A number of years ago my Finnish wife and I attended a reception for the Nobel laureate and former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari. In the 1970s Mr. Ahtisaari worked on the question of Namibian independence from South Africa in the 1970s, something the local host mentioned in his introduction. Unfortunately, and to much snickering, the host pronounced Namibia as “Nambia.” We put it down to our living in the provinces, way down in Atlanta.
Alas, the American president does not share this excuse. Speaking in non-provincial New York yesterday, Mr. Trump declared, “Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient.” Written copies of his remarks reflected the country’s actual name. This makes it clear enough to me that the president of the United States has never heard of Namibia. It is true enough, I guess, that Namibia is a fairly obscure country, and too many people fail to differentiate between the astounding array of cultures on the African continent. In fact, some even think Africa is a country. But it’s still disappointing.
And unseemly. Beyond falling short of the ideal that our leader should be a student of the world, and beyond the obvious lack of a staff willing and able to head off stupid mistakes (if Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State, by golly he’d fix it), Mr. Trump’s engagement with Africa seems to be summed up in his further remark that, “Africa has tremendous business potential. I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.” Kevin Sieff makes the comparison:
And if you’re unfamiliar with King Leopold, well just sort of never mind.
Namibia, by the way, is just slap flat gorgeous. Have a look at some photos in the Namibia Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.
I don’t suppose one needs to live a life of perpetual astonishment. After all it’s adaptive to forget. Our daily grind is perhaps easier to endure in a state of mild amnesia. Muscle memory sets in, routine takes over, and one day seems the same as any other. But days go by, the years hum along, and one can careen towards senility without being unduly startled by anything at all. Surely, there are times when we must be released from our moorings and free ourselves up to notice the peculiarities of everyday life.
Liam Heneghan on travel, at Aeon.co. Photo, the Liffey River, Dublin.
… you’ll enjoy the photographic essay, Inside the Suwalki Gap by Timothy Fadek at RoadsandKingdoms.com. It’s a nice orientation to the region where the quadrennial Zapad (“west” in Russian) Russia/Belarus military exercise has been underway for two days now.
The photo above is Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The only border between the Baltic states and another NATO country is the 64 mile wide Suwalki Gap, where Lithuania touches Poland. See more Poland and Lithuania photos at EarthPhotos.com.
So this clears that up:
Do not imagine that the term “South China Sea” ever implied Chinese ownership. It is a Western construction that dates to about 1900. Previously, European maps referred to it as the China Sea, and before that as part of the Indian Sea. When the Portuguese arrived there in the early sixteenth century they called it the Cham Sea, after the maritime kingdom of coastal Vietnam. Other names at various times include Luzon Sea and (by early Arab traders) the Clove Sea. To China it has long been the South Sea and to Vietnamese the East Sea. The Philippines now refers to it as the West Philippine Sea.
From Philip Bowring, Indonesia and China: The Sea Between in the New York Review of Books online.
May you find solace from the winds somewhere cozy and dry, where you can click through and enjoy this fine selection of weekend reading:
Cleaving to the Medieval, Journeymen Ply Their Trades in Europe by Melissa Eddy in the New York Times
The Fifteenth Century is the Most Interesting Century by Medieval Indonesia on Medium
Threads in the Tapestry of Physics by Sheldon Lee Glashow at inference.com
Going Nowhere by Daniel Judt in The Point Magazine
Bulgaria’s post-1989 demostalgie by Elitza Stanoeva in Eurozine
Once upon a time in 1989 by Slavenka Drakulic in Eurozine
And a book that compliments both these last two articles is Border, a Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova, which I’ve just cracked open this week but which looks most promising.
On word origins:
“Consider the curious use of the word “second” to denote our smallest everyday time interval. (T)he sexagesimal Sumerians or their Babylonian brothers seem to be responsible. An often inconveniently long hour led them to use a smaller part as a unit of time: the sixtieth of an hour or the minute part of the hour or, even more briefly, the minute. Of course, much can happen in the course of a minute, so its sixtieth part—the second minute of an hour—became known to them, and eventually to us, as the second.”
Sheldon Lee Glashow, from Threads in the Tapestry of Physics at Inference-review.com
Sriracha takes its name from Si Racha, a coastal town in Thailand, but you won’t find many green-topped sriracha bottles lining Thai restaurants. Tran created his version of sriracha to be used as a dipping sauce for pho, but it won’t be found at any pho restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, either. Sriracha, or at least what we popularly know as sriracha, is quintessentially American, in birthplace and in spirit.
Sri Racha ain’t so sri. The whole article here.