Apr. 30th, 2006

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French journalist Jean-Paul Kauffmann's 1993 The Arch of Kerguelen, originally published in 1993 by Flammarion of Paris and translated by Patricia Clancy for a 2000 publication by Four Walls Eight Windows, might be the only books I've ever read on the Kerguelen Islands. Even so, I can say with certainty that The Arch of Kerguelen easily sets the standard for all future books, and for all like books.

The Kerguelen Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Southern Ocean roughly equidistant from South Africa and Australia, were discovered in 1772 by the luckless French explorer Yves Joseph de Kerguelen de Trémarec, eventually included in the Fifth Republic's French Southern and Antarctic Lands. There have been, as Kauffmann enumerates, innumerable plans to humanize the islands, starting with discussion in the salons of pre-Revolutionary Paris on settling dozens of luckless Acadian families in this open land. In the past century, in fact, there has been a more-or-less sustained human presence on the islands for most of the past century: Whaling ships have called at the islands' harbours, people like the Bossière brothers of Normandy have tried to establish human colonies, imported rabbits and sheep have wrought havoc on native vegetation like the Kerguelen cabbage. To the author's surprise, sheep herds and aquacultured salmon and whaling harbours can now be found on these the most isolated of islands.

No humans live there permanently, though, and none will. After several tries, the islands' only human residents are scientists and researchers and support staff, rotated in and out. The Arch of Kerguelen of the title was sighted by Cook soon after the islands' discovery, a great arch tens of metres high that seemed to welcome visitors to an interior notable now for being a void. Here, cartographers may impose names on the blanks in the islands' maps while scientific researchers may here come to perform their delicate experiments, but no one stays, apart from those unfortunately buried in the graves at Port aux Français. Appropriately enough, the great modernizing dream of the Enlightenment, the belief of the philosophes in the flexibility of human beings, broke on the shores of the islands discovered in the Enlightenment's last days. Kauffmann succeeds wonderfully in demonstrating, in a lucid prose style that survived translation, that the land's apparent openness comes not from its openness to humanity but rather because it's structurally irrelevant and unsuitable to humanity, because it is--in his word--"ahuman."
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[livejournal.com profile] acrabtree, the gentleman who got me hooked on The Ur-Quan Masters, has informed us in the comments that the Star Control fan community remains quite active. Not only is there an online petition aimed at allowing the creators of the first two Star Control games to compose a new game in this series, but there is an online fan project that's remixing the classic music from Star Control 2 for the 21st century.
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From Reuters:

A court in ex-Soviet Belarus sentenced main opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich to 15 days in prison on Thursday for leading a big rally the previous day that police said was unlawful.

Milinkevich has become a focus for opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko, accused in the West of crushing dissent in his state lying between Russia and three European Union members.

The EU, which said Lukashenko's landslide re-election last month was blatantly rigged, demanded Milinkevich's immediate release.

Looking calm as the judge read out the sentence, the bearded Milinkevich denied he was guilty of any crime. "This is a political action, a political sentence," Milinkevich told the court. "Leaders of leading political parties are behind bars."

Other leading opposition activists were also given short prison sentences in an apparent crackdown by authorities after about 7,000 demonstrators took part in Wednesday's rally.


br23 has links to more commentaries on this arrest. Belarus doesn't appear to be in a pre-revolutionary situation just yet; an Orange Revolution akin to Ukraine's is still far off, for the simple reason that Belarus' opposition hasn't had the freedoms necessary to maneuver. As Belarus' first head of state, Stanislav Shushkevich, said in an interview at Transitions Online, foreign help is necessary if Lukashenko's regime is to end.
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Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] agirlnamedluna for getting me started.

1. How powerful do you think the medium of blogging is?Quick answer? )

2. How far would you be willing to go to get a job? I mean in means of changing yourself, hiding things, etc. Well ... )

3. How much do you read a day/week to keep your blog up-to-date? What are the things you focus on, which sources do you discard?This is actually a tough question. )

4. You're allowed to intervene in only three issues in the world, any issues. What do you change and why?Which ones? Well, since you've not limited the scope ... )

5. You're allowed one power - which one will you take?Power. Ooh. )

If anyone has some questions they'd like to ask me, go ahead.
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I already have a link to Newfoundland-born writer Michael Winter's weblog The Big Why on my sidebar, but it occurred to me that I should make specific mention of The Big Why on account of this weblog's literary merit. I met Mr. Winter in person in (I believe) 2001, when he was touring in support of his fictional memoir This All Happened. What impressed me most about his writing style was the ability to capture specific moments in time and to give them just the right emotional spin. He does this wonderfully on his weblog, as for instance in this January 2006 post about a confrontation on the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Winter has been an influence on my [URBAN NOTE] series of posts.

Anyway, go read.
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