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Originally, I thought I’d go back and finish my original post on Mali and use the completed post to test out other blogging platforms, but I just don’t have the momentum at the moment. So I’m just going to throw down here, in no particular order, some of the other information that I meant to put in the original post.

In the New York Times‘ “Borderlines” article, they describe the city of “Timbuktu” as “fabled.” It had its heyday in the 13th through 17th centuries and became rich due to its location on an Arab trade route. The city is known for two things (perhaps others, but these are the two I know): Its library and its shrines. There was a wonderful article in Smithsonian about the efforts to save the medieval manuscripts that existed in Mali. It’s really a fascinating story and I high, highly recommend reading it. I also recommend reading it because it puts real people into what, for many of us, is a story about nameless forces.

The second thing Timbuktu in known for is its shrines to the saints. The city is sometimes called the “city of 333 saints.” Sufi Islam is not considered a “sect”, but it is tradition within Islam that emphasized the mystical aspect of the religion. Most Sufis are Sunni Muslims. Sufis have a tradition of revering individuals who have been important to the tradition and who are called saints. Shrines to saints have been built around their tombs. This is a controversial aspect of Sufism. Such shrines exist in other parts of the world but Timbuktu had many of them reflecting their own style of architecture which I presume is indigenous. I highly recommend that design geeks take a moment to look for some images of these buildings. The shrines in Timbuktu were classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The rise of Islamism reflects not only the tensions between the Muslim world and the rest of the world, but a split within the Muslim world as well.

Salafism is a movement that began within Islam in the 18th century with Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and is sometimes called “Wahhabism.” It is a fundamentalist version that seeks to return to the ways of the seventh century. There are divisions within Salafism, but the on that concerns us here is Jihadist Salafism. Just keep in mind that all Salafists do not advocate offensive Jihad.

As I mentioned in that first Mali post, the ethnic nationalist rebel movement which started the Tuareg rebellion was pushed aside by Islamist rebels. When they took the city of Timbuktu, they destroyed the library and the shrines. Although the manuscripts in the library were Islamic and so were the shrines, they are not approved of by the current wave of Islamist Jihadis. There is something especially chilling about the destruction of the library.

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Will somebody please tell me what the hell has happened to the New York Public Library. I’ve only been gone from town for four or five years. One of the things I’ve always loved about this city is what a fabulous library system we have. However, since I’ve been back, half the books I want to check out are listed as only available by reserve at the main branch, which I won’t call by the name of the arrogant millionaire who paid money to get his name on the building.

I was writing something and wanted to check out a detail that I had read in a book years ago. The book is Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fisher. It’s a commonly cited book. It shouldn’t be rare or hard to find at all. If there is an example of the sort of book that public libraries were intended to make available to the public, that would be it. Yet, the New York Public Library only has one copy and it’s not even a circulating copy. It can only be read by appointment at the millionaire’s name building. This is not the first time I’ve had this happen. Multiple times this year I’ve bought books at the local Barnes and Nobles because they were only available on reserve at the library. What the hell is going on? Why are so many books reserve only? I used to use the library all the time. In fact, when I was in college, I rarely used the school library and was able to use the Mid-Manhattan Library for ninety percent of my academic papers.

How can there have been such a decline in such a short period of time. I have my speculations, but this is just going to be a petulant little outburst so I can get back to writing my longer thing. Barnes and Noble’s had the book for same day delivery in Manhattan. I just have to decide if I want to spend the money.

If anyone runs for mayor based on restoring the library, and I mean the collection and the hours of operation, not the damned building, which has been restored with funding from millionaires, I will vote for you!

Yesterday, I was reviewing with my sister events that occurred in seventh grade that I really ought to cover and I brought up an incident that I thought might be important. She advised me against writing about it because it shows me in a bad light. However, I said to her that one of the reasons that I wanted to write this anonymously was so that I could be honest. If I’m not going to be as honest as possible, why am I writing this at all?

A photograph taken around a mine in Ogdensburg, New Jersey.The question, to me, is “Is it relevant to my aims?” Although it may not be obvious at first, I believe it is.

Back to the library where I have now gotten comfortable wandering into the adult section.

The non-fiction books for adults were on a mezzanine level, half a flight up that open staircase, between the main reading area with current best sellers and the checkout desk and the floor with the reference room and fiction.

After arriving at the first landing from the staircase, you found yourself at one end of a floor lined with stacks. On the right, was a railing, separating the mezzanine floor from the open area that included the staircase. Looking over the railing, you could see main floor below and the reference room above. Ranged along the left hand area was row after row of the stacks. Each row dead ended against a wall. Every other row had a tall narrow window at the end, making was always struck me as the most obvious lighting solution for a library that I’m surprised that it hasn’t been used more often. It was evening, however, and the windows were nothing more useful than glossy rectangles of black.

I no longer remember what I was looking for. What I do remember is that the library was not crowded and I was alone on that mezzanine level. I was half way down the row of stacks, about a meter inside a row. I was on my knees trying to find a book that, following the call numbers, was apparently located on the bottom shelf. There I was, kneeling down, looking for a book. Not an unusual position for me, when I think about it.

I felt a hard thud on my ass.

“Look at this little nerd.” I craned my neck and looked over my shoulder and saw three girls, about a year older than I was.

The one who was closest to me kicked me again.

“What a little fucking nerd.”

She kicked me again, this time it was really hard and impossible to ignore. I got up. I was now blocked in by three girls in flannel shirts, tight jeans and feathered haircuts. I can still remember the face of the one closest to me, not the biggest of the three, but by far the loudest, the one who did all the talking. She had dark blond hair. I suspect that it was naturally curly since it had that frizzy quality curly hair had when it was blown out into that Farrah Fawcett feathered hairstyle. She had a wide face, a pug nose and freckles. With a personality transplant, she might have passed for cute. However, the way her thick lips were curled into some demonic expression of hatred was not flattering.

I took a step backward, probably several. That was not the smartest move since the three Gorgons naturally advanced, moving me further into the bowels of the row of books.

“Do you want to get the crap beaten out of you?”

This was apparently not a legitimate question since I was shaking my head furiously to indicate “no”, yet the Gorgons continued to advance.

I panicked. I’d never been in a fight before. I hadn’t a clue what was supposed to happen next. The possibility that the Gorgons intended, for no rational reason that I could determine, to inflict serious pain on was a possibility I had to take very seriously. So I did. I decided it was fight or flight so, flight being removed as an option, I wrapped my hands around what was a surprisingly skinny neck. I began shaking. I can’t be certain that I didn’t squeeze a little.

One of the others, until now nothing but a shadow of the frizzy blond with the skinny neck, said, “Oh my God, she’s going to choke her.”

Why she hadn’t earlier said, “Oh my god, she’s going to kick her,” or any other utterance which would have rendered my choking Medusa entirely unnecessary, is a question no one seemed to care about. However, it was a well-timed statement since choke entered my barely functioning brain and struck me as a bad idea. I moved my hands apart, effective letting go of my catch. The three Gorgons ran out of the library.