or injury deserve more help than their colleagues in countries where the press is a true "fourth estate."...

We are well aware, and we say so, of the threats to civil liberties, including press freedom, contained in some of the steps taken in 2002 by the US government in its fight against terrorism. We know that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's control of the broadcast media is bad for Italian democracy, and we say so. We protest too each time French police or courts challenge a journalist's right not to reveal sources.

We recognise that the dependence of reporters on the military in wartime makes their work less credible. But all these real problems do not alter the fact that in the United States, Italy and France, news flows more freely than on average in the rest of the world, and that their journalists enjoy an independence that is the daily envy of colleagues living under repressive regimes everywhere.

--From the 2003 annual report on press freedom released by Reporters sans frontieres on Saturday.

Friday, May 02, 2003

No one can make me feel like a criminal, or an enemy agent, or someone who does not love his country, or make me believe any of the other absurd accusations the government uses to degrade and humiliate. I am only a man who writes. And writes in the country where he was born, and where his great-grandparents were born.

--Raul Rivero, one of the best-known of the independent journalists recently imprisoned in Cuba, quoted in today's Gleaner, in a comprehensive summary of the present status of the Cuba's independent press.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

As the general election in Barbados draws near, the Advocate (in today's editorial (this is not a permanent link)) considers the possibility of violence in the weeks before the polls:

On Tuesday evening, a broadcaster claimed that since Barbadians had a history of good behaviour during election contests, there will be no physical conflict in 2003.

The idea that an absence of serious adversity in the past totally assures that none can now occur, is much in line with the silly notion that God, being a Bajan, natural disasters will not strike this island.

This is indeed a shockingly silly notion--everyone knows God is actually a Trini.
Every conceivable sympathetic movement on the part of another person towards Castro and the Cuban government is interpreted by Castro as a justification for his ideological convictions. Over the past two decades, the Canadian, Spanish, Mexican and CARICOM governments, among others; the Pope, liberal American politicians, Black activists from the US, and Caribbean people have given Cuba and President Castro unbelievable breathing space to survive American pressure, but to date there has been no willingness on Castro's part to shift gear in the direction of obligatory politics. Castro simply does not believe in such a path because his psychological apparatus does not allow for this. Castro's world view is based on divine right, meaning that his position is right and truthful, and those who open up to him have come around to the acceptance that the Cuban ideological construct is philosophically grounded in history and has been proven right....

How ironic that the CARICOM-Cuba relationship contains the same ingredients as CARICOM-US friendship. CARICOM treads carefully in provoking the US because they have too much to lose. And it is the same with Cuba. Cuba has been generous to CARICOM states, with the latest manifestation of this being a huge number of scholarships to Guyana, the lessening of a shortage of medical personnel in Trinidad, and infrastructural help to Grenada. This explains the reticence of CARICOM on Cuba's savage lawlessness in the execution of three men following court trials, and the imprisonment of seventy-three others where the invisible demand of Castro hangs like a painting over the head of the jury and the judges are able to see Castro's face as they ponder their verdict....

--From a letter by Frederick Kissoon published in today's Stabroek News (no link, because Stabroek has no permanent online archive).

Today's Stabroek also publishes another letter by Armando Proenza describing the U.S. embargo as an "elementary violation of the human rights of the Cuban people for more than 40 years". It does not occur to Mr. Proenza that it is possible to oppose both the increasingly foolish embargo & Castro's human rights abuses simultaneously; but then, which ideologue ever had much time for logic--or justice?