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but I’ve been on a killer deadline for Vanity Fair, one of those twenty day straight all-nighters I have to pull from time to time, so I have been remiss about blogging. This situation will continue till the end of February.

This afternoon, I’m coming up for air for an hour or two and want to talk about some important things that have happened since my last blog.

First of all, two wonderful human beings whom I knew have died.

Alison des Forges was on the Contintental flight that crashed while coming in to Buffalo last Thursday night, killing all abroad. Alison was originally a scholar of Rwandan history who became the leading authority on the l994 genocide and a luminary for Human Rights Watch. I am looking at her meticulously, impartially researched 798-page report on the genocide,”Leave None to Tell the Story.” She was not popular with the current regime of Paul Kagame, whose soldiers also committed atrocities that she documented, chasing some of the genocidaires all the way to Kisangani and killing innocent Congolese along the way.

In l995 we drove one of my wife’s Tutsi relatives for her asylum interview with American immigration in Buffalo. Rose had grown up in Nyanza, the seat of the old Tutsi monarchy until its overthrow in l959, when it became known as Nyabisinga. Then she lived in Kigali, the capital. The interviewer asked her what the colors of the Rwanda flag were, and she didn’t know. Many Rwandan’s don’t.Then she asked her what the largest street in Kigali is, and she didn’t know that either. So he concluded that she hadn’t been living in Kigali, and turned her down. I called Alison, and she put me in touch with a Rwandese who talked with Rose and concluded from her dialect that she could only be from Nyanza/Nyabisinga. We sent the report to immigration, and they reversed their decision and gave her asylum. It took another two years to get her three children over. So Alison gave these four people a chance to have a decent life, which they have made the most of. We will never forget her kindness.

The second person who died was John Updike, the prolific novelist whose effortless facility with words and command of the English language prompted the British critic Wilfrid Sheed to compare him to Fred Astaire. We were both on the Harvard Lampoon and wrote for the New Yorker, but he was twelve years older and I didn’t meet him until 2000, when I was writing a piece for Vanity Fair about Alfred and Blanche Knopf, who founded the distinguished house that published dozens of Updike’s books and we had a delightful three-hour lunch at the Boston Ritz and promised to play a round of golf, which he called the most mystical of sports, together. He was lovely man and “cozy,” as my grandmother used to describe people who are genial and simpatico and you feel right at home with, and  a real man of letters, but writing came so easily to him, it wasn’t the agonizing process it is for most writers, that I think in the end it worked against him. He wasn’t as deep as John Cheever, who chronicled the old WASP exurbs of Westchester County, New York, where I grew up. I came to know Cheever in the last few years of his life. He had worked through his demons and had a wonderful sense of inner laughter by then. He was home free.

Other developments :

In “New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests,” Elizabeth Rosenthal reports in the New York Times that for every acre of rainforest that is cut (according to James Gustave Speth, The Bridge at the Edge of the World, p.1, half the world’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone, and the rate of deforestation in the tropics continues at about an acre a second), fifty acres of new forest are growing on land that was once fermed, logged, or ravage by natural disaster.This new, second-growth forest is blunting the effects of deforestation by absorbing carbon dioxide and offsetting the loss of the original trees as carbon sinks and the enormous amounts of greenhouses gases that the burning of the slashed-down forest is releasing. This may be true, but the loss of the biodiveristy in the primary forest is irreparable. Let’s not get too excited about this revelation. The latest climate change data shows that global warming is proceeding faster than even the most dire scenarios have been projecting, even though I think there is much more going on than the emissions we are responsible for.

Let’s not get distracted.


Eden Bromfield, a bushy-bearded pipe-smoking Ottawa-based British microbiologist and naturalist in the great Victorian tradition of Darwin, Wallace, and Bates,  who is involved in the struggle to stop Hydroquebec from putting four dams on the pristine, torrential Romaine River on spec, in the hope that New England is going to buy the electricity, (we descended the Romaine last August with the actor Roy Dupuis and other members of his heroic grassroots Fondation Rivieres) e-mailed me this story in the Wall Street Journal abut how all the dfam-building in China is increasing the danger of earthquakes

I wrote him back, hi eden, have you heard that if all the dams the various provincial hydros in Canada have proposed are built, it will speed up the earth spins with all the additional weight of the impounded water at the top of the globe, much the way a ballerina raises her hands when she does a pirouette ? and Eden wrote,

Bonjour Alex,
Have not heard from you in a while so I figured that either you were travelling incognito or over doing the manioc / prussic acid (private joke)Yes, it is well known that the concentration of existing reservoirs in the Northern hemisphere has increased the Earth’s spin very very slightly. When Hydro Quebec has finished damming the entire Province including the Romaine, Mecatina, Nastapoka, Great Whale, the Globe’s spin will increase even more. Who knows, it may even change the Earths orbit.

Here are the documents presented at the BAPE, the Bureau d’Audiences Publiques Environmentales. Our Memoire discusses reservoir induced seismicity:

Document DM 43:

Document DM 43.1:

There was also a recent article in the Gazette about how if a certain big chunk of Antarctica breaks off, which it is threatening to do, but not necessarily imminently, it, too, will speed up the earth’s spin.

I also recall people being worried about a megaproject in the neotropics having a similar effect. Anybody know about this ?

As if things are going faster and faster, way too fast, already !

One last thing : if you’ve had a chance to listen to my song, “What’s The Drill ?” I have  new lyrics to add at the very end, repeating  the melody of “the inner calm, the conscious, the joy/in everything that lives/there’s no way of ceasing them” :

After the final no there is always a yes

and that’s my take I guess

How do you like it ? Should I quit my day job or what ?

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