Everest and the Toenail

Life in Kathmandu, Nepal

A Word Is All It Takes

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A gentle rain is falling, clouds sitting in the valley. Our next door neighbors suddenly erected an  bright red awning, maybe a wedding, so it is very damp for them.

Said goodbye to a family last night who are traveling onwards with their two daughters. I only wish I had met them earlier – part of the fabric of an ever changing expatriate community, you meet and then they are gone.

On the Saturday afternoon Hash the other week I met a psychologist who specializes in hypochondria. Nice mind, thinks about people that is similar to how I think about characters and discuss people generally. She is out here studying, on a personal and professional journey, looking at integrating eastern techniques like yoga and meditation into more formal western practices.

I told her about my anti-hero Cary Rodondo, a character in my novel, Reprisal, and how I had looked at myself in the mirror one morning when I was writing the book and asked myself where this beast of a man had come from inside me: I had come to understand that we all have the potential within us to be someone really horrible. She said one word, “Control.” And pieces started to fall into place.

This generous, golden thread of meaning and ideas, passed on through conversation, especially when unexpected, is surely one of the joys of being a human being, although the celebration next door is not so joyful at the moment.

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Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

July 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

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Coldsmoke: Blowing It Out Of Somewhere

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The South African freelance designer and calligrapher, Andrew van der Merwe (http://www.writtenword.co.za/home.htm) is a multifaceted artist. Some of his best known works are telling visual statements created on the sea shore in sand. The selfless, crafted pieces are made  more poignant by their brief lifespan. Then the ocean takes their spirit and meaning away on the tide.

In September last year an article about Andrew’s work appeared on the Coldsmoke website – http://www.coldsmokeco.com/blog/2013/09/04/beach-calligraphy-a-south-african-artists-unique-approach-to-the-classic-art-form/

. UPDATE: Coldsmoke have now taken the page down, but no apology, or attempt to put up an accurate, correctly sourced article. Firstly the website got his name wrong, secondly the pictures were not of his work – according to a friend he would never leave footprints – and the picture on the page was not of him.

Suggestion to Coldsmoke. 1. Google: Andrew van der Merwe calligrapher. That’s Andrew, not Alexander. 2. Under the search bar click on images. 3. Select pictures. 4. Replace the existing images with a fulsome apology, and acknowledge the source of the real images. It would go some way to repairing the damage to Andrew’s reputation that shoddy editorial practices have caused.

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Images: copyright © Andrew van der Merwe

 

 

 

Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

July 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

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Pics: From the Rooftop

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The dark shape behind the clouds is Shivapuri Heights and Nagarjun National Park. During the rains the clouds sink low into the mixing bowl of the valley. The prevailing weather is from the east and clouds continuously build up, dissipate or give us rain. Sometimes colder air mixes in from the north and the west and we get terrific thunderstorms.

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Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

July 14, 2014 at 9:42 am

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Snapshot: A Flame In The Darkness

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Night on the banks of the Bagmati River opposite the temple to Lord Shiva: Pashupatinath. Three altars are lit with candles and covered in offerings. Behind the kneeling priests, a crowd of people chant sing and occasionally dance. Bells are rung at the altars as people offer rice and flower petals. Incense burns, fervent lips recite prayers. Across the river beneath the temple, a body is being prepared for cremation. Wrapped in a white shroud the corpse is placed on the funeral pyre. In the darkness, a man walks clockwise around the dark silhouette of the body of his mother. A man sets a torch alight. I turn, distracted by voices. I look back through the darkness. Across the river, a single pillar of flame blossoms yellow-orange in the dark cavity of an open mouth. Shanti. Shanti.

Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

July 9, 2014 at 11:19 am

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The Rain it Raineth…

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The prayer wheel turns slowly in the darkening light, the sky rumbles with thunder and the rain it raineth.

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
  For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut the gate,
  For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
  For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
  For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
  And we’ll strive to please you every day.

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Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

June 30, 2014 at 2:26 pm

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Lord Shiva Touches Down

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Taking off we climb from the roof of the world, banking steeply right to avoid Mount Shivapuri. The city and its millions of lives drops away, the dust and the suffering, the brilliance of the colour and the depth of the spirit sinks beneath the struggling monsoon clouds.

The biggest threats posed to life are nuclear disaster, biological event, or runaway climate change. But there is one other apocalyptic scenario: the threat posed by the speed, depth and profound nature of our intellectual and technical evolution.

Unlike the other three bugaboos, in technology lies the potential for both our salvation and our peril. The cleverness of the physical structure of computers, the precise understanding of the invisible universe that comprises us is compelling. We manipulate electrons that are describable either in terms of speed or momentum, but not both simultaneously. We command individual electrons near the speed of light through logic gates so a picture of the Horse Head Nebula reaches our retinas in full colour as music plays. With a click of a mouse we bring into being faces from across the world.

Alt. Ctrl. Del.

We are compelled by this. Programmers, chip designers, futurists, science fiction writers are locked into this intellectual creation. We have walked a million miles but how far have we got?

As the plane skims the hills of Kathmandu and sinks towards poverty it is a question worth asking. What part of this visionary technological revolution touches the people who live here, piled up against a vast mountain range, a city built on the soft bed of a lake, quivering beneath our wheels as we land? Where, in short from the vast technological reserves of the west are the wonders of this technology: the medicine, the eduction, the riches we have inherited?

A kite calls as it wheels through the smoke rising from the funeral pyres of the temple of Lord Shiva, a crescent moon in his hair from which tumbles the River Ganges. Shiva the phallic destroyer, the navel of the universe, who women turn to when seeking a good marriage. Best if he is on our side.

We at once know so much of our physical world yet so little of the invisible forces that lead to a baby dying on the street down from where I live, while I look back to the very origins of our physical universe and wonder, which way is this revolution going to take us?

Hubble’s Deep View of the Universe Unveils Earliest Galaxies

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 An estimated 10,000 galaxies are revealed in humankind’s deepest portrait of the visible universe ever. Photo credit: NASA/ESA/S. Beckwith(STScI) and The HUDF Team.

 

Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

June 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

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Jane Goodall

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On the coat tails of the CoP I was fortunate to attend a reception last night given in honour of Jane Goodall’s eightieth birthday. I had met her once before, in Nairobi, and we had an extended conversation that has remained with me. I was struck then and last night by her modesty and fierce individual and personal commitment to her cause.

About sixty people were present in the reception pavilion in the gardens of the Shangri-la Hotel. It was a warm evening and she was swamped from the moment she arrived. Her talk, about 40 minutes or so was delivered standing, without notes by a sharp, focused mind. Her work with Chimpanzees in Gombe is well known. It is where she wants to be more than anywhere else. Goodall’s understanding of the natural world and man’s relationship to other animals, not just non-human primates, and the environment is a profound one.

Her main concern now is the effect our environmental legacy is having on young people. She spoke of the need to give them an ethical framework to counter their frustration and helplessness as they confront the inheritance we are leaving behind. Not a fashionable or easy position to take. Beneath her modesty is a fearlessness and a belief that it is not too late to pull out of this dive towards a troubling future. Despite it all she finds a place of optimism.

Goodall has the ability to speak clearly and simply, rationally joining arguments, fueled by emotion and compassion. She believes that the people it is most important to talk to are those who disagree with her. For 300 days a year she travels the world doing just that, talking to CEOs and politicians, patiently explaining to them the dilemmas we are facing and talking about her organization, Roots and Shoots, which has a 150,000 groups worldwide.

I stood close to the front, wanting to fix her and her words in my memory and not miss a word she was saying. Such individuals are rare in their ability to touch us. Reaction to her was quiet and emotional across all the races, ages, nationalities present yesterday evening in Kathmandu.

Exhausted she walked down the steps on the arm of her assistant into the night, lionized but also loved by those who had applauded from their hearts when she finished her talk. Her remarkable and influential life is not over and she will long continue to reach out and touch us and engage the minds of the influential.

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Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

June 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm

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