The Lure of A Beachfront View

There is no way to have a genuine conversation about Gullah/Geechee culture without talking about real estate. The impact outside development has had on the barrier islands of the Lowcountry, and the people who were there before the golf courses, is huge.

The pressure is on-going; places like Hilton Head are already built up, but other islands such as Sapelo, off the coast of Georgia, are now really feeling the heat of  inflated real estate prices. Couple that money with a dwindling population and it’s easy to see that the long-time residents are facing an uphill battle.

Disclaimer: it would be disingenuous of me not to mention the islands near Savannah where I grew up. I don’t know much about the history of Wilmington Island, and I can’t find much about it right now. All I can say is that it’s a middle-class, somewhat diverse place.

The other island that I lived on, Skidaway…well…not so much. It’s very much built on the Hilton Head gated-community model, complete with one of the 18 hole golf courses being named The Plantation Course. Yep, that’s not loaded imagery at all.

Nothing Is Simple

So I started this blog with the innocent idea of reading about every country in the world, in hopes of educating myself and gaining a broader understanding of my fellow humans (plus eating some excellent food along the way). Nothing wrong with that, right?

BUT. When you really start to think about what that means – not the act of reading and blogging about it, but the “every country in the world” part…that’s where it starts to get tricky. Borders are mostly a political act; artificial lines drawn for the convenience of tax collectors and map makers. They are only as real as people make them – and often that reality is delivered via the barrel of a gun.

I’m not really looking to debate the whole notion of the modern nation-state (at least not this very minute), but I’m becoming much more aware that the list of countries I’m working through does not represent everyone. And that the definition of a particular place, especially as it stands right now, might have come at a steep price for the people who were there before.

Imagine being a person who no one wants; that you don’t even have a country. With all of this in mind, I’m stating my intention to honor that. I will try to pay attention to what might be hidden behind the obvious and be mindful that the stories I’m reading don’t reveal the full picture.

Here’s a good place to start if you’d like to learn more: UNPO – Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization 

Flag of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation
(image from Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not sure yet what I mean, but I know that I mean it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future of printed books…no solid answers have been forthcoming, but I haven’t been liking how I feel. Before you dismiss me out of hand, let me say I am no Luddite. I won’t buy the first version of some new technology only because I don’t want pay to work out the bugs for a huge corporation, but if it’s convenient and gives me more choice, I’ll hop on board pretty quickly. And I’m not much for sticking with something just because that’s how it’s done; nostalgia is like alcohol – a little bit is fun and possibly healthy, but too much makes you the person who doesn’t get invited to the next party.

Music, movies, TV – the switch to a digital distribution stream has been fine for me, but books are a different story. Damn it, I thought writing this down would help me put some shape around my emotions, but it’s not helping yet…

Brainstorm (sentence fragments ahead)! Books are solid. Real. Permanent in a way that words on a screen are not. Amazon is benign now, but if they are the only game in town, how long would they stay that way? I like having books in my house – it makes me feel happy to just look at them. Libraries and book stores are AWESOME – I hate to think of living in a culture that doesn’t have them. Books frequently change the world and then stick around afterward to talk about what happened…long story short, I think we would lose more than we can envision right now if knowledge is just transmitted via a screen. I know that it won’t happen tomorrow, or even in five years, but I have an icky feeling about it…

Ok. I got most of it out. A few disclaimers: I work in Publishing. I personally feed the beast – I make sure files get to Amazon so you can read neat things on your Kindle. I have a Kindle, and I like it. But not as much as a book.

So, getting to the point of why I’m ranting about this on THIS blog…for The Global Reader, I’m going to stick with print as much as I can. I’m going to buy from local bookstores first, chain bookstores second, go to the library when needed, and try to steer clear of Amazon when at all possible. So there’s my thumb in your eye, Mr. Relentless Tide of Progress.

Cleopatra

As can happen sometimes, I jumped into this project with both feet – and without mapping out a schedule. Not really an issue of course, but I’m more than a little behind on my reading, and cooking. Oh well. This is a marathon, not a sprint, right? And lesson learned: I do need to give at least a small amount of thought to my pace, otherwise it will take 10 years to get through this…

Anyway.

To fill in the gap, I thought it would be fun to take a look around town and see if anything of Egypt exists in Cincinnati. As luck would have it, Cleopatra is visiting. How thoughtful of her!

Through mid-September, the Cincinnati Museum is hosting Cleopatra: The Exhibition. It highlights new archeological discoveries of her life and times, and offers up a nuanced image of her as a person and a leader.

Overall, I thought it was well worth the price of admission. I’ll go ahead and get the “negative” (if you even want to call it that) out of the way first: this exhibit is definitely based on the Vegas model of More is More. It is not a calm, soothing museum-like experience; there are lighting effects, a rather confusing flow of images, and more audio cues than you can sometimes process at one time, but viewed in a larger context, it really doesn’t matter. It’s built to handle crowds, and to convey information to a very diverse audience, and it does those things quite nicely.

That said, my husband and I were there on one of the first sunny Friday evenings in memory, and we had the place to ourselves. We had plenty of space and time to wander around, which I really enjoyed. The exhibit is primarily based on artifacts that have been salvaged from the Bay of Alexandria, the city where Cleopatra and her court resided. Just the history about the destruction of parts of the city, mostly from an earthquake and tsunami, was fascinating – especially in light of recent events in Japan.

I think I was most impressed by how stylish and graceful so many of the items were, and how diverse and lively the society appears to have been. These were obviously sophisticated people, so much so that The Romans seem dull and plodding in comparison. If I had been around then, I would have thrown in with the Egyptian crew for sure. Even their religion seemed fun!

Oh and the statues. The best part to me. Some of the smaller ones were very expressive; you can see the emotion and care that the artists put into them. And the pair that guarded Cleopatra’s temple – major wow factor is all I can say. I just hung around them for awhile; it was easy to imagine them at their posts, gleaming in the bright Egyptian sun and how they certainly inspired a sense of awe and reverence. I will probably go back before the exhibit leaves just to see them again.

But that’s enough about that. You deserve to have your own experience without my words rattling around in your head.

And one last thing you learn right at the end – Angelina Jolie is going to be the latest actress to play Cleopatra. I’ll probably go see that too.

Queen Cleopatra
(image from Wikimedia Commons)