Prisoners of Geography

These days, I read in the US news about a possible nuclear war with North Korea, a trade war with China, Mexico, and other countries, an invasion of Venezuela, of all places, and of course the reasserted racism of the right. Never before have I felt the urge to understand what the hell is going on in the world around me. I’ve always been an avid reader of history, and the more I read, the harder it is to see simple explanations to anything, but I needed some clarity, and so I picked up a copy of Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall, an experienced war and foreign correspondent for Britain’s Sky News TV. Continue reading

#ALFAEarth: In Search of a Unifying Message for #TheResistance

What next?

The most pressing question since November 8, 2016 (federal election day in the United States). Ever since, I’ve been studying my rights as a US citizen, and donating to various progressive organizations, but still had no idea how to become a part of something larger than myself and my mouse click. Continue reading

Journalists Searching for Ioan Timiş, One of the Border People of 1975

At Mişcarea de Rezistență, Marina Constantinoiu and Istvan Deak continue their long investigative series Frontieriştii (The Border People) launched on March 15, 2016 and documenting the atrocities committed against those who tried to cross Romania’s closed borders between 1949 and 1989.

In their September 30, 2016 installment—In 1975, State Security Accused the Border Guards of Covering Up for the Border People—the two journalists write about a Romanian man who succeeded in fleeing the country and who might now live in the United States. His name is Ioan Timiş and he was born on October 30, 1958 in Borșa-Maramureș, Romania. Continue reading

How to (Not) Kill and Bury Your History

Nobody had died there, an elderly woman from Orşova recently told the journalist. Nobody had died there, it was all legends.

“It’s been more than 26 years since the Revolution, and Romania doesn’t remember them anymore. Or doesn’t want to remember,” writes Marina Constantinoiu, the journalist at Mişcarea de Rezistență who, together with her colleague Istvan Deak, is attempting to salvage a piece of history that everyone seems intent on burying.

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Yes, but What Did They Sound Like?

When my friend Cristina speaks, I listen. Cristina is both a scientist and an artist, and throughout the years she guided me in learning about the world of science and the world of art. Years ago, she explained to me how the Inca irrigated their terraces in Machu Picchu and Tipon, and later she exposed me to the forgotten artisanal Romanian culture. A few months ago she told me about her experience in Greece, where she stood inside the ruins of Mycene (second millennium BCE) and felt the air and the ground vibrate with sound. Cristina knew she was experiencing pressure waves vibrating in the air around her and inside her body, but still, the experience was eerie.

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A Killer Detail: The Art of War

The Art of War - CoverI don’t remember when I bought my copy of The Art of War, but whenever I did, that copy must have been the last one in the store because the front cover is scuffed, yet I bought it anyway. It’s a beautiful book, with dark hardcovers sewn together with red, glossy thread. The words—both in traditional Chinese and English—are printed on cream-colored sheets of paper folded in half with the writing on the outside. From the note on the second page I learned that the book is bound in traditional Chinese style. To turn a page, I slip my finger underneath the thick edge where the sheet is folded. This is the kind of detail that matters if I ever wrote a story about China before the  20th century CE. Continue reading

No Water, No Story

I learned from Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick that a strong novel requires a contended resource base. Something that everybody wants or needs. In my Late Iron Age story, it’s water. Some have it; some had it and lost it. Everybody needs it. Without it, there’s no story. With it, come civilization and the gods who control that water. Continue reading