Sunday, December 30, 2007

Excellent Mongolia Paper

Here’s an paper comparing development in Mongolia with that of Montana and Wyoming by the Dutch Neoliberal Paul Treanor. The analysis of economic life in both Mongolia and the American West is incisive, and the prescience of the 7-year-old article is gripping, as the predicted pattern of development is what has happened and is happening in Mongolia. The example of Albania is novel and illuminating. There is no fear here to label poverty as poverty; though the evidence provided for rural Mongolian living conditions is anecdotal, scant, and out-of-date, I wouldn’t contest the assertion. The bibliography and links are excellent. The whole paper is striking, but I’ve excerpted the keenest moments, which are numerous.

Treanor concludes that the two areas are not very comparable. I wonder that a worthy comparison might be made between Montana/Wyoming and Inner Mongolia, which is “part of a larger state” where the “original inhabitants” have been “marginalised for generations”: the point near the end of the paper about a model for invasion piques the substitution of “Han” for “Europeans,” and “Mongols” for “American Indians.”

http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/mongoltana.html

"Mongolia and Wyoming/Montana

"Will regional development in Mongolia follow the model of the comparable areas in North America? The states of Montana and Wyoming (and adjoining areas in Canada) are the only region outside Eurasia, with a comparable climate and population density. At present a 'third-world' pattern, of primate-city growth and rural decline, seems probable in Mongolia. Revised April 2001....

"At present, about 40% of the population are nomadic herders, the highest percentage in the world. Standards of living in rural Mongolia are probably comparable with rural West Africa. The Soviet-promoted local industrial sector has collapsed: it was mainly in Ulaan Bataar anyway. The national economy is now dependent on the export of minerals, especially copper. Maintaining nomadic pastoralism is not a long-term option: it would mean permanent poverty. It would seem that in the long term (more than one generation), the rural areas will lose most of their population. The rest will go to Ulaan Bataar, the only large city...

"Comparing Mongolia with Wyoming/Montana

:: Mongolia :: Wyoming + Montana
[population] density :: 1,5 / km2 :: 2,1 / km2
employment in agriculture :: 40% to 45% :: 6%
ethnic origin :: indigenous Mongol and minorities :: almost entirely post-1850 immigrant
minorities :: Kazakh 6% :: American Indians 4,5% Hispanic 2%
coal output :: 5 million metric tons :: 355 million tons

"[B]oth regions have the same economic basis: mining. No major industry ever developed in Wyoming and Montana anyway: and in Mongolia the non-extractive industrial sector has collapsed. So there has been a certain convergence of the economic base - but that base is better developed in the two US states anyway. Although reports on Mongolia refer to the 'massive' Soviet-built coal mines, Wyoming produces far more coal (over 300 million tons)....

"General agricultural productivity on Mongolian territory is very low. Compare Mongolia with agriculture in Poland (still considered a low-productivity agricultural sector in comparison with western Europe). In 1997...[m]eat production per km2 was 50 times higher in Poland. These figures are for total land area, and reflect primarily the difference in climate, geography, and ecology. In fact much of Mongolia is 'agricultural land', perhaps more than in Poland, but only in the sense that herds sometimes graze there. It took about 40% of the population to reach even that level of meat production....

"The low agricultural productivity reflects the harsh climate of Mongolia. In fact the combination of cold and aridity is probably harsher than in Wyoming and Montana. In relation to the ecological limitations, the inhabitants had successfully adapted to these harsh conditions. The system of pastoral nomadism in Mongolia emerged over a period of thousands of years… It survived almost unchanged until about 1910....

"In other words, there was in Mongolia a unity of culture, history, economy and society based on pastoral nomadism....

"In contrast, the original inhabitants of Wyoming and Montana were militarily defeated, and marginalised for generations. (The Indian Reservations are known, even outside the United States, as examples of marginalisation). An entirely new society and economy was substituted for the existing version. The new population came primarily from rural Europe: for them, food production meant primarily the family farm. During the 19th century, the immigrants developed a cultural adaptation to the steppe/prairie zone: the cattle ranch.... But despite all the great cowboy mythology, the settlement of the American west was not primarily based on ranching. It certainly could not be based on ranching today: the ranch population is now a fraction of the state total....

"The first transcontinental railroad (Union Pacific) was built through Wyoming, two others through Montana. These rail lines had an important effect on the settlement pattern (more on this below). The rail lines were followed by transcontinental roads and motorways, gas pipelines, and the electricity grid. In contrast, the trans-Mongolia rail link was only completed in 1956: it is still single-track and, not electrified. There is only one ancient trade route through Mongolia (along this line), the so-called Tea Road.

"Perhaps the single most important difference is that Mongolia is not part of a larger state - certainly not a rich one. Wyoming and Montana are part of the richest state on earth. How many people would live there, if there were no federal Government transfer payments into the area? Without federal money for roads, military bases, pensions, and educational or health funds, perhaps there would be only coal-miners. A large proportion of the population, in remote areas of the USA, are being 'paid to live there', in this sense - despite the ideological and cultural commitment to the free market....

"(The location of military bases was a typical means for remote areas to secure inflows of federal funds). In Mongolia there were substantial transfers from the Soviet Union until 1989, some also in the form of military base activity. They may have amounted to 30% of GDP. However that was still small in absolute terms. It was not enough, for instance, to allow construction of surfaced roads to the provincial capitals

"A second important factor is the cultural uniformity of the United States, which allows migration to remote areas. The Rocky Mountain states in the USA have the policy option of promoting leisure and retirement housing development... But future in-migration to Mongolia from high-income areas (western Europe) is unlikely. Language and cultural barriers are very great...

"Local government in Mongolia is probably more rational, than its equivalent in the western United States. ...[T]he local government fragmentation, seen in some eastern European countries, has been avoided....

"In Wyoming and Montana there are two distinct types of local government unit: the county, and the seven Indian Reservations.... The reservations have far-reaching autonomy and deal directly with the federal Government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Curiously, the United States and the former Soviet Union share this pattern, of non-comparable ethnic local government units. The Soviet Union had a standard provincial unit, the oblast, but also ethnic autonomous republics (and regions) of varying sizes. True, the system was under tight control of the Communist Party - but nevertheless the principle of ethnic government was accepted. It has survived into the present Russian Federation.... The impact of Indian self-government in the United States is limited: the total Indian and Alaska native population is less than the population of Mongolia... Montana population was 6% Indian in 1994, in Wyoming only 2% are Indian.... Probably the state borders are more of an obstacle to regional policy, than the presence of Indian tribal territories.

"The future regional structure in Mongolia

"There is no indigenous urban tradition in Mongolia, although some large monasteries were quasi-urban settlements....

"Rural densities are determined by the carrying capacity of the pastures: as low as 0,1 persons/km2 in the Gobi, 2 persons/km2 in the forest-steppe zone. Low density does not mean 'evenly spread'. Half the population lives in the three northern aimaks, containing the three main cities Ulaan Bataar, Erdenet and Darhan - on just 11% of the territory. A larger central zone has about two-thirds of the population, on one-third of the territory: it includes the ecologically favoured Khangai region. This concentration appears to be accelerating, with faster growth in the rural aimaks there. In contrast, the desert zone along the southern border with China is empty: so is most of Dornod aimak. There are also some empty areas in the mountains along the northern border, such as the Hentii range north-east of Ulaan Bataar.

"Inside each province, there is also an uneven distribution of population. The 1990 National Atlas shows, that even a nomadic population is concentrated in favourable areas. That means primarily along river valleys, and in the foothills of mountain ranges. In the highest mountain zones (in the west), population is concentrated in the valleys, and in some classic oasis settlements....

"The Gobi population is small enough, in absolute terms, to fit into a few mining and oil towns. In contrast, the forest-steppe zone will probably lose much of its population. Why this prediction? It is extremely unlikely that the nomadic pastoral lifestyle will survive for another generation: overall productivity is extremely low. If a high-productivity form of meat production replaced nomadic herding, the rural population might be partly stabilised. If not, then the rural population will have the choice of staying where they are, as the poorest people in Asia - or migrating. Given the predicted growth of the Chinese economy, and the demographic labour shortage in Russia and western Europe, emigration will probably be easier than at present....

"The exceptional status of Ulaan Bataar is obvious. The industrial centres Darhan, Erdenet and (on a smaller scale Choibalsan), are the result of planned concentration of investment. They were created by decisions at national level. […] Industrialisation of the aimak centres seems improbable. They are remote and relatively small, with no existing industry, except processing meat and hides....

"The most reasonable prediction of the future population distribution is that the majority of Mongolians will live in one city. At present the best example of 'primate city' growth is Tirana in Albania. That is also a country with extreme rural poverty, and a collapsed industrial sector. Tirana has doubled (perhaps tripled) its population in a decade. However Albania also has a rich neighbour, Italy, and an extremely high rate of illegal emigration. And it has an urban tradition in the coastal regions, and an existing urban hierarchy with regional centres. Mongolia's medium-term future is extreme rural poverty, little emigration, and 100% concentration of development in Ulaan Bataar. That suggests massive movement to the capital.

"It would be difficult to build up regional centres, as a balance for this trend (the classic French 'growth pole' model). In the west the only candidate is Hovd, and it could only serve the 3 western aimaks, with 267 000 inhabitants. In the east Choibalsan is the largest centre, but much of the region is completely empty. If it grew, it would not be a regional centre, but an isolated city in the steppe. The aimak centres in the Khangai are the best candidates, for a 'regional' centre... Although Arvaiheer is a small town, it already has a paved road to the capital, and it is growing faster than other aimak centres. But for all these Khangai towns, the problem is the same. Density is low, transport infrastructure is oriented to the capital, there are no transverse routes. If people must travel two days in winter to reach a small regional capital, then they will probably travel in three days to Ulaan Bataar instead. The 'regional pole' policies in Europe moved a selected city upwards in the urban hierarchy, to become the regional centre. This logic applies inside a well-developed urban hierarchy, but not in Mongolia....

"All in all, at least a doubling of the Ulaan Baataar population seems probable, and at least a 40% share of national population, probably ultimately 60%. The UN medium variant projected 2050 population for Mongolia is 4 398 000 so that would mean a city of 1,7 million or 2,7 million. That is not unusual for Asia: some cities in 'Inner Mongolia', part of China, are already in this size range.

"With this scenario in mind, look again at the economy and population distribution in Wyoming/Montana. What makes it different? Why don't 500 000 people live in Billings, Montana, for example? With US standards of living, they can certainly afford it. Why are they living in small towns instead, and what work do they do there? This is the usefulness of the comparison: it allows a possible alternative for the 'Ulaan Bataar scenario' to be formulated.

"From this perspective the comparison with Canada is less useful. The Province of Alberta seems the closest correspondence in terms of climate, landforms and vegetation. However, this table of the Alberta urban hierarchy (from a report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission) indicates why Alberta is not a good comparison: it is more urbanised, and population density is almost 3 times higher.... The higher population density reflects the large area of arable land in Alberta, and 40 years of oil and gas exports.

"Small-town Montana and Wyoming

"Sheridan, Wyoming is a random example. The population is 14 800, the size of the smallest aimak centres in Mongolia. Another 10 000 live in the surrounding Sheridan County. Even a glance at the the Sheridan Directory website shows the vast difference between life in a remote region of a rich country and in a remote area of a very poor country. Sheridan is 215 km from Billings, Montana, the regional centre. It is 700 km from Denver (Colorado), the nearest large city. The Chamber of Commerce profile shows it has 33 doctors and 16 dentists, 6 libraries, 3 swimming pools, 2 golf courses and 13 tennis courts, 4 local radio stations, 38-channel cable tv, and 7 banks. There is not just piped water and electricity, but a sewage system, sewage plant, and even separate storm drains. A rail line, and the Interstate Highway I-90 (Chicago-Seattle), run through the county.

"...[T]he major employers are related to the transcontinental transit function (railroad, motels), or to 'regional development' in the form of federal facilities (Veterans Administration hospital), or nationally funded government services (local government, schools, hospitals). The extractive industries are also represented, mining, wood processing. In turn this supports an extensive retail and personal services sector.

"Transit functions in Sheridan are still important. But when the railroads were the only long-distance transport, they were probably even more important. That leads to the issue of their influence on settlement. And this seems the key to the population distribution in Montana and Wyoming. Of the 21 largest settlements...14 are on a transcontinental rail line....

"A good comparison with Sheridan is the smaller town of Riverton, Wyoming, located off the main transcontinental routes.... More than in Sheridan, the major employers are government-funded, or service the local market... Riverton's regional economy seems dependent on irrigated agriculture, small oil fields, and (for about 30 years) on uranium. The irrigation was a government project: even in such a remote area, the external economy and government intervention have created high-productivity employment....

"Small-town Mongolia

"In contrast to the high standard of living in Sheridan and Riverton, rural Mongolia is still firmly in the Third World. The normal conditions of life are, by US standards, acute poverty. According to the 2000 population census, half the countries households still live in a ger (the traditional nomads tent). Two-thirds of the rural population have no electricity, only 2% have a telephone....

"In rural areas it seems that only those who have successfully continued (or returned to) nomadic herding can avoid destitution. And even those only survive, no more.

"Conclusions

"Some simple conclusions are possible from the comparisons here. The first is that the areas are less comparable than at first sight. In particular, Montana and Wyoming seem to have more energy and mineral resources. These have been developed for a longer period, so that there is a good local technical infrastructure.

"Second, Mongolia seems so disadvantaged for agriculture, that not even Montana and Wyoming are a good comparison. And this position is unlikely to be reversed, because food production elsewhere can be more easily expanded. China already produces 265 times as much meat as Mongolia. In other words, a 0,4% improvement in productivity there, means more meat than a doubling of Mongolian output. The money needed to transform Mongolian agriculture, into something like Wyoming agriculture, can almost certainly be better spent elsewhere. And even Wyoming-style rural development would still mean that most of the rural population migrate to urban areas.

"Third, a related issue: farming areas of Wyoming and Montana were settled by Europeans under very different agricultural conditions. When population was growing faster than the increase in output per hectare, the only way to feed more people was to use more land. In the last generation, that necessity has disappeared. In the European Union, huge areas of agricultural land, created in the last 1500 years, will be abandoned in the next 25 years. Market forces will probably lead to a similar transformation in the USA.... However, that does not necessarily mean total depopulation. The EU openly subsidises such areas, the United States does that more indirectly. US mountain communities still have votes and political influence - enough to get some federal projects diverted to their area ('pork-barrelling'). And they still receive pensions and health care. This hidden transfer funding slows the population mobility, for which the US is famous. It tends to fossilise the existing settlement pattern.

"Mongolian herders have votes too, but there is no 'pork barrel' for them. No rich federal government will build expensive projects in small provincial towns. The despised Soviet Union was the only state which funded places like Baruun-Urt and Mandalgovi. It is hard to imagine Japan or the EU paying to maintain such settlements - if there is no direct economic advantage.

"A fourth conclusion is that Wyoming and Montana have benefited from the multiple transcontinental routes. In Mongolia there is only one, and it passes through Ulaan Bataar anyway. It will not decentralise development....

"A fifth conclusion is about a false idea: that Mongolia can go through a social/technological phase similar to 19th century Wyoming and Montana. In other words, that it can transform itself into something like 20th century Wyoming/Montana - and yet maintain the unity of culture, economy and society associated with the centuries of pastoral nomadism. But there were no indigenous pastoral nomads in Wyoming/Montana. In the 19th century, no immigrant pastoral nomads came to Wyoming/Montana either. There was no switch from pastoral nomadism to ranching. The American Indians did not make a successful economic transition to ranching, or indeed anything else. They were sent to Reservations, and an entirely new culture, economy and society was built up around them by immigrants. Wyoming and Montana are suitable historical models for an invasion of Mongolia, not for its regional development.

"A sixth conclusion is that 'economic regionalisation' of Mongolia is difficult, in both senses of the term.... The economic-spatial structure of Mongolia is, in simple form, Ulaan Bataar plus pasture land. One city at one location, and 33 million head of livestock spread over 1,5 million km2. Of course, that is an exaggeration and a distortion - but less so than in more densely populated and urbanised countries, where there are more centres and networks of all kinds.

"The general conclusion from the comparisons here is: a Wyoming/Montana pattern of settlement and regional development in Mongolia is unlikely. A third-world flight from rural poverty into slums around Ulaan Bataar seems the probable future. The elimination of poverty in that city will probably be dependent on industrialisation - on the model of the Chinese inland cities to the south. Romantic ideas about a 'sustainable' rural development (promoted by some western activists), are not just unlikely, but unethical. There can be no 'return to tradition' here, because the country has far more people than in the traditional period. (In 1918, before the changes, there were 650 000 inhabitants, a quarter of the present population). So-called 'sustainable' herding would condemn the rural population to permanent poverty, since the inherent productivity of the land is so low. If such a lifestyle were subsidised by rich countries (directly, or through tourism), it would transform the rural areas into a 'Mongol Heritage' theme park. No population would voluntarily and permanently choose either of these alternatives: they would evade them by emigration (legal or illegal). If these were the only futures for a majority of the population, then they could only be enforced in the long term, by closing the border and making the country a prison."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What


A hippopotamus skull.

ety

solipsism
Latin: “solus ipse
“myself alone”


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Alt Pitch

In your lifetime, virtual reality will become indistinguishable from physical reality.

Consider that. Now ask yourself: how can you know whether the universe you are experiencing right now is real, or immaterial?

The answer is: you cannot know.

After you have accepted this natural, essential, inescapable state of knowledgelessness. . .and hopelessness. . .what do you then do?

One man went out into the Mongolian steppe.

There, he found horror and glory.


- A mythical hero. -
- A spectacular story. -
- The true nature of existence. -

Melville -- “the sanction of the religion of the meek”

“Bluntly put, a chaplain is the minister of the Prince of Peace serving in the host of the God of War—Mars. As such, he is as incongruous as a musket would be on the altar at Christmas. Why, then, is he there? Because he indirectly subserves the purpose attested by the cannon; because too he lends the sanction of the religion of the meek to that which practically is the abrogation of everything but brute Force.”

--Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (An inside narrative), 1891 (1924)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mongol Empire expansion and fracture


Biology (Wholphin)


photograph: wholphin on the bottom, with the two parents

"A wholphin or wolphin is a rare hybrid, born from a mating of a bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus and a false killer whale Pseudorca crassidens (actually another dolphin species, taxonomically speaking)....

"The first captive wholphin was born in 1985 where a female bottlenose dolphin and a male false killer whale shared a pool. The wholphin's size, color and shape are intermediate between the parent species. Named Kekaimalu, she has 66 teeth - intermediate between a bottlenose (88 teeth) and false killer whale (44 teeth)."

--Wikipedia

Asian Gypsy blog


A blog:

Asian Gypsy - Musings of a Mongolian Wanderer
Daily musings and misadventures of Mongolians

An excerpt:

"This is Miss Mongolia with the most bizarre headgear I have ever seen, one that resembles mountain-goat horns, I presume. There's art, there's eccentric art and then there's just downright bizarre and ridiculous. But to her credit, she seems to be balancing this designer horn-fetish quite well."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Melville

“The remnant of Indians thereabout—all but exterminated in their recent and final war with regular white troops, a war waged by the Red Man for their native soil and natural rights—had been coerced into the occupancy of wilds not very far beyond the Mississippi—wilds then, but now the seats of municipalities and States. Prior to that, the bisons, once countless in processional herds, or browsing as in an endless battle-line over these vast aboriginal pastures, had retreated, dwindled in number, before the hunters...”

--Herman Melville, “John Marr,” 1888

Sunday, December 02, 2007

PEN in Mongolia

"Hello,

"This is an announcement of and invitation to the first meeting about a Mongolian PEN Centre for Writers. The aim of a successful PEN Centre is the promotion of Mongolian literature and its translation and publication around the world. The meeting will be held at 2pm on Wednesday, December 5th at the Mongolian Academy of Traditions. The link to International PEN can be found here: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/ if you would like more information. Please spread the word to anyone who might be interested!

"Thank you,

"Ming Holden
International Relations Advisor, Mongolian Writer's Union
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia"

The Miracle

Sleep is lovely, death is better still,
not to have been born is of course the miracle.

--Heinrich Heine, "Morphine"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Help Adam do a crazy thing and make the world less crazy"


From Adam:

"Hi everyone:

"In January I'll be racing a tuktuk from South India to Nepal for a good cause. Yes, I know it's crazy to race an rickety three-wheeled taxi 2500 miles across the entire subcontinent, but it's for a great charity.

"We're raising $5000 for Mercy Corps, an organization devoted to alleviating suffering, poverty, and oppression by providing disaster relief funds to rebuild communities in places like Darfur and Bangladesh. My hope is that by doing something crazy and getting your support, we can help Mercy Corps make the world a little less crazy. So, please support them by donating here: http://www.quakecitymadcaps.com/donate.html. All donors get a personal hand written postcard from India. And all donations made through PayPal will be matched 100% by an anonymous donor.

"Bay Area friends, please save the date for Sunday, Dec 9th. My teammates and I are having a fundraising party at ShineSF (http://www.rickshaw08.com/). We'll be having a slient auction (lots of art by local artist and restaurant gift certificates, perfect for xmas), raffles (there will be a chance to pie me in the face), bhangra dancing, and bollywood movies.

"Thanks,

"Adam

"PS: You can read more about Mercy Corps at: http://www.mercycorps.org/"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Recommended tags

Material on the Recommended blog is accumulating, so did some categorizing. Highlights:

epigrams

war poetry

philosophical stories

quotes about love

witticisms

To come: Mongolian poetry, obscure poetry, and potentially copyright-infringing stories!

Image from Wikipedia


It's either glamour photography or crime scene photography.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Drownproofing

"If Drownproofing is so good, why isn't it taught at every local pool?

"That is one of the world's great mysteries, but here are some possible explanations. Fred Lanoue invented his technique when television was in its infancy and the Internet hadn't been thought of. He wrote a book, but didn't have modern methods for gaining widespread publicity. Drownproofing doesn't fit with the conventional lifesaving and swimming establishment. It isn't altruistic - you can only save yourself and it isn't a sport which can win medals. It is difficult to convince people that staying afloat is so easy until they have seen a demonstration and tried it for themselves."

http://www.drownproofing.com/

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Distinction

A friend forwarded to me this link:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2007/09/subjective-reality-vs-solipsism/

Pavlina is using "solipsism" as a belief, a firm belief that my consciousness is the only consciousness in existence. I use "solipsism" as an absence of belief, esentially agnosticism towards all of reality. My consciousness might be the only consciousness in existence, or it might not be; I do not and cannot know.

Within formal circles of philosophical study, Pavlina's usage would be termed "metaphysical solipsism;" my usage would be termed "epistemological solipsism."

http://www.radiganneuhalfen.com/index_files/TheSteppePhilosophy.htm

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween

“Then Hallowe'en drew near, and the settlers planned another frolic—this time, had they but known it, of a lineage older than even agriculture; the dread Witch-Sabbath of the primal pre-Aryans, kept alive through ages in the midnight blackness of secret woods, and still hinting at vague terrors under its latter-day mask of comedy and lightness.”

--“The Curse of Yig” by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop, first published in Weird Tales, 1929 November

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Russian America

“His comrades were Slavonian hunters and Russian adventurers, Mongols and Tartars and Siberian aborigines; and through the savages of the new world they had cut a path of blood.”

--Jack London, “Lost Face,” 1910

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"...is the crossroads of the world from now on."

He now spoke reflectively in a fearful mix of Rastafarian glossolalia, old African words and rearranged English, but she understood the message: ‘The people of the Caribbean are different. Their early life in Africa made them so, right from the beginning. Terrible years on the sugar plantations increased the difference between them and white people. We think different. We value different things. We live different. And we must make our living in different ways. The white man has nothing to teach us. We build a good life here, we find the money to buy his radios, his televisions, his Sony Betamaxes, his Toyotas.’

‘Everything you mentioned comes from Japan, not from white people.’

Ras-Negus, always displeased when reality was thrust into his dreams, ignored this...


--James Michener, Caribbean, 1989

Sunday, October 07, 2007

El Paso

by Marty Robbins
released in 1959

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl
Nighttime would find me in Rosa's cantina
Music would play and Felina would whirl

Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina
Wicked and evil while casting her spell
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden
I was in love, but in vain I could tell

One night a wild young cowboy came in
Wild as the West Texas wind
Dashing and daring, a drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina, the girl that I loved

So in anger
I challenged his right for the love of this maiden
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore
My challenge was answered in less than a heartbeat
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor

Just for a moment I stood there in silence
Shocked by the foul, evil deed I had done
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there
I had but one chance and that was to run

Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran
Out where the horses were tied
I caught a good one, it looked like it could run
Up on its back and away I did ride

Just as fast as
I could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the badlands of New Mexico

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless
Everything's gone in life, nothing is left
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death

I saddled up and away I did go
Riding alone in the dark
Maybe tomorrow a bullet will find me
Tonight nothing's worse than this pain in my heart

And at last here
I am on the hill overlooking El Paso
I can see Rosa's cantina below
My love is strong and it pushes me onward
Down off the hill to Felina I go

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys
Off to my left ride a dozen or more
Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me
I have to make it to Rosa's back door

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side
Though I am trying to stay in the saddle
I'm getting weary, unable to ride

But my love for
Felina is strong, and I rise where I've fallen
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest

From out of nowhere Felina has found me
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye


* * *
I read once somewhere that the ironic tragedy of "El Paso" is that the narrator is not shot for being a murderer--they had been in a bar; there would have been witnesses that the cowboy had gone for his gun first. The narrator is chased and shot for being a horse thief.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

of *The Steppe*

As technology makes perfectly simulated virtual universes a fact, the most vital human intellectual endeavor is inquiry into how a conscious mind can discern a physical universe.

The notion that one might be the only conscious mind in existence, known as the “Problem of Other Minds” in the Western philosophical tradition, known to Western psychology as “Solipsism Syndrome,” is abhorrently alien to any human who lives with other humans, as almost all humans do. Yet this same notion is so natural to any human in solitude that it is a primary concern of space agency research into how humans can live in vast, empty, extraterrestrial landscapes.

The Steppe is an exploration of the horror and glory of a human accepting that which is humanly unacceptable, yet logically undeniable.


Two articles on Mongolia mining

New Statesman:

"Not all of these licenses have been exploited yet, but those that have are causing immense problems already – literally carving chunks out of Mongolia’s beautiful landscapes and leaving a legacy of pollution that will be there for years to come. More than 2,000 of the country’s small and medium sized rivers have disappeared, due to mining operations digging up their sources, and there is widespread soil and water pollution from the mercury and cyanide used in the mining and extraction process."


Asia Times:

"The magnitude of potential investment and forecast revenues from deposit sales have led some to christen Mongolia the 'El Dorado' of the new millennium. While this may be a slight exaggeration, the government's National Development Strategy 2021 anticipates per capita income in Mongolia increasing from US$1,100 today to $7,000 in five years and $15,000 by 2021."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

History is the Fiction

"History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction."

--Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Special Advance Reading


A special advance reading of Radigan Neuhalfen's new novel The Steppe will be held at 4:00 pm Thursday, September 27th, at Chinggis Khaan University.

The Steppe is being published by Chinggis Khaan University Press and will be released in October.

"Crossing Mongolia on horseback one summer, Rad encounters a man who lives alone upon the steppe. Known to the nomads as 'Buddha' but calling himself 'Baatar,' the man lives without a horse, a ger, or a herd of sheep, but with a large, mysterious sword that may once have belonged to Genghis Khan. He claims to survive by hunting and eating monstrous, nocturnal 'creatures' of the steppe.

"As Rad questions Baatar, seeking the truth, he becomes drawn into the man's strange reality. Soon, Rad realizes that he, like Baatar, may never wish to leave the steppe, nor be able to."

Chinggis Khaan University is located in the 11th district of Ulaanbaatar, just east of Dashchoilon Monastery, north of the Baga Toiruu.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Surly Beer


New brewery by Macalester alum in Minnesota, where the bridge fell down.

http://www.citypages.com/databank/28/1393/article15757.asp

"...in June a beer magazine, Ratebeer.com, had judged Surly Darkness, the brewery's Russian Imperial Stout, to be the best American beer in the whole entire world. ...Another magazine, Beer Advocate, also just named Surly the No. 1 best brewery in the entire U.S. of A."

"Americans don't really make anything anymore except software, movies, a few medical devices, and beer."

Surly Brewing

Mongolian Pinkeye

It's that time of year again -- summer travel pieces in the Western media! Pretty much the same as last year's. Anyway, here's one from McSweeney's!

Mongolia on Paper by Roy Kesey

"It helped that I had a bad case of conjunctivitis at the time."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good Writing


Cracked.com is a quality humor website. Jay Pinkerton is an editor; contributing writers include Maddox, Mike Nelson, Dave Campbell, and many others.

Many pieces critique other works of humor, opining whether something is funny or not funny, but also why it is funny or not funny, and doing so in a way that is funny. It is like reading insightful "theory of humor."

Most of Cracked's pieces are good. This one, by David Wong, is startlingly good:

7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable

"So did we really need a study to tell us that more than 40 percent of what you say in an e-mail is misunderstood? Well, they did one anyway.

"How many of your friends have you only spoken with online? If 40 percent of your personality has gotten lost in the text transition, do these people even really know you? The people who dislike you via text, on message boards or chatrooms or whatever, is it because you're really incompatible? Or, is it because of the misunderstood 40 percent? And, what about the ones who like you?

"When someone speaks to you face-to-face, what percentage of the meaning is actually in the words, as opposed to the body language and tone of voice? Take a guess.

"It's 7 percent. The other 93 percent is nonverbal, according to studies. No, I don't know how they arrived at that exact number. They have a machine or something. But we didn't need it. I mean, come on.

"When we're living in Text World, all that is stripped away. There's a weird side effect to it, too: absent a sense of the other person's mood, every line we read gets filtered through our own mood instead."

In a Submarine That’s Been Hit

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.

If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.

I can picture in my mind a world without war. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.

I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I said, "Got any shoes you're not using?"

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

The other day when I was walking through the woods, I saw a rabbit standing in front of a candle making shadows of people on a tree.

I have the world's largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world. Perhaps you've seen it.

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

One night I came home very late. It was the next night.

I like to fill my tub up with water, then turn the shower on and act like I'm in a submarine that's been hit.

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

I've been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas. I just think about it.

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

I intend to live forever. So far, so good.


--Steven Wright

Comic Book Heroes





































Thursday, August 30, 2007

the future

"The actual future, in many ways, came without warning. The things that radically changed the world as we know it—instant messaging, picture phones, Napster, scoop-shaped tortilla chips—don’t turn up in the sci-fi visions into which we all bought while reading Jules Verne or George Orwell."

--Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes That Shaped America, Martin J. Smith and Patrick J. Kiger, 2006

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chinese loch monster across the border


"Not just one, but more than a dozen huge creatures can be seen churning across Lake Kanasi in remote western China...

"A rare video filmed by a tourist at the lake in the Heavenly Mountains of the wild Xinjiang region, has reignited debate over the existence...of an legendary beast that has been rumoured for centuries to live in the depths of Lake Kanasi.

"Local myth among the Chinese Mongolians living in the scenic mountains near the Russian and Mongolian borders has it that the animals have been known to drag sheep, cows and even horses from the shore and into the deep to devour them."

--The Times

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Steppe - Questions for Discussion and Review

1. The Classical Greek philosophical school of Skepticism holds that any knowledge of a physical universe is impossible. What is the horrific implication of Skepticism as presented by The Steppe?

2. What is the “gloriful” implication?

3. Moore’s argument for “common sense” over Skepticism, often summed up by the phrase: “Here is a hand,” argues that there is no more logical basis to distrust the perceptions of your senses than there is to trust them. How does Baatar address this argument?

4. Wittgenstein’s argument against Skepticism claims that Skepticism is thinkable only through a misuse of language, specifically through confusion regarding the contextual meaning and usage of the verb “to know.” How does Baatar address this argument?

5. How might The Steppe actually be considered a reductio ad absurdum argument against Skepticism?

6. Solipsism is the absence of belief that other human beings exist as consciousnesses. Despite the acknowledged logical consistency of Solipsism, there has never been a Solipsistic philosopher. Is Baatar a Solipsist?

7. Consider the original final line of The Steppe: “This narrative is dedicated to you, the reader, though I do not know and cannot know whether you exist.” Is Neuhalfen a Solipsist?

8. Consider Rad as an unreliable narrator who reports only his own subjective reality which, in the course of The Steppe, changes through exposure to Baatarism. How might the supernatural elements of Rad’s narration be explained naturally? (For example, in “Chapter Twenty-Two: Makhchin,” despite what Rad describes, an observer might report Rad killing and eating his own horse.)

9. How does The Steppe’s lack of a narrative counterpoint to Rad’s subjective reality reinforce the philosophical tenets of Baatarism?

10. One of The Steppe’s epigraphs alludes to Beowulf and one is taken from the epic poem itself. How is Baatar like Beowulf?

11. How is Baatar like Grendel?


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Spanish Civil War

The tanks had not come up in time and finally had refused to advance, and two of the battalions had failed to attain their objectives. The third had taken theirs, but it formed an untenable salient. The only real result had been a few prisoners, and these had been confided to the tank men to bring back and the tank men had killed them. The General had only failure to show, and they had killed his prisoners.

“What can I write on it?” I asked.

“Nothing that is not in the official communiqué. Have you any whisky in that long flask?”

“Yes.”

He took a drink and licked his lips carefully. He had once been a captain of Hungarian Hussars, and he had once captured a gold train in Siberia when he was a leader of irregular cavalry with the Red Army and held it all one winter when the thermometer went down to forty below zero. We were good friends and he loved whisky, and he is now dead.


--Ernest Hemingway, “Under the Ridge”

Friday, August 10, 2007

Morality

Philidor stared at him incredulously. “You expect us, the Expiationists, to become your soldiers?”

“Why not?” asked Xanten ingenuously. “Your life is at stake no less than ours.”

“No one dies more than once.”

Xanten in his turn evinced shock. “What? Can this be a former gentleman of Hagedorn speaking? Is this the face a man of pride and courage turns to danger? Is this the lesson of history? Of course not! I need not instruct you in this; you are as knowledgeable as I.”

Philidor nodded. “I know that the history of man is not his technical triumphs, his kills, his victories. It is a composite, a mosaic of a trillion pieces, the account of each man’s accommodation with his conscience. This is the true history of the race.”

Xanten made an airy gesture. “A.G. Philidor, you oversimplify grievously. Do you consider me obtuse? There are many kinds of history. They interact. You emphasize morality. But the ultimate basis of morality is survival. What promotes survival is good; what induces mortifaction is bad.”

“Well spoken!” declared Philidor. “But let me propound a parable. May a nation of a million beings destroy a creature who otherwise will infect all with a fatal disease? Yes, you will say. Once more: ten starving beasts hunt you, that they may eat. Will you kill them to save your life? Yes, you will say again, though here you destroy more than you save. Once more: a man inhabits a hut in a lonely valley. A hundred spaceships descend from the sky, and attempt to destroy him. May he destroy these ships in self-defense, even though he is one and they are a hundred thousand? Perhaps you will say yes. What, then, if a whole world, a whole race of beings, pits itself against this single man? May he kill all? What if the attackers are as human as himself? What if he were the creature of the first instance, who otherwise will infect a world with disease? You see, there is no area where a simple touchstone avails. We have searched and found none. Hence, at the risk of sinning against Survival, we—I, at least; I can only speak for myself—have chosen a morality which at least allows me calm. I kill—nothing. I destroy—nothing.”


--Jack Vance, The Last Castle

Monday, August 06, 2007

deep in the glens

“…Reuben’s spirit shone at intervals with an outward gladness; but inwardly there was a cold, cold sorrow, which he compared to the snowdrifts lying deep in the glens and hollows of the rivulets while the leaves were brightly green above.”

--Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Roger Malvin’s Burial”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Khovsgol Diving Expedition


"Steven Schwankert is the founder of Beijing diving school SinoScuba. From August 9 to 23 this year, he will lead the first-ever diving expedition to Lake Khovsgol...

"We're not claiming it's the first time anyone has dived in the lake.... However, it has only been dived a few times, and we are the first diving scientific expedition to the lake.

"...there may be Buddhist relics thrown into the lake in the 1930s by monks who wanted to preserve them during a persecution."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Olon (Hungry)


Olon
(Hungry)
D.Ganbold
1982- Mongolian

Bought a painting last week from the painter D.Ganbold.

The painting charges unusual colors: red for the night sky, turquoise for the wolf, pink for the eyes.

Gers in the UK


Xenophobic Nationalism

“Young urban women are a real problem for conservative nationalists for several reasons. First, they are seen as more European than Asian, which renders problematic the conservative/nationalists’ portrayal of Mongolia as an Asian state. Second, if they are well educated and professionally successful, they are capable of escaping the confines of patriarchy-cum-conservative/xenophobic nationalism and make independent decisions about marriage, partner choice, and childbirth. Third and worse, if they are multi-lingual and/or well-traveled, they have greater chances to ‘betray’ their biological-cultural community by establishing sexual relations with foreign men and giving birth to ‘half-breeds’ with questionable loyalties to the Mongolian state. Fourth and worst, if they are politically prominent, they threaten to invade the last reserves of the masculinist/patriarchal domain and break the male monopoly over the control of the state power. Therefore, the image of womanhood constructed by the conservative/xenophobic nationalists is projected as the full measure of Mongolian women’s Mongolness and, consequently, of their patriotism.”

--Undarya Tumursukh, "Masculine Constructions of National Identity and Man-Made Images of the Mongolian Woman in Post-Socialist Mongolia"

Chris Kaplonski


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dinosaur Soft Parts


North Carolina State University's Mary Schweitzer in Montana, Macalester College's Ray Rogers and Kristi Curry Rogers in Madagascar, and Montana State University's Jack Horner in Mongolia are recovering specimens of the soft tissue of dinosaurs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Age of Info

Discovered Google Earth last night.

1. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
2. Minot, North Dakota
3. Karlsruhe, North Dakota
4. St. Paul, Minnesota
5. Provideniya, Chukotka, Russia
6. Nome, Alaska
7. South Pole
8. Baghdad, Iraq
9. Besancon, France
10. Cancun, Mexico

Saturday, July 21, 2007

8 syllables die hard

“Eight syllables of ass-kicking-American-cowboy awesomeness: ‘Yippee Ki Yay, Motherfucker.’”

--Daniel O'Brien at Cracked

Endure what life

"Never to have lived is best"

--William Butler Yeats, Sophocles' "Oedipus at Colonus"

Finality

But me they’ll lash me in hammock, drop me deep.
Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I’ll dream fast asleep.
I feel it stealing now. Sentry, are you there?
Just ease this darbies at the wrist, and roll me over fair,
I am sleepy and the oozy weeds about me twist.

--Herman Melville, final lines of Billy Budd, Sailor (An inside narrative)

Lyrical

Buckcherry
You're a crazy bitch, but you fuck so good, I'm on top of it
You're crazy but I like the way you fuck me

Sponge
In a world of human wreckage
I'm plowed into the sound

Smile Empty Soul
I do it for the love
That I get from the bottom of a bottle

Kidneythieves
Space in your face I'm gonna drink the fucking ocean
Skip or trip to face the space or fake in this

Steve Earle
I heard a voice calling my name one day
And I followed that voice down a lost highway

Foo Fighters
Hello
I've waited here for you
Everlong

Seether
I'm so afraid of the gift you give me
I don't belong here and I'm not well

Counting Crows
Well I heard you let somebody get their fingers into you
It's getting cold in California
I guess I'll be leaving soon

Shakira
Estoy aqui queriendote, ahogandome
Entre cosas y recuerdos
Que no puedo comprender

Third Eye Blind
Just an old friend coming over now to visit you and
That's what I've become

Uncle Tupelo
And the hardwood floor is home
When morning comes twice a day or not at all

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Adam Waters and the Attack of the Zombie Computers


My old friend from California is, as he puts it, "hunting russian hackers and living quite well." He recently got his words and his mug in a couple news articles.

"'You do not expect banks, airlines or energy companies to be spammers because you assume they are secure and have a lot of guys and are highly incentivised to lock their networks down,' said Adam Waters, chief operating officer of Support Intelligence."



The BBC article is mentioned on the company blog, along with the BBC's security problems.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Do you suppose you'll find a room in Russia--or work?

“Where are you going, Vladimir Ilich?” said the landlord, holding Lenin’s hand and regarding him with pity. “What madness makes you want to return to Russia? What will you do there? Do you suppose you’ll find a room in Russia—or work? Take my advice, Vladimir Ilich, and stay here in peace.”

“I have to go,” Lenin replied.

And he left. He set foot on Russian soil with his little cap, his clean frayed shirt, his shabby coat—an army of one, stubby, pale, and unarmed. Over against him: the boundless Russian land, the sinister, brutalized muzhiks, the roisterous aristocrats, the all-powerful priesthood, the fortresses, palaces, prisons, and barracks, the old laws, the old morals, and the knout. The fearful empire, armed to the teeth. There he stood with his little cap, his tiny Mongolian eyes staring fixedly into the air, while inside him a dancing, whistling demon gnashed his teeth and spoke.

“All this is yours, Vladimir Ilich.”


--Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

friends


The T-34


From Wikipedia’s entry on the Soviet T-34 tank:

“In May 1944, the Wehrmacht had only 304 Panthers operating on the Eastern Front, while the Soviets had increased T-34-85 production to 1,200 tanks per month.

“‘Quantity has a quality all its own.’
--attributed to Joseph Stalin

“As the factory became surrounded by heavy fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad, the situation there grew desperate: stories persist that unpainted T-34 tanks were driven out of the factory into the battlefields around it.”

photo: Germany, Berlin, 1945 May

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Calvin and Hobbes


This website contains the only writing I’ve come across that pinpoints the disturbingly subversive brilliance of Calvin and Hobbes. The visual and textual parallels to the Columbine High School shooting presented by the author, Douglas Ord, are brilliant in themselves.

“As brought to life both by Watterson's ‘magic’ and -- in a second order of activity within the strip -- Calvin's waking dream, Hobbes was obviously so much more than the stuffed animal that ‘others’ saw.

“As a truly noble beast, he became, at different times, the voice of sophistication, of charm, and of irony. A voice, that is, which was almost entirely denied, in Calvin's real world American suburban vicinity...

“But Hobbes, while being an awesomely indulgent and intelligent playmate, was also complex in a different way. As a presence, he both personified and contained the projection outward of a coiled spring rage that -- as kept within the waking dream -- could then rebound on Calvin harmlessly, as he and Hobbes bantered with one another, mocked one another, sometimes even thrashed one another, in the privacy of Calvin's backyard.

“How big was that rage, though, that potential for violence? In this there was a critical uncertainty, and even a mystery, because Hobbes himself had a night-time side that, apparently on Watterson's whim, could stalk and terrorize Calvin: the side that was captured in Calvin's own description: ‘homicidal psycho jungle cat’.”


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Literary Locales


"More than 1,000 picture links to places that figure in the lives and writings of famous authors"

Including a link to Roy Chapman Andrews' Flaming Cliffs of Mongolia.

Return to Mongolia


Have added entries to the Adventuria blog, including the return trip to Mongolia in 2004-05.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Audacity

“It is, in fact, quite an act of ego to sit down in a room, while others are getting on trains and subways, and put one’s vision on paper, and then ask others to pay to read it. Not only to pay but say, ‘Isn’t he brilliant.’ It’s an act of audacity.”

--William Gaddis, in interview with Tom LeClair, 1980, collected in Paper Empire: William Gaddis and the World System, edited by Joseph Tabbi and Rone Shavers, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

In Praise of Slacking

“We had pleased ourselves with delectable visions of the spiritualization of labor.... [but] the clods of earth, which we so constantly belabored and turned over and over, were never etherealized into thought. Our thoughts, on the contrary, were fast becoming cloddish. Our labor symbolized nothing, and left us mentally sluggish in the dusk of the evening. Intellectual activity is incompatible with any large amount of bodily exercise. The yeoman and the scholar—the yeoman and the man of finest moral culture, though not the man of sturdiest sense and integrity—are two distinct individuals, and can never be melted or welded into one substance.”

--Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852

Origin Story

“A great turning-point in the religious history of Mongolia came a few years later when Altan Khan, a powerful prince who was descended from Genghis, invited a Tibetan lama to come and see him and bestowed upon this figure the rank of Dalai Lama. Hence it was a Mongolian prince who created this title for the highest office in the Tibetan Buddhist church, and thereafter the links between Mongolia and the Yellow Faith grew from strength to strength.”

--Nick Middleton, The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia, 1992

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Steppe #6

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

—Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Friends of Mongolia Rural Youth Scholarships 2007-2008

"Friends of Mongolia invites graduating Mongolian secondary school students and current post-secondary students under the age of 25 to apply for the Friends of Mongolia Scholarship, which provides one year full tuition at post-secondary institutions in Mongolia to successful applicants. The program is intended to address what is known as Mongolia's 'reverse gender gap' by providing opportunities for rural males to attend post-secondary institutions. Applicants must be male and able to prove permanent residency outside of Ulaanbaatar. For more information about the program and to receive a copy of the application, please visit http://www.friendsofmongolia.org/. Please distribute this announcement to eligible candidates. Deadline July 20, 2007."

Lone Wolf


An entire gamebook series online. Fantasy adventure; young adult.

Project Aon

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Commemorative 20,000-Togrog Note


I just learned of this note from Eberhard in Germany. I haven't seen any of these or even heard about them, but I'd like to get one.


This is the regular, non-commemorative note:

Friday, June 01, 2007

Batman Hates Ice Cream


Opiate


Karl Marx


“Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again.... Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

--Karl Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right,” 1843

Beyond the Great Wall


"It is the beginning of the twentieth century, and you hope to make your fortune by searching China for a missing archaeologist; if you can find him or the ancient cave of treasures he sought, you will be richly rewarded."

-Gamebooks.org

An Anonymous Email Message and My Response

Hello Mr. Neuhalfen,

I've read your post about Sri Chinmoy visit in Mongolia. First of all I apologize for my poor English and I hope you'll forgive me for that. I hope as proof of freedom of speech include this post in your blog.

I'm a fan of Sri Chinmoy so I'm not really legitimate to reply to your post. So don't trust me completely.

Although I would like to suggest you that when we are speaking about renowned people it's easy to find different opinions. Especially for people that are in the spiritual field. Christians should remember the beginning of their religion after all. Even San Francesco was criticized inside the church and he went in front of the Pope to prove he was not guilty.

If you could use Google at the time of Gandhi, you could find bad reviews from British but also from Hindu extremists. Same probably for Rev. Martin Luther King, bad review from KKK and also from who like Black Panther and other group thought that his non-violence approach was bad. On Mother Teresa there hundreds of negative websites.

I mention these three names on purpose. I've seen Sri Chinmoy be awarded by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the most renowned and internationally respected Indian cultural institution, with the Ghandi Peace Award. He received the award together with Coretta Scott King, the widow of Rev. Martin Luther King. I spoke also about Mother Teresa also because I was there when Sri Chinmoy and Mother Teresa met first time so I've seen how she appreciated the poems and the songs he wrote for her.

Are the words of Rick Ross who also have a very uncertain reputation if we enquire on Google
http://www.rrexposed.u2k.biz/time_line.htm
http://www.suburbia.net/~fun/scn/press/9309-nd.htm
more trustable of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan or Mother Teresa?

About the fact that United Nations asked to Sri Chinmoy to change name, I think is interesting that they did not ask to interrupt the meditations, but to change name of the program. If they would be against the project they would stop it. So I see the permission to keep "The Sri Chinmoy Meditation at United Nation" as a real honour. Of course Sri Chinmoy has no statement in UN, is not employed nor any task is assigned officially to him. Please see the interesting story wrote about Sri Chinmoy and UN from Secretary General U Thant speech writer
http://www.aquaac.org/un/sprtatun.html

About your feeling with the music needless to say Sri Chinmoy is not a musician, but his improvisations on keyboards as any form of art cannot be judged by how complex they are. It's true that also a child can paint like Chagall, or Klee or Pollock. Even the famous speech of lotus of Lord Budda could be done by everyone. When he was asked to explain his teaching, instead of speaking he showed a flower in his hand, remaining silent. Also we could do the same. But probably the audience could not get the same reward.

Back to the music a great admirer of Sri Chinmoy's compositions is one that you mentioned in your post: Ravi Shankar. Is pretty common in art, some likes some not. Many times I've heard people that Pollock paintings are horrible or even scams....

Thanks and good luck for your writer activity

=====

Hello,

On the contrary, your English is fine, far better than my Italian: thank you for learning my native language. Even if your English were less than fine, no apologies nor forgiveness would be necessary.

In the very recent noise over “freedom of speech” in comment forums, I think this consensus is clear: you are not obligated to allow anyone to post anything to a website that you maintain. “Freedom of speech,” as articulated by the framers of the United States Bill of Rights, proclaims that the right to say whatever you wish shall not be infringed upon. “Freedom of speech” addresses spoken words, whereas “freedom of the press” addresses printed words, so perhaps “freedom of the press” is more appropriate here. Though they have since been inscribed in many nations’ founding charters to be emulated by many societies (Mongolia’s constitution proclaims the protection of these same “freedoms,” as I presume Italy’s does as well), how and with what authority these old American notions of “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press” shall or should be applied to the World Wide Web is yet unsettled. “Freedom of the press” is not intended to mean that a person who operates a printing press is obligated to print whatever you wish, but it should mean that you may operate your own printing press and print whatever you wish. An appropriate analogy may be: if you wish to post your words to the Internet, you are free to maintain your own website.

Blogger, the entity that provides the resources that allow for me to maintain this website, is owned by Google Inc., a legal entity that is headquartered in California with offices in many countries. How is this relationship to be understood or moderated: an Italian citizen (I presume from your email address) in Italy (I presume again) interacting with an American citizen in Mongolia who maintains a website through a corporation that transcends physical boundaries? “Freedom of speech”? What entity has the authority to proclaim it and, importantly, to enforce it?

There is no such thing as a universal “freedom of speech” because there is no universal governing body with the authority to proclaim nor protect such a “freedom.”

It is perfectly legitimate for you to reply, and I can only express appreciation for your polite and considered words.

Yes, prominent figures always have both supporters and detractors.

Appeals to Christian faith—indeed, to any sort of faith whatsoever—carry little weight with me.

Gandhi and King and other political leaders—no matter how spiritually focused they may have been, nor how great their accomplishments may have been—were humans and therefore subject to human failings. Such failings, though they may be legitimately criticized, do not diminish their political feats.

Unlike Chinmoy, neither Gandhi nor King declared that they were capable of superhuman feats, such as lifting thousands of pounds with one arm.

Regarding Mother Theresa, I find the arguments of Christopher Hitchens to be rather persuasive.

Your assertion that Rick Ross’ statements might be questionable because his “reputation” might be questionable can be dismissed forthright as irrelevant: it is an example of argumentum ad hominem, one of the most commonly invoked of the formal logical fallacies. To expressly dismiss your assertion: a person with a criminal record is not incapable of identifying and speaking truth.

I specify “identifying truth” because much of the content on Ross’ site was not written by Ross himself, but by journalists for various periodicals, which Ross himself only reprinted, including Andrea Kannapell of the New York Times, Patricia Andrews of the Miami Herald, Alex Ginsberg of the New York Post, and Brian Howard of CityPaper.net.

In my post, the first quotation that I listed from Ross’ website is attributed by Ross to Mike Ervin of the Chicago Tribune.

I read through the speech, which apparently was never delivered; it is not even stated for whom the speech was written. After Weymen Huckabee’s references to a “God” and the will of this “God” and random stories purporting supernatural attributes of the U.N. Meditation Room (dynamite fuses go out all the time: is each place in which a dynamite fuse has gone out a special place?), the speechwriter, Donald Keys, reveals that Chinmoy was “asked from within” to associate himself with the U.N. Keys then claims that “Sri Chinmoy had a particularly poignant and deep relationship with U Thant,” but rather than support this claim with a statement by Secretary-General Thant, which would have been substantial, he presents a statement by Chinmoy, which is not substantial. I could say that I had a deep relationship with Thant, and you could quote me, but that is not as convincing as Thant saying that I had a deep relationship with him.

My opinion: it was an uninspiring concert.

The mythical, anecdotal Buddha is a cool character. I disagree with your assertion that his speech could have been made by anyone: I do not think that an ordinary teacher, when asked to explain her teachings, would have enough imagination, confidence, and self-restraint to be capable of simply displaying a lotus.