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Alb, orașul

Alb, orașul

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snowed bikeOrașul: alb pe alb, fuioare de fum risipindu-se alene în calmul dimineții. Ninge potolit, aproape invizibil, cu fulgi mărunți și aspri ca grăunțele de nisip. În largul Mării Nordului, curentul Golfului și-a luat vacanță și s-a retras spre Kalaallit Nunaat – Grønland, odată verde, azi giuvaer de gheață. De fapt, oceanului nu-i pasă cum se cheamă insula căreia îi încălzește acum țărmurile ca pe vremurile apuse ale lui Erik cel Roșu. De fapt, oceanului nu-i pasă câtuși de puțin.

Alb. Vecinii mei batavi, înfofoliți ca pentru expediție, își curăță trotuarele cu gesturi aproape vesele, de copii puși pe șotii. Zâmbesc și mă salută. La mulți ani. Beste Wensen. E frig în Olanda la minus patru grade. Îmi amintesc de alte ierni, cu troiene mai înalte decât ochii mei de copil, ierni cu Crivăț și ger și foc de lemne în sobă, și îi salut la rându-mi. Beste Wensen. Cele mai bune dorințe. Pentru noi toți.

E liniștit orașul, tăcut sub două palme de zăpadă, uimit pesemne de această iarnă neașteptată și străină, o imigrantă rusoaică trecută de prima tinerețe, cu un zâmbet șmecheresc și ochi albaștri-oțelii. Copii gălăgioși, cu zulufi blonzi își încearcă patinele pe canalele înghețate bocnă peste noapte, sub privirile îngăduitoare ale părinților. Doi oameni de zăpadă cu priviri agere și nas de morcov stau strajă intrării în parc. Este voie?

De rătăcit ne-am rătăcit cu toții în această nouă, neașteptată Narnie. Puțini dintre noi însă ne dorim să nu găsim drumul înapoi – sau cel puțin nu încă. Mai lasă-ne un pic afară, mamă, nu e întuneric încă și ne jucăm așa de frumos… Luminile orașului se aprind una câte una, umbre galbene plutind pe albastrul zăpezii înserate. Închid ochii și gust în vântul iernii miresmele zăpezii de-altădată.

Help out Peter Watts

Help out Peter Watts

PW_WatersideOne of my favourite contemporaries, Canadian SF writer Peter Watts, has been arrested, beaten up and pepper-sprayed on the US-Canadian border on a return trip to Canada. He is now facing felony charges for “assault against a federal officer”. In the words of his friend and fellow SF writer, David Nickle :

Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron
officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He’s home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

Several blogs have taken up this story, most notably Cory Doctorow over on boingboing and John Scalzi on Whatever. Compared to those two oceans this post is just a raindrop, but I’ve decided to put this up anyway, because I like Peter Watts both as a writer and as a blogger – reading his ‘crawl is so enjoyable it must be illegal, at least in the State of Michigan. Also, because the perspective of going through what he did just for crossing a border – in this day and age –  scares the hell outta me.

I’ve donated some of my cold hard cash to go towards his legal defence fund – it’s the least I can do after reading his books for free. That’s right, you’ll find all of his books freely available to download on his site.Read them, copy them, send them to your friends. I’m sure Peter wouldn’t mind. Here’s a donation link to the backlist page on Peter’s website.

We are predators

We are predators

hakaOh yes we are. Right there at the top of the food chain. Yes, even those of us of a vegetarian persuasion, who abhor real furs and are all for conservation and peace and love and kindness to animals. They can afford to be so magnanimous, because they sit right here at the top, with the rest of us omnivores. We’re number one on this planet. In fact, we’re so successful as a species, we probably racked up numbers one to one thousand all to ourselves.

A simple measure of just how successful a predator you are is making a list of the five most frightful things that you believe threatening to your existence right at this moment. Go on, I’ll wait. And I’m willing to bet, dear reader, that by the time you come back, at least three out of five perils on that list are caused, or relate to fellow humans.

We used to fear rustles in the grass, shadows at the cave entrance, footprints in the snow. Now we fear chain collisions, market crashes, identity thieves. How many times per day does an average human cringe in fear of being eaten alive? I’m talking about fear based on actual fact, not the poor souls suffering from phagophobia. Unless you clean the tiger cage at the zoo, I’m guessing your answer is “not at all”.

We build our fortresses in such a way that nothing in the real world can even dream of being our hunter. We fight with mice, mosquitoes and cockroaches – pests, instead of perils. Our biggest fears are hinged on fellow humans, or natural disasters, or disease. We have no natural enemies in the real world, so we imagine unnatural ones – werewolves, vampires, aliens, perilous man-eating beasts. We tell stories about them, about how big and fearful and intelligent they are, how thirsty for our blood – and about how we still win in the end.

You know what omnivore means, right? It comes from ancient Greek. It means, literally, “eats everything”. And we do. Eat everything, that is. Some of the things we ate we probably spat out in disgust, but ate them we did. The Moa birds – we ate those into extinction. The dodos also went their merry way because of us. Our agriculture and habitats irreversibly changed ecosystems, completely destroyed others. Today’s civilization is built on oil – which is nothing but the transformed remains of long-dead organisms. That’s why it’s called “fossil” fuel.

They say love conquers all, but it’s our hunger. We’re hungry for time, we’re hungry for space. We’re hungry for knowledge, sometimes. We’re hungry for more and more resources. We’re hungry for energy. We are a hungry, hungry species, fellow humans.

And we’re well on our way to eating our planet.