Rift #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

 

cracked

 

“Once the ice was covering this ground, smooth, unchanging. Then the boulders were round still, and the humans nowhere to be seen. The world was young.”

You were reading my mind, but know better. You walked here, often, you and your tribe. Then there was no human eye to see you. Even now, I know you’re here, but only your voice reassures me that it is not a dream.

But I see you as you once were. Proud, agile, attuned to the ice, the rocks, the flying creatures in the air, the growing trees.

Now, you are waiting. The rift will pass, the ice will return. And we, unscrupulous hooligans, will go.

 

Turning #writephoto

Turning

hills

 

Yesterday… We walked in this valley, under the burning sun, hand in hand, believing in the eternal summer. Yesterday, perhaps, more than you, my love, I longed for Autumn, and the fall of leaves. Did I believe Time had stopped? Did I believe Earth was flat, after all?

Or was I inebriated, drunk in our love?

But now, Winter has come, silent, ineluctable: the hills are white with snow, our shoes leave no trace on the frozen ground. Nature has taken back what is hers, the air is cold, yesterday’s azure sky is now deep grey.

The light is out.

Cracked #writephoto

Inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt

 

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The ground was dry, it would be some days before rain fell again, perhaps longer. As we walked through the field we saw the small shell, among the debris of the last harvest: was it murder, theft or accident?

You looked at me and said: “Just think, if it was ours, our egg, our unborn child?” I looked again, the pale colour of the thin shell, the fragility of the poor abandoned egg.

Life is so fragile, and yet, it perdures.

A reading of Seveneves

Seveneves, a novel by Neal Stephenson

 

From times immemorial, we have dreamed about it, painted it on caves walls, written fiction and speculations, prayed for it not to happen: it is mankind’s common nightmare, Armageddon, the end of our world, the end of our species. Will it be caused by our own misbehaviour, a punishment from our creator, our poisoning of the Earth, our Mother, or a nuclear holocaust? Neal Stephenson’s novel tells the story, of Armageddon from Space, from an unknown source, by an unknown “Agent”. This book, perhaps his best work to-date, is an uncompromising account of our destruction, down to, literally, a dwindling group of survivors, pitiful remnants of a once arrogant civilisation, ours, now hiding in tin cans orbiting the once beautiful planet. The story is, also, of a possible rebirth, couched in such a way as making the reader wonder: has this happened before? For, in some ways, haven’t we been there: the fire from the sky, the flight, the long terror, the survival of the few?

The description of the destruction of the old Earth by the “Hard Rain”, and of the hopeless, harrowing, and ultimately pathetic struggle of those, chosen to escape to Space, occupies the first and larger part of the novel. We learn of the heroic sacrifices of a few, of human nature, once again, leading to disaster after disaster. The males of the species are wiped out, leaving to the seven Eves the final decisions as to the future of humanity. This prepares the reader for the rebirth, the renewal of mankind from the shelter of the asteroid where the Eves have found refuge.

The second part of the book has a distinctly Arthur C-Clarkian flavour to it, as we sweep through five thousand years of post Zero history: mankind lives mostly on a ring of spatial habitats orbiting the Earth; the “New-Earth” is being seeded with recreated creatures and plants; the descendants of the seven Eves, from whose genes the two billions of “Spacers” derive from, have developed separate cultures, in each of the seven genomes legated by the Eves. This is a world of partial segregation between “races”, where orbital mechanics, robotics and genetics dominate science. The description of the “Cradle” reminded me of the “Fountains of Paradise“, but this legacy is not acknowledged in Stephenson’s notes, so it must be an association of ideas. This world is evidently very different (but very classical in terms of the science fiction literature) from ours, and yet the same old rivalries have reappeared (Blue versus Red).

The reader, after a long journey, is left with many unanswered questions. Stephenson, like Clarke before him, holds the human female as more adapted to the conditions of Space: better able to cope with cramped living conditions, isolation and solitude, biologically superior. The novel shows that the decisions made at the Council of the Seven Eves, to fundamentally conduct a differentiated genetics-enabled rebirth of mankind, initially through parthenogenesis, endure after five millennia. As the Spacers come to meet some of the “rootstock” survivors on the surface of New Earth, will they be considered as alien mutants, cowards who abandoned ship,  and unwelcome intruders, or a curiosity from Space? As we remain baffled by the “Purpose”, the nature of the Agent likewise remains veiled in mystery: judgement of God, random micro blackhole, or, simply, destiny?

Seveneves is a fantastic read, from end to finish. The world Stephenson created, its appeal and at the same time repulsive logic, will stay with us forever. So will the Seven.

 

Nadia Kamel: Salade Maison (Salata Baladi)

From Women Make Movies

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Egyptian filmmaker, Nadia Kamel was born in 1961 in Cairo, where she continues to live and work. The daughter of journalist parents with a long history of political activism, Kamel grew up in a house steeped in progressive politics and a passion for the arts and popular culture. She studied microbiology and chemistry before turning her full attention to her life-long romance with the cinema in 1990. Working as an assistant director to leading independent filmmakers in contemporary Egypt including Atteyat El-Abnoudy, Youssef Chahine and Yousri Nassrallah, Kamel has considerable experience in the making of both documentary and feature films. When Kamel first began to work on her own projects in 2000, she found that a saturated production scene left little space for new directors and unconventional topics. Eventually, she concluded that addressing the daring, often taboo topics, confined to the margins of conventional Egyptian discourse that she hoped to engage with in her projects, she would need to take the risk of producing her own low-budget films. SALATA BALADI (AN EGYPTIAN SALAD), her first film, has been produced in this spirit of indomitable independence. After nearly five years of working solo, she was joined by co-producers Films d’Ici and Ventura Films in the post-production of this family tale celebrating a century of Egyptian cosmopolitanism.

Director’s Note:
“It struck me that our history is contained in the homes we live in, that we are shaped by the ability of these simple structures to resist being defiled.” (Achmat Dangor, Kafka’s Curse)

The original inspiration for this film was simple enough: a love for my family’s stories and a wish to share them. It was a story telling project. The energy that eventually propelled me into this adventure was more complicated. I saw my octogenarian mother aging and my 10-year-old nephew growing up under a shadow of satellite dishes and a rising clamor about some inevitable clash of civilizations. And a mixture of hope and fear overtook me.

My mother’s stories, woven across the 20th century, confound any straightforward understanding of the historical events during which they were played out and are almost always an exception to the reductive homogeneity with which we are taught to view ‘History.’ In my family, religions and cultures get married when they appear to be divorcing in the global arena. In a world where my family’s identities are being squeezed into irreconcilable positions, I needed to document my history before I became apologetic about it and the myth of its extinction was realized.

But as my mother told her stories, I discovered that the film could not simply be a reclaiming of our treasured past: we found ourselves colliding with pockets of denial and silence. Without confronting the taboos of our present, my mother’s stories were reduced to self indulgence and nostalgia. And so my story telling film became a witness to a new story still in the making – a story about my family’s efforts to once more climb the wall that unjustly insists on separating our principles from our humanity.

Image: A panorama taken from the Judge’s Club in Cairo, showing the Nile as well as Geziera. The Sofitel and Grand Hyatt Hotels can be seen in the far right of the photograph. By JasmineEliasOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Berlin, Stadt der Frauen #stadtderfrauen

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Until 28 August the Stadt Museum exhibition, “Stadt der Frauen“, offers in sound and pictures twenty biographies of talented, heroic, sometimes outrageous, human beings, who lived in Berlin, all women.

As is the case almost everywhere in the world, it is mostly men who have written Berlin’s history. In politics, culture and architecture, they have shaped our perception of the city’s evolution. But this is not the whole story.

Even 150 years ago, Berlin was a place where many things could be done that seemed impossible elsewhere – particularly for women. This exhibition presents the life stories of 20 women, showing how they cast off the corset of societal constraints, what they experienced and how they helped to shape the city’s history.

Don’t miss it is you are in the city. From the socialists of the pioneering period preceding World War 1, to the Trümmerfrauen of 1945, go and have a look at courage and grit.

Photo: Trümmerfrau, inspired by Anni Mittelstädt, chairwoman of the Klub der Berliner Trümmerfrauen (Berlin Women’s Rubble-Clearers Club)

Flow #TheDailyPost

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

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We follow the stream of people, along the ancient road. The air is clear, the mists have lifted, we can feel the rays of sunshine on our skin. Sol, our star, is old, perhaps even older than our priests want to admit.

Us, among many, worship Her, and Her daughter Earth, who feed us, keep us alive, against the emptiness of space.

We are Their children, in the flow of time, and we know that when They die, it will be the end of us all.

Image: Auguste Rodin: The Hand of God, via netlex

#FiveSentenceFiction: Family

For Racheal

Mother and Child, Egon SchieleHe woke up, immersed in the low hum of the ship, secure and relaxed in the familiar cabin he shared with Anna: she was already up, probably busy in the kitchen.

It was his birthday: every earth-year Anna would prepare a surprise for him specially for that day, last year it was the hyperspace astrolabe, a marvel of exquisite art and navigation engineering skill: Anna, ever attentive and watchful, his dedicated and beautiful companion, so human in the small imperfections he’d learnt to admire.

The door opened, silently, and there she stood looking at him, her warm smile on the sensual lips: “Good morning my love, are you ready for a cup of coffee? Happy birthday!”

He paused and took Anna in his arms: then he saw the small boy, standing proudly at the door, holding a steaming pot of coffee: on the boy’s face he saw himself, through eons of time.

“You see, I did not forget what you said last year about not having a son with you on this long voyage… He’s so much like his dad!” said Anna, smiling the eternal woman’s and mother’s tenderness, Anna, the near-perfect human, the elite replicant, his lover in the immense solitude of space.