Inventing Air, Blogging Gaza
So… its gonna take a few weeks to get everything up and running toward anything resembling my vision for Black Maps, but that won’t stop me from sharing some interesting tidbits. What to do on such a blank canvas?? I figure, why not start with the categories from the banner up top? Are you game? Today, we’ll hit up science and politics. Tomorrow, I got some good stuff on unsung heroes and buffy, and etymology of maps in the works.
+ Science +
Somebody asked me last night if, as a Philadelphian and science geek, I would be blogging about Benjamin Franklin. To be honest, I hadn’t considered it, but the very question planted a seed in my mind. Why the fuck not? This town has an Independence brew named after the guy and a huge, entertaining museum & research institute dons his name, why not get in on the action?
Well, yesterday I came across an enticing post called blogging the 18th century, which in and of itself, sounds either astoundingly captivating, or boring as all bloody hell. Turns out its the former! Devilstower reviews a new book called the Invention of Air, which chronicles the misadventures of Ben Franklin’s good buddy Joseph Priestly a fancy pants Brit who, despite being hated by pretty much everyone in England, is credited with, oh… discovering oxygen, successfully popularizing science, and launching one of the first attempts to systematically describe English grammar to name a few things. That and he and his family were sent on the run after their home was burned to the ground by the haters.
Devilstower’s post begins thusly:
Steven Johnson’s latest, The Invention of Air opens with a lone passenger examining waterspouts from the deck of a ship sailing to America. To set the stage, I can do no better than lift a couple of paragraphs from Johnson’s introduction.
This was Joseph Priestley, formerly of Hackney, England, en route to his new home in America. At sixty-one years old, he was among the most accomplished men of his generation, rivaled only by Franklin in he the diversity of his interests and influence. He had won the Copley Medal (the Nobel Prize of its day) for his experiments on various gases in his late thirties, and published close to five hundred books and pamphlets on science, politics, and religion since 1761. An ordained minister, he helped found the dissenting Christian sect of Unitarianism. He counted among his close friends the great minds of the Enlightenment and the early Industrial Revolution: Franklin, Richard Price, Josiah Wedgewood, Mathew Boulton, James Watt, Erasmus Darwin.
But while Priestley’s luminous career had established an extensive base of admirers in the newly formed United States, he had booked passage on the Samson thanks to another, more dubious, honor. He had become the most hated man in all of Britian.
Come on. After that, are you really going to stop reading?
point taken. But what of Franklin?
Finally, though the book is most decidedly focused on Priestley, it’s also a good reminder of something that often gets forgotten: Benjamin Franklin was an astoundingly important figure not just in the United States, but around the world. If all that remains of Priestley for most of us is his name next to Oxygen, Franklin is too often reduced down to bifocals, almanacs, a reputation for romantic dalliance, and some funny one liners. Seeing Franklin from Priestley’s perspective, gives you some sense of what a towering figure Franklin actually was, and how vital he was to the enterprise of both science and democracy.
I’m a little less starry-eyed about Captain Bifocals than my buddy over at Kos, but we have an entire blog to explore the bright side, the dark side and the vast grey area of Ben Frank. The Invention of Air seems to give us a good start in filling him out in three (or maybe even four?) dimensions. Less controversial, at least far as my blank slate is concerned, is this “air inventor” whose life was compelling enough for a solid book contract.
The Invention of Air
Riverhead Books 2008
so… speaking of air, what gives with the Israeli air raids and all???
+ Geo Politics +
Wither Gaza? Seems like Israel’s military hopes so, or even hopes to expedite the process, despite the best efforts of France’s Top Model Sarkozy and co. And while rumors are flying of a call for a third Intifada, we can stay informed of the whole brouhaha through this ongoing coverage at electronic Intifada, a sweeping blog that ranges from human rights testimonies, to an editorial about the Gaza Ghetto uprising, to the targeting of Palestinian schools and beyond. Pretty inspiring in the midst of all this.
We had a rally and march this past weekend in Philly following this one last week- at the very end of December:
Just to be clear, I am not, nor will I tolerate a hint of anti-semitism in this space. If anything, there are jokes among my closest jewish friends that I am a “jewmaican” (and 2nd generation at that, my father having self identified as a Jewmaican over thanksgiving jamaican brunch, with tongue firmly placed in his cheek). But the maniacal politics of war, invasion, and persecution are unambiguously fucked up. While a confused interplay of guilt, bigotry, and ignorance creates an opening for many U.S. politicians to muddle the misguided zionist project with our love and support for jewish people, you all are too smart for that, and I trust that your friends and neighbors are as well. So lets do all the cliché things for once- you know “keep it real” “speak truth to power” and so on. Yes? I mean, if even some national level politicians can do it, certainly we can my friends.
Update: Please check out this diary of a Palestinian mother by clicking on this orange section.