Category Archives: B — READING

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 — “I see day like smoke.”

While the response of Cana­di­an author­i­ties to Covid-19 has not been ide­al, it at least makes a bet­ter-than-aver­age grade, and the ini­tial slug­gish response is quick­ly giv­ing way to a sci­ence-based one. Test­ing lev­els are still woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate. I have to admit that even Ontario’s noto­ri­ous­ly slimy Con­ser­v­a­tive admin­is­tra­tion is show­ing com­pe­tence, and Pre­mier Doug Ford, a con­gen­i­tal fat­head, has been on his best behav­iour. The Prime Min­is­ter is in iso­la­tion because of his wife’s pos­i­tive test, and gives press con­fer­ences alone. Nine­ty per­cent of gov­ern­ment busi­ness is now being con­duct­ed by skype or oth­er vir­tu­al plat­forms. Here in Ontario, pub­lic gath­er­ings are sus­pend­ed, restau­rants are closed except for take-out, and deliv­ery car­ri­ers wear face-masks. Only super­mar­kets and phar­ma­cies remain open. The bor­der is now closed with the Unit­ed States, with var­i­ous eco­nom­ic and med­ical-based excep­tions. There was con­sid­er­able “pan­ic buy­ing” over the week­end, and you can’t find either eggs or toi­let paper for the moment, but even at the height of this pan­ic buy­ing peo­ple remained polite and well-behaved. Super­mar­kets are assur­ing that they will be restocked quick­ly, and prices will remain the same. As of this writ­ing, eight Cana­di­ans have died. The supe­ri­or­i­ty of a sin­gle-pay­er pub­lic health insur­ance sys­tem in such an emer­gency is self-evi­dent beyond the slight­est doubt.

In the U.S., var­i­ous state gov­ern­ments have been tak­ing up the slack of a pathet­i­cal­ly inept and cor­rupt White House, and Amer­i­ca must place it’s hopes in local infra­struc­tures. Notable is Wash­ing­ton State, which has been hard hit and requires dras­tic mea­sures. Wash­ing­ton has about twice as many cas­es as all of Cana­da and has had 52 fatal­i­ties. Washington’s Pub­lic Health author­i­ties are fac­ing a fierce foe. But to demon­strate that state’s cre­ative spir­it, the best online web­site for con­sol­i­dat­ing cur­rent world Covid-19 sta­tis­tics was built as ear­ly as last Decem­ber — by Avi Schiff­man, a sev­en­teen-year-old high school stu­dent in a Seat­tle sub­urb.

Amer­i­can State-lev­el author­i­ties have been respond­ing admirably, but to show you the dif­fer­ence between the two Fed­er­al admin­is­tra­tions, I sub­mit the fol­low­ing image from a White House press con­fer­ence tak­en a few hours ago:

The most basic pro­to­cols in an epi­dem­ic are being vis­i­bly vio­lat­ed by the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent and his staff. This is idio­cy, incom­pe­tence and cor­rup­tion in a nut­shell.

By con­trast, this is a press con­fer­ence, for iden­ti­cal rea­sons, con­duct­ed at the same time by Finance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau and Bank of Cana­da Gov­er­nor Stephen Poloz fol­low­ing the Prime Minister’s solo address:

They are main­tain­ing the prop­er six-foot dis­tance, the few jour­nal­ists present are as well, and the bulk of ques­tions are being asked through the inter­net. This is fol­low­ing pro­to­col. 

Cana­di­ans have had lit­tle expe­ri­ence with epi­demics since the polio out­breaks of the 1950s and the glob­al flu pan­dem­ic of 1918. The most seri­ous recent issue was the SARS event of 2003, which killed 44 Cana­di­ans and was large­ly con­fined to Toron­to. I was work­ing in a med­ical lab­o­ra­to­ry at that time, han­dling poten­tial­ly infec­tious mate­ri­als, so I was kept abreast of the issue and had to fol­low very tight pro­to­cols. To this day, I keep my own home well stocked with dis­pos­able gloves, swabs, clean­ing agents and large quan­ti­ties of hydro­gen per­ox­ide — so I didn’t have to run out and buy any of these items. For that mat­ter, I am also stocked with enough house­hold sup­plies (such as bins of rice, dried beans and peas, flour, cous­cous, mil­let, as well as canned goods) to stay at home for months, if nec­es­sary. Toron­to hos­pi­tals were caught with their pants down dur­ing SARS, and I’m told that stan­dards are con­sid­er­ably bet­ter now. 

But if you go back in his­to­ry, you can learn what hav­ing to deal with the real hor­rors of epi­dem­ic dis­ease is like. I’m present­ly read­ing an amaz­ing book called The Many Voy­ages of Arthur Welling­ton Clah, by Peg­gy Brock. 

Arthur Welling­ton Clah was a Tsimshi­an man born in 1831 in a vil­lage in the Nass Riv­er val­ley of coastal British Colum­bia. At the age of 26, Clah [his hered­i­tary name was Sgała’axł Xsgi­igł] was taught to speak and write Eng­lish by William Dun­can, an Angli­can mis­sion­ary, and adopt­ed a per­son­al ver­sion of a Chris­t­ian reli­gious faith, giv­ing no alle­giance to either the Angli­can or Methodist sects that he was exposed to. Dur­ing his long life, he worked at a wide vari­ety of jobs, was often an ambi­tious entre­pre­neur, and trav­elled wide­ly in B.C., Alas­ka, the Yukon, and Wash­ing­ton State. 

With­in months of learn­ing to write, he began to keep a diary, and he main­tained this diary for the next fifty years. Over this half cen­tu­ry, he pro­duced over 650,000 words of hand-writ­ten entries, the equiv­a­lent of Tolkien’s com­bined Hob­bit, Lord of the Rings, and Sil­mar­il­lion. By 1890 it had evolved into a repos­i­to­ry of his per­son­al philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings and an ambi­tious attempt to write a his­to­ry of his peo­ple. Clah was proud of his work and want­ed to see it pub­lished for pos­ter­i­ty, but the man­u­script lan­guished for a cen­tu­ry in the stacks of the Well­come Library in Lon­don. It presents many dif­fi­cul­ties to researchers because Clah’s Eng­lish was very crude in the begin­ning, and was nev­er the lan­guage he thought in. It con­tains lit­tle punc­tu­a­tion, and because of its idiomat­ic speci­fici­ty can only be puz­zled out by some­one very famil­iar with the com­plex­i­ties of the Tsimshi­an, Nisga’a, Hai­da, Heilt­suk, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Tlin­git cul­tures of the region. Peg­gy Brock’s book draws on the diary and explains its con­text in order to pro­duce a bal­anced biog­ra­phy of Clah. This is admirable and quite dif­fi­cult schol­ar­ly work, so I will not dimin­ish it with any kib­itz­ing.

When Clah began this diary, there were but a hand­ful of Euro­peans in British Colum­bia, and the abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion count­ed hun­dreds of thou­sands. The Tsimshi­an and oth­er coastal peo­ple lived in sub­stan­tial towns of large wood­en build­ings dec­o­rat­ed with art that still daz­zles and amazes the world to this day. By the end of it, the Euro­pean and Asian pop­u­la­tions far out­num­bered them, and most of the 20 or so abo­rig­i­nal nations, who spoke dis­parate lan­guages and pur­sued wide­ly vary­ing lifestyles, had been mas­sive­ly dis­rupt­ed and dimin­ished by the effects of deal­ing with gold-rush­es, incom­ing set­tlers, the impo­si­tion of Colo­nial and then Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment, reli­gious con­ver­sions, the rise of forestry and fish can­ning, urban­ism, the sup­pres­sion of the Pot­latch, and most of all, infec­tious dis­ease. When he made his last entries as a some­what lone­ly and embit­tered man with fail­ing eye­sight, he described the streets of his native vil­lage:

I walk up Git­lax­dan­sk vil­lage. The place half emp­ty, use[d] to be big place. [F]irst time I take my wife in that tribe [,] good many peo­ple [:] strong tribe and rich peo­ple to all tribes on [N]ass riv­er [.] [N]ow tribe very poor. [P]eople very near all out. [G]o easy places the young peo­ple.

While the var­i­ous cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal shocks that abo­rig­i­nal soci­eties in the Pacif­ic North­west (on both sides of the Canadian/American bor­der) expe­ri­enced were seri­ous, noth­ing was as over­whelm­ing­ly destruc­tive as infec­tious dis­ease, par­tic­u­lar­ly small­pox. This began appear­ing as ear­ly as the 1790’s either intro­duced by the Span­ish ships that explored the coast, or more like­ly trav­el­ling up through the Basin & Range regions from the Span­ish set­tle­ments in New Mex­i­co, car­ried by the com­plex trade net­works of the Man­dan. But the real dev­as­ta­tion began in the 1820s, as Amer­i­can set­tlers along the Ore­gon Trail brought small­pox and measles. From then on, the death rate often exceed­ed 80% of the abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion in a sin­gle sea­son, and wave after wave of such pan­dem­ic slaugh­ter drift­ed north­ward into Clah’s home­land. Clah’s vil­lage expe­ri­enced a dis­as­trous small­pox epi­dem­ic when he was five years old.

Arthur Welling­ton Clah [Sgała’axł Xsgi­igł]

Brock writes:

Clah remem­bered the small­pox epi­dem­ic of 1836 and the many who died from the dis­ease. His account of the epi­dem­ic of 1862 is much more detailed. In that year, small­pox, which had been intro­duced to Vic­to­ria via a ship from San Fran­cis­co, quick­ly spread through the Tsimshi­an Reserve at Rocky Bay and then to oth­er camps. Tsimshi­an expelled from Vic­to­ria took the dis­ease north. Fright­ened peo­ple were giv­en a day’s warn­ing to vacate the reserve. They burned their hous­es and blan­kets before leav­ing, and a gun­boat in the bay ensured their depar­ture. Although doc­tors start­ed vac­ci­nat­ing peo­ple in Vic­to­ria, three hun­dred Tsimshi­an had con­tract­ed small­pox and twen­ty had died by late April. Doc­tors also went up the Coast to vac­ci­nate the Abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion, as did Dun­can, who was con­cerned the vac­ci­na­tions were not tak­ing. It is impos­si­ble from the data avail­able to deter­mine their effec­tive­ness. The epi­dem­ic ran its course by Decem­ber, when Clah wrote to Dun­can that there had been 301 deaths and 2,069 sur­vivors among the Fort Simp­son tribes. Pre­sum­ably, Clah had been vac­ci­nat­ed, for he did not get the dis­ease, even though he nursed rel­a­tives with small­pox. The Tsimshi­an also tried treat­ing them­selves with reme­dies such as “woomash” plant, which Clah went up the Nass Riv­er to col­lect in July.

This cat­a­stro­phe rup­tured the spir­i­tu­al cos­mos and social fab­ric of Tsimshi­an soci­ety. Drink­ing and vio­lence were two symp­toms; burn­ing reli­gious para­pher­na­lia and mak­ing sac­ri­fices for abso­lu­tion were oth­ers. Clah believed the Tsimshi­an had angered the Chris­t­ian God by lying, steal­ing, com­mit­ting mur­der, and engag­ing in drunk­en fight­ing. He prayed for God to for­give them and take away the sick­ness. This cri­sis no doubt pushed oth­ers towards Chris­tian­i­ty. Duncan’s mis­sion cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit­ed. 

Epi­dem­ic dis­ease was one of the chief moul­ders of Clah’s life and world­view. Of his dozen chil­dren only three sur­vived to adult­hood. Two sons lived only to the ages of twelve and thir­teen, both killed by measles. Two daugh­ters died in their mid-teens. His last son made it to the age of 23. Far from any fatal­is­tic Sto­icism, the diaries are filled with accounts of the emo­tion­al trau­ma caused by these deaths. But Clah’s res­olute devo­tion to telling his sto­ry is best shown in an entry made as his sight began to fail: “My eyes half blind. I see day like smoke. But I don’t stop writ­ing.” 


24331. (Robert Sil­ver­berg) Recalled to Life
24332. (Hans-Dieter Bad­er) Archae­o­log­i­cal Geo­mag­net­ic Report Owhiti Bay, Wai­heke,
. . . . . Auck­land [arti­cle]
24333. (Guð­varður Már Gunnlaugs­son) Árni Magnússon’s Ini­tial Col­lec­tion [arti­cle]
24334. (Gwich’in Elders) Nành’ Kak Geen­jit Gwich’in Gin­jik
24335. (Francesca Balos­si Restel­li) Yumuk­te­pe Ear­ly Ceram­ic Pro­duc­tion: Dark Ver­sus Light
. . . . . Coloured Wares and the Con­struc­tion of Social Iden­ti­ty [arti­cle]
24336. (Somdeep Sen) Writ­ing the “Refugee Cri­sis” ― Pro­pos­als for Activist Research [arti­cle]
24337. (Bill Gam­mage) The Biggest Estate on Earth ― How Abo­rig­ines Made Aus­tralia
24338. (Christoph Schwall & Bar­bara Hore­js) West­ern Ana­to­lian Impact on Aegean Fig­urines
. . . . . and Reli­gion? [arti­cle]
24339. (Jef­frey D. Stil­well, et al) Dinosaur Sanc­tu­ary on the Chatham Islands, South­west Pacif­ic:
. . . . . First Record of Ther­a­pods from the K-T Bound­ary Takati­ka Grit [arti­cle]
24340. (Dorothée G. Druck­er) Col­la­gen Sta­ble Iso­topes Pro­vide Insights into the End of the
. . . . . Mam­moth Steppe in the Cen­tral East Euro­pean Plains dur­ing the Epi­gravet­t­ian
. . . . . [arti­cle]
24341. (Corinne Sanchez, Véronique Math­ieu & Yvan Malig­orne) Archi­tec­ture mon­u­men­tale et
. . . . . domes­tique à Nar­bonne à l’époque tar­do-répub­li­caine: réex­a­m­en de don­nées
. . . . . anci­ennes et apport des fouilles récentes [arti­cle]


24316. (Matthew Gard­ner, Lore­na Roque & Steve Wamhoff) Cor­po­rate Tax Avoid­ance in the
. . . . . First Year of the Trump Tax Law [report]
24317. (Hec­tor A. Gar­cia) Alpha God ― The Psy­chol­o­gy of Reli­gious Vio­lence and Oppres­sion
24318. (Sing C. Chew) From the Red Sea to the Indi­an Ocean and Beyond ― The Mar­itime
. . . . . “Silk” Roads of the Eurasian World Econ­o­my 200BC-AD500 [arti­cle]
24319. (Jes­si­ca E. Lib­by-Roberts, et al) The Fea­ture­less Trans­mis­sion of Spec­tra of Two Super-
. . . . . Puff Plan­ets [arti­cle]
Read more »


24267. (Don­ald Hoff­man) The Case Against Real­i­ty ― Why Evo­lu­tion Hid the Truth from Our
. . . . . Eyes
24268. [2] (Mary Stof­flet) Dr. Seuss From Then to Now
(Nichol­son Bak­er) The Way the World Works ― Essays:
. . . . 24269. (Nichol­son Bak­er) Fore­ward [pref­ace]
. . . . 24270. (Nichol­son Bak­er) String [arti­cle]
. . . . 24271. (Nichol­son Bak­er) Coins [arti­cle]
. . . . 24272. (Nichol­son Bak­er) How I Met My Wife [arti­cle]
. . . . 24273. (Nichol­son Bak­er) La Mer [arti­cle]
Read more »


24256. (Oula Ilari Seit­so­nen, Vesa-Pekka Her­va & Mika Kun­nari) Aban­doned Refugee Vehi­cles
. . . . . “In the Mid­dle of Nowhere”: Reflec­tions on the Glob­al Refugee Cri­sis from the
. . . . . North­ern Mar­gins of Europe [arti­cle]
24257. (Don­ald R. Prothero) The Sto­ry of the Dinosaurs in 25 Dis­cov­er­ies
24258. (V. Gaffney, et al) Stone­henge Hid­den Land­scapes Project; Geo­phys­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tion
. . . . . and Land­scape Map­ping of the Stone­henge World Her­itage Site [arti­cle]
24259. (André-Yves Bourgès) Géo-topogra­phie et anthro­ponymie fémi­nine dans les Lais de
. . . . . Marie dite « de France » : Fresne et Codre, Guildeluec et Guil­liadu [arti­cle]
Read more »


24234. (Ted Mar­ris-Wolf) Fam­i­ly Bonds: Free Blacks and Re-enslave­ment Law
24235. (Adam Gry­de­høj) Marine Island Economies: Dri­vers, Roles, and Chal­lenges [arti­cle]
24236. (George Papasav­vas & Vasi­liko Kas­sian­idou) The New Sta­tus of Cop­per and Bronze on
. . . . . Cyprus at the End of the Late Bronze Age [arti­cle]
24237. (Sang-Hee Lee) Close Encoun­ters with Humankind ― A Pale­oan­thro­pol­o­gist
. . . . . Inves­ti­gates Our Evolv­ing Species
Read more »


24224. (James H. Bar­rett, R. A. Nichol­son & R. Cerón-Car­ras­co) Archaeo-ichthy­olog­i­cal
. . . . . Evi­dence for Long-term Socioe­co­nom­ic Trends in North­ern Scot­land: 3500 BC to
. . . . . AD 1500 [arti­cle]
24225. (Michael Patrick Lynch) Know-It-All Soci­ety
24226. (Arthur Deconynck) La félic­ité ambiguë de l’arabie heureuse [arti­cle]
24227. (Drew Hay­den Tay­lor) Sir John A: Acts of a Gen­tri­fied Ojib­way Rebel­lion [play]
24228. (Cari­na Bar­bosa Gou­vêa) “Pelos poderes de Mon­tesquieu, eu ten­ho força!” [arti­cle]
24229. (Iain Banks, Eeri­ka Kosk­i­nen-Koivis­to & Oula Seit­so­nen) Pub­lic Engage­ments with
. . . . . Lapland’s Dark Her­itage: Com­mu­ni­ty Archae­ol­o­gy in Finnish Lap­land [arti­cle]
Read more »


24208. (Arthur Machen) The Angels of Mons: The Bow­men and Oth­er Leg­ends of the War
. . . . . [arti­cle]
24209. (Athur Machen) The Bow­men [sto­ry]
24210. (V. Watrous, et al) Econ­o­my and Soci­ety in the Gour­nia Region of Crete [arti­cle]
24211. (Amy Reed) The Boy and Girl who Broke the World
24212. (Ármann Jakob­s­son) Felce, William Mor­ris and the Ice­landic Sagas [review of William
. . . . . Mor­ris and the Ice­landic Sagas by Ian Felce] [review]
24213. (Tom Mason, et al) Spi­ders of Toron­to
Read more »


24195. (Fred C. Woud­huizen) Ori­gin of the Luwian Hiero­glyph­ic Script [arti­cle]
24196. (John Hen­ry Cut­ler) Tom Stet­son On the Trail of the Lost Tribe
24197. (Serge Cassen, et al) La détec­tion des gravures sur deux mono­lithes du haut-cours du
. . . . . Rhône : Le Chemin des Collines à Sion et Le Genevray à Thonon-les-Bains [arti­cle]
24198. (Stephen Greenspan) Annals of Gulli­bil­i­ty
24199. (Arup Majumder) Effect of Land Acqui­si­tion on Social Struc­ture: An Ethno­graph­ic
. . . . . Study of a Vil­lage in Paschim Medinipur Dis­trict, West Ben­gal [arti­cle]
Read more »


27711. (Robert S. Mueller) Report On The Inves­ti­ga­tion Into Russ­ian Inter­fer­ence In The 2016
. . . . . Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion [Wash­ing­ton Post edi­tion]
27712. (Made­line Ash­by) Com­pa­ny Town
27713. (Vale­rio Alfon­so Bruno) The Pro­duc­tion of Fear. Euro­pean Democ­ra­cies in the Age of
. . . . . Pop­ulisms and Tech­noc­ra­cies [arti­cle]
27714. (Esther J. Lee et al) Col­lec­tive Buri­als among Agro-pas­toral Soci­eties in lat­er Neolith­ic
. . . . . Ger­many: Per­spec­tives from Ancient DNA [arti­cle]
27715. (Tomas Chamor­ro-Pre­muz­ic) Why Do So Many Incom­pe­tent Men Become Lead­ers?
(Oliv­er Sacks) The Riv­er of Con­scious­ness:
. . . . 27716. (Oliv­er Sacks) Dar­win and the Mean­ing of Flow­ers [arti­cle]
. . . . 27717. (Oliv­er Sacks) Speed [arti­cle]
. . . . 27718. (Oliv­er Sacks) Sen­tience: The Men­tal Lives of Plants and Worms [arti­cle]
. . . . 27719. (Oliv­er Sacks) The Oth­er Road: Freud as Neu­rol­o­gist [arti­cle]
. . . . 27720. (Oliv­er Sacks) The Facil­i­ty of Mem­o­ry [arti­cle]
. . . . 27721. (Oliv­er Sacks) Mis­hear­ings [arti­cle]
. . . . 27722. (Oliv­er Sacks) The Cre­ative Self [arti­cle]
. . . . 27723. (Oliv­er Sacks) A Gen­er­al Feel­ing of Dis­or­der [arti­cle]
. . . . 27724. (Oliv­er Sacks) The Riv­er of Con­scious­ness [arti­cle]
. . . . 27725. (Oliv­er Sacks) Sco­toma: For­get­ting and Neglect in Sci­ence [arti­cle]
27726. (Rober­tus J. van der Spek) Eth­nic Seg­re­ga­tion in Hel­lenis­tic Baby­lon [arti­cle]
27727. (James Ran­di) The Truth About Uri Geller
27728. (Fiona Bowie) Witch­craft and Heal­ing among the Bang­wa of Cameroon [arti­cle]