BREAKING NEWS/HEADS-UP GENEVA ~ Geopolitics of Oil in Fiction, an opportunity to meet Vahan Zanoyan, author of “The Sacred Sands”


Open class of “Global Energy Economy” course of Prof. Rouben Indjikian at Webster University Geneva, LLC Commons Room, 30 May 2017, 13:10-15:30
Register HERE

At its peak, crude oil represented half of the world’s energy consumption, and it remains the biggest internationally traded commodity. The petroleum industry has evolved under different price regimes, market organizations and power relations between the main producing and consuming countries and companies organizing the supply chains. While the geopolitics of petroleum in the twentieth century was determined by securing access to crude oil, currently it is perceived as a factor disrupting the supply of crude oil, especially from the Middle East, owning bulk of world petroleum reserves. So how important is the geopolitical economy of petroleum and what would be its role in the future energy landscape?

The evolution of oil industry and, in particular, geopolitics of Middle East oil, where fundamental truths are best depicted in a novel, will be presented by its author Vahan Zanoyan*, on a visit to Webster University. Vahan, will explain the complex relationships in the industry and how his vast personal experience as an adviser to oil companies, governments, investors and traders led him to write The Sacred Sands, “a gripping novel that takes the reader inside the Middle Eastern oil industry and regional geopolitics.”

The presentation will be followed by comments from John Gault, a prominent international expert in the oil industry, with an interactive discussion moderated by Rouben Indjikian.

This class is free and open to the public. Register HERE
Tuesday, May 30
Webster University Geneva, LLC Commons Room
Route de Collex 9 1293 Bellevue, Switzerland


Well, those of us who won’t be in Geneva next week can always read the book. I can’t offer you a review at this point because I’ve only just read the “Look Inside” sample on Amazon. So far so good. These reviews are quoted by Amazon:

“the story is relentlessly paced and brimming with historical insight…this will undoubtedly be a feast for anyone who’s hungry for knowledge about the Middle East …  An exceptionally erudite…portrait of a key point in a region’s history.” Kirkus Reviews
 *****
“The scope of this novel is breathtaking… The Sacred Sands is very well written with an intriguing plot that will keep you hooked to the very end. What you will also gain from the book is a clear analysis of the problems in the Middle East, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and the way that we in the West view the region, from the pen of someone who has a deep understanding of this area. Vahan Zanoyan is a consummate storyteller and has managed to present an incredibly complex subject in a clear, erudite, and most certainly entertaining way. I urge you to read this book – it is the most accomplished novel I have read this year and I can thoroughly recommend it.” Readers’ Favorite Reviews

Antidotes to Tyranny and Concentration Camps of the Mind from Spaulding (UK) polymath, Colin Blundell

Colin Blundell

I love the way the obscene word ‘TRUMP’ doesn’t appear once in Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny: Lessons from the 20th Century (Bodley Head 2017 ISBN 9781847924889 – UK) [Tim Duggins Books ISBN-13: 978-0804190114 – US],  which is clearly directed that way. The ‘fascism’ that’s sweeping the whole world is entirely represented by the five letters of the American president’s name and by anybody who associates with them – Mayhem in the UK, for instance.

“Fascism?” says the simplistic Tory MP, “Where are the Concentration Camps?” My answer is, “You don’t need them – you do things far more subtly these days. You have learned a lesson from the past – not to be quite so callous…” In the thirties, the Camps were a physical symbol of depriving individuals of their humanity, starving them, murdering them… Now there’s a Concentration Camp of the Mind. You do it by depriving the ‘plebs’ of aid & sustenance & meaningful jobs, and you force them to work till they’re too old to stand upright so they don’t have time or energy for protest. You peddle lies like the need for ‘Austerity’. Or you plug them into e-devices and they just die that way quietly at home or on the streets, sometimes by their own hand.

Here are the TWENTY LESSONS outlined by Timothy Snyder. The headings are his, the descriptors are mine. He brilliantly details the way in which the history of the 20th Century offers ‘lessons’ – the antidote to TYRANNY.

1. DO NOT OBEY IN ADVANCE When you signify approval by voting for them or falling in with their machinations against any better judgement you might have had you make them think they’re winning
2. DEFEND INSTITUTIONS The United Nations, The European Project, all regulatory organisations – institutions of this kind protect us from their greed & exploitation
3. BEWARE THE ONE PARTY STATE Resist all indications that they’re the only way, that there’s no alternative – listen out for the words…
4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FACE OF THE WORLD Remove all their hate signs
5. REMEMBER PROFESSIONAL ETHICS Expose corruption in high places, share signs of their chicanery at all levels, support honesty
6. BE WARY OF PARAMILITARIES Resist their uniforms & insignia of power
7. IF YOU MUST BE ARMED, BE REFLECTIVE Verify everything for yourself. Be prepared to say NO to them! Thus far no further…
8. STAND OUT Say something different, speak the alternative words, don’t repeat their mantras like a parrot – many do!
9. BE KIND TO OUR LANGUAGE Study what they say carefully; read books; say your own thing; notice all abstractions – they beguile us into agreement
10. BELIEVE IN TRUTH Don’t accept all this post-truth/fake news stuff
11. INVESTIGATE Verify, verify… Don’t go for sound-bites & headlines; be prepared to read lengthily
12. MAKE EYE CONTACT & SMALL TALK Stay in touch with real people
13. PRACTISE CORPOREAL POLITICS March! – don’t let them tell you it’s pointless. They’d have you glued to the telly. Feel the truth of things deep in your somatic sensibility. Don’t go along with their emotional bluster
14. ESTABLISH A PRIVATE LIFE Resist all attempts to have them spy on you
15. CONTRIBUTE TO GOOD CAUSES Support AVAAZ, 38 Degrees, War on Want, Greenpeace – whatever grabs you. Start small
16. LEARN FROM PEERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES Relate to as many other like-minded people as you can across the world so you know you’re not alone
17. LISTEN FOR DANGEROUS WORDS Be angry about the way words snake into your being – ‘extremism’, ‘terrorism’ for example
18. BE CALM WHEN THE UNTHINKABLE ARRIVES Notice how an event (23rd March 2017) like the carnage caused by the nutter who drove into people on Westminster Bridge (Earth has not anything to show more fair/Dull would he be of soul who could pass by/A sight so touching in its majesty…) is exploited by them to keep us in a state of terror. ‘Act of terrorism’, ‘an attack on Democracy…’ [abstraction] – ‘must be willing to give up certain liberties’ [abstraction] in order to maintain security [abstraction]. Focus on the enemy without so we forget the enemy within. Hitlerian trick
19. BE A PATRIOT rather than a nationalist. It’s so nice to wake up on a spring morning in the place where you live
20. BE AS COURAGEOUS AS YOU CAN Resist all tyranny, whatever form it takes. Be content in your self

© Colin Blundell


Blogging “I hate the word! Like I hate most things in the e-world. I will not join the Twits twittering… Things that are worth saying are worth saying at length…” Colin Blundell

I Colin Blundell’s work. It never fails that I learn something or think about something differently when I visit Colin’s “Globbing” as he calls it. While I was busy encouraging folks to read Prof. Snyder’s book, Colin was already using it as a jumping-off point for the delivery of his own observations.  / J.D.

Colin says of himself:

“I work with people to help them gain a deeper insight for themselves into who they are and what they might do.

“Having escaped wage slavery in 1991, I began to suit myself when I worked, never really thinking of it as ‘working’ but more like the opportunity to sample various hotels and training venues round the country and as a way of paying for the renovation of an ancient decaying heap that I could call ‘home’.

“Since 1991, I’ve taught NLP, Accelerated Learning, Covey’s Seven Habits, Change Management, Problem-solving and Time Management. Currently, when I feel like it or when networkers ask to pick my brain, I teach the art & practice of the Enneagram and a robust coaching model deriving therefrom.

“The ‘Enneagram Apprentice’ series is for friends who have attended my Enneagram course. It follows up and develops the ideas created by them there.

“I write poems, novels, philosophical tomes, music and make watercolours and Magic Cities.

“I hand-make paperback books.

“I do long distance motorbike treks.

“‘The best is still to come…’ Stephen Covey (when he was 70)

“If you’re expecting short blogs from me you’ll be severely disappointed! Sound Bite Exhortations are enticing or immediately attractive but say very little in the end… The knack is how to get on the inside of a seemingly snappy apophthegm. I teach how to make ideas come to life.”

– Colin Blundell


I encourage you to read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, to  listen to the videos of Snyder’s lectures and – Yes! — to visit my friend Colin Blundell for wise, interesting and honest reading. A good complementary read for On Tyranny is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, / J.D.



Prof. Timothy Snyder (This photograph and biography are from Dr. Snyder’s Amazon page.

Timothy Snyder is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. Before joining the faculty at Yale in 2001, he held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.

Professor Snyder spent some ten years in Europe, and speaks five and reads ten European languages. Among his publications are several award-winning books, all of which have been translated: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1998, revised edition 2016); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (2008); and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010). Bloodlands won twelve awards including the Emerson Prize in the Humanities, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Leipzig Award for European Understanding, and the Hannah Arendt Prize in Political Thought. It has been translated into more than thirty languages, was named to twelve book-of-the-year lists, and was a bestseller in six countries. His book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, was published by Crown Books in September 2015 and in twenty-one foreign editions thereafter.

Snyder is also the co-editor of Wall Around the West: State Borders and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (2001) and Stalin and Europe: Terror, War, Domination (2013). He helped Tony Judt compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012).

Some of Snyder’s essays on the Ukrainian revolution were published in in Russian and Ukrainian as Ukrainian History, Russian Politics, European Futures (2014). Other essays will be published in Czech as The Politics of Life and Death (2015). Snyder sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Modern European History and East European Politics and Societies. His scholarly articles have appeared in Past and Present, the Journal of Cold War Studies, and other journals; he has also written for The New York Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, and The New Republic as well as for The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers. Snyder was the recipient of an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2015.

Timothy Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and sits on the advisory councils of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research and other organizations.

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (24): Julia Alvarez, The Woman I Kept to Myself

Dominican-American Julia Alvarez (b. 1950), novelist, essayist, poet, educator, a prominent critically and commercially successful literary Latina
Dominican-American Julia Alvarez (b. 1950), novelist, essayist, poet, educator, a prominent critically and commercially successful Latina

“Even I, childless one, intend to write
New Yorker fiction in the Cheever style
but all my stories tell where I came from.”
Family Tree

It’s always a special pleasure to explore the work of those who dance on the hyphen, who don’t quite fit here or there and have to make something new out of their life circumstance. Unique qualities of clarity and color seem to come from the richness inspired by bilingual skills and from that uncomfortable hyphenated place with its singular view. It leads as it must for any observant person to the rigorous exploration of the human condition and of cultural and gender-based stereotypes.

” … definitely, still, there is a glass ceiling in terms of female novelists. If we have a female character, she might be engaging in something monumental but she’s also changing the diapers and doing the cooking, still doing things which get it called a woman’s novel. You know, a man’s novel is universal; a woman’s novel is for women.”

UnknownFrom the hyphen the Dominican-American Julia Alvarez birthed her first gift to us, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Algonquin Books, 1991), a semi-autobiographical young adult work followed three years later with In the Time of  the Butterflies (Algonquin Books, 1994). The first book gave us the immigrant experience. The second established Julia as a writer who wanted to go a step beyond to bring to light and bare witness to the events – tragic, liberating and inspiring – of las hermanas Mirabal (the sisters Mirabal), known as Las Miraposas, the Butterflies. They were four sisters at the heart of the fight against the rule of the Dominican despot, Rafael Leonidas Truillo. He had three of the four sisters murdered along with some 50,000 other Dominicans and Haitians.

hermanas-mirabal-stamp1985

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It’s not surprising that Julia Alvarez chose to write about Las Mariposas. She was born in New York in 1950 when her parents first attempted to establish themselves in the U.S., but she lived her early years in the Dominican Republic. She lived there until she was ten years old when her family was forced to leave the country after Julia’s father participated in a failed attempt to overthrow Truillo.

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I think that one of the reasons I began as a poet, and poetry was my first love, in English, was because … I especially like cadenced, rhymed poetry, and poetry in English was a way of still speaking Spanish. Because it made language more musical, more cadenced…rhyme, of course, because every other word in Spanish rhymes with an “a” or an “o” ending, so there was a way in which, to me, English poetry was a way to speak Spanish in English.

Over the past twenty-five years, Julia Alvarez prolific pen has poured out fiction for adults and young adults, collections of essays and, of course, poetry.  The Woman I Kept to Myself (Algonquin, 2004) is a collection in which she explores her life from the perspective of middle age …

We learn through what we love to love the world —
which might be all that we are here to do.
Meditation

There are seventy-five poems, each composed of three ten-line stanzas, a consistency that has inspired some mixed reviews. I find this style rather sophisticated and it lends cohesiveness to the work, which is certainly a celebration of the quotidian. Sometimes the conclusions are what is to be expected … nothing exciting, just life as usual; something accepted, not fought against. There’s a certain virtue in that.

We make our art
out of ourselves and what we make makes us.
Tom

© 2016, Jamie Dedes; portrait is from Julia’s Amazon page.

SATURDAY … prescheduled post, no computer, no writing … just a good “LONG” escapist read

Oscar loves a good mystery.
Oscar loves a good mystery.

Brevity might be the soul of wit (Shakespeare) and of lingerie (Dorothy Parker), but it has now evolved to be ubiquitous and fashionable in a wordy kind of way… Twitter stories, flash fiction, even one-sentence poems and one word responses to emails. However tantalizing or practical some of these are, too much abbreviated word-play is a bit like feeding mind and heart on nothing but hor d’oeuvres. I want to shout, “WHERE’S THE MAIN COURSE!”

An appreciation for short snappy creative writing seems somehow inevitable though. While the world lauds mindfulness, it demands multitasking and the expectations for productivity are ever-expanding. We just don’t have time for lengthy reads… and maybe we don’t have patience anymore. In any given moment it seems a thousand things call for our attention.

No doubt we also owe some of the penchant for sound-bites to our explosion of tech toys and social networking. I could certainly give them up if I had to, but I’d rather not. Nor do I want to give up the convenience and economy of my Kindle library, which is perfect for living in small spaces.

Nonetheless, on Saturdays like this – with no immediate deadlines, no appointments, no chores – I love to live in my big chair with a book and an iced coffee mojito. What luxury to get lost for long hours in an imagined world, painstakingly created, served up on paper with good old-fashioned paper binding.

Wishing you a pleasant Saturday.
Jamie

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Nothing beats a good thriller for escape and John Lescroart is the absolute best
IMHO nothing beats a good legal thriller for escape and John Lescroart is the absolute master – my read for the day.

International bestseller John Lescroart joins Alex Dolan on Thrill Seekers, Authors on Air, Blog Talk Radio

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