Friday, June 01, 2007


Heard back from David Zurick: "The term "Southeastern Himalaya" is fine to describe the region you are working with. More specifically, the mountains you refer to are the "Naga Hills" and "Manipur Hills" in Manipur. They are northern extensions of the Arakan Mountains in Myanmar."

So I replied: " I was beginning to refer to the mountain ranges we speak of as the Evelyns in honor of my colleague Evelyn Knight at UK who first used the term Southeastern Himalaya in her search to help people situate the area in their mental geography.... It is one of the more exciting parts of the [DigitizeManipur] venture that we discover the need for new terminology and nomenclature as this grows into an exercise in re-mapping... Language and linguistics seem to be a major foundation in our venture and so does geography, before one gets into the usual suspects (and somewhat suspect, I suspect) fields
of history, sociology and politics."

Monday, February 05, 2007

"That people live longer only means that they feel they can remain kids longer: uncommitted to marriage, serious work, life itself." So thinks Joseph Epstein. I too better get a move on.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


OK so the Hump was flown from Ledo and not from Koirengei or Pallel.

But gotta hunch they were the ancillary airfields I have been calling them, even theugh I now learn they were manned by FDR's American Air Combat Corps.

But the Flying Tigers is a sticky tag so I will let it remain aloft for a bit. Maybe it has already since I started yammering about it in 2002.

If ideas are to stick, as the new book says. they have to be "simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-containing." The Flying Tigers have them all, plus darned sexy.

I am semi-sticky after all. Ha.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I am petulant. I cannot find an essay by Milan Kundera on the web. So spoiled have I become; my demands knows no bounds.

The essay? "Prague: A Disappearing Poem" from a Granta I remember reading. (My serach engine did turn up the reference to 1985 but I want the actual essay dammit.) In it I remember an indelibe image Kindera conjures, an unforgettable metaphor, of a poem slowly disappearing as the page it is written on is set on fire.

This came to mind as I was talking to Evelyn yesterday. Told her the guy who torched the library has been assassinated.

I am planning a research trip for UK and NYPL, a proposal due this coming week. John says a Tibeto-Burman slash Foothills culture center such as the one Evelyn and I are dreaming of at UK would be fantastic, a first of its kind. (Not considering the not inconsiderable work of dharma bums that pass for Tibet studies.)

I told him Manipur is a center, a focal point , a node, an entry point. John wants to bring the library's conservator. I have asked Evelyn to think who might go from UK.

"A small nation can disappear, and it knows it,” said Milan Kundera. "To understand, we must compare."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In “The Knowledge Deficit”, E. D. Hirsch Jr. argues that “background knowledge,” knowledge not explicitly presented in a text, is essential to reading comprehension.

How true I have found this to be when I set out on my Manipur projects.

The utter void of background information is daunting, yet appealing in its challenge. For even if one were able to gather and provide the necessary information, why on earth would anyone devote his time to grasp that essential background knowledge? What incentive can one provide people to encourage them to devote and apply time and energy to a politically and culturally minor area that offers no career prospects whatsoever? And even then, how would one go about, and how long would it take, to build the necessary information critical mass, enough head of steam, before one can undertake effective action?

When there is little to build on, support must come from tangential, unrelated areas. Picture a mangrove tree. Perhaps other leveraging yet seemingly unconnected fields - baseball? digitization? - can provide the necessary impetus and interest for the acquisition of this knowledge.

Remapping is new connections to frame and create new knowledge.

So, imagine my happiness when Dave said today, over coffee at CafĂ© La Fortuna that he wants to make a short video based on asking Americans, with varying degrees of background knowledge, a simple query: "What is Manipur?”

Art can deliver in an instant what reams of paper take generations of scholarship and dissemination.

I could use this video in my work.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A guy in the NYT wrote today:

"There is an almost magical power in naming things. To give a person, an act or a group its name is to define it, assert a measure of control over how it is perceived. PAUL VITELLO