Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Little Read Blog vs. 3 QuarksDaily.

Peering in vain for certain erotic engravings by Henry Fuseli on line, even defying the Google Safe Search's warning and overstepping the danger zone into the red light district but shuffling back to my patrolled family-friendly playground with nothing but a Tate drawing of a menage-a-trois by the Swiss Romantic artist to show for my right hand's pains, I did stumble across a notable site. I deserved it after so long a frustrating trudge past dozens of his haunted, Blakean images.

Science, art, literature, leftist politics, and a notable slant towards Middle Eastern and Indian-Pakistani affairs amidst the usual highbrow NYRB/LRB types of reader: it's 3QuarksDaily. Contributors span the globalized intelligentsia, with a notable contingent from English-cognizant Asia. It's the usual grad school suspects, coffeehouse exiles, and untenured scribblers with fancy degrees from all over the Ivy League. However, they range across the First and Third Worlds. This distinguishes it from, say, my blog, me mulling over Ireland, this land I live in instead of it, or spiritual realms related only to my own mental peregrinations. Erudite humanists, 3Q contributors scour the Net in search of content for smart people. Nice contrast to opening my server on AOL each morning to be greeted by Britney's post-natal tummy or Brangelina's handfuls.

3Q's listed as winning a "Best Non-European Weblog" award. Brainiac Stephen Pinker, biologist Richard Dawkins, and Talking Head David Bryne blurb gushingly about its work-delaying potential. On the other hand, in a bow to middle-brow demographics, you face a banner ad (at least it's on the side panel) for Paolo Coelho's New Age folderol "The Alchemist." What it also added-- as I expected under "About Us" for my nominal Irish dhá pingin-- an explanation of where quark came from!

When Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig postulated the existence of three new subatomic particles in 1964, Gell-Mann decided to name them "quarks", an unusual word meaning "croak" or "caw" which James Joyce had used in Finnegans Wake: "Three quarks for Muster Mark!" In present-day physics, there are more than three quarks, and some are said to have properties named strangeness and charm, which, we think, describe this weblog as well. We have also used the name to symbolize our connections to science, art, and literature; and because we mistakenly thought it short and memorable.

Works for me as an aide-memoire. I add that Hawkwind had an album, in the start of their long decline post-Lemmy, called "Quark, Strangeness, and Charm." Great title, as is the one for the blog du jour.

At the intersection of where Third World meets First, corner of politics and literature, I find an Aug. 14 3Q post there of a poem. I appear to be the sole inhabitant of my hometown if not nation unmoved by the Olympics. Although in a restaurant today I did admire fleetingly the Logan's Run-look of the fencing outfits, electronic beekeepers. Here's a typically laconic, open-ended reflection on the legacy of China. The boot crushing the face endlessly? Or, harmonious free trade, liberated from human rights, environmental doom, or outsourced, offshored consequences anywhere else in First or Third Worlds desperately laboring for handouts from capital? What happens when you do not need-- contrary to the lessons in my Cold War classrooms-- democracy to ensure prosperity?

Heaven Watches On
by Bai Hua

Twilight falls
My homeland dries out
A line of soldiers pass outside my home
Five willow trees stand before the gate

I sit bored by a window
Watching a man in the street eat beans
Someone opposite is ramming the earth
Someone stands around for no reason
Gazing at the hills opposite

The day is about to go out
Landlords will soon be killed
Let them do as they please
The Reds are on their way

Translation -Simon Patton 2008

Painting of Mao and his Little Red Book.

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