by Sunita

There was a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday. We were watching the local CBS news when it broke and the station kept going through the evening. Three people were killed, two children and a young man. The reaction that speaks for all of us came from someone running away, who asked: “This is actually crazy. How do you shoot at the garlic festival? Like who you got beef with at the garlic festival?”

Gilroy is a smallish town on US 101, about 20 miles south of San Jose. Bay Area people know it well because you drive through or past it a lot. And it is famous for garlic. You can smell the garlic all around, and if you’re taking CA 152 to get over the hills to I-5, you switch from the smell of processing to the smell of plants. But it’s still garlic. Until the bypass was built in the 1970s, the freeway ended at the town’s outskirts and you had to drive through downtown Gilroy, which on a summer weekend could take you a full hour. The garlic festival started in 1979 and features every imaginable and unimaginable way to incorporate garlic into foodstuffs. It’s an institution and we all love to make fun of it in an affectionate way. A lot of people probably don’t realize that it is a major charity fundraiser as well:

Melone approached Christopher as well as his friend Val Filice to chat about putting on the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The trio decided to make it happen and in the summer of 1979 on farm land near Bloomfield Road, the first festival was launched. Organizers projected a first-year attendance of 5,000. They were shocked when 15,000 garlic lovers showed up. Admissions volunteers were forced to reuse tickets to accommodate the unexpected masses. Soon after that first year’s overwhelming success, organizers realized that there was a need to create the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association to put on the event every year.

Nearly four decades later, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is regarded as “the preeminent food festival in America” and even has international fame, with more than 3 million people attending over the years. Each year, about 4,000 volunteers from about 125 nonprofits in Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill and Hollister participate in putting it on. More than $10.6 million for worthy causes has been raised throughout the festival’s history.

“We raise the money, cover expenses, and then that pot of money goes to charity,” Reynolds said.

The shooter was a local person whose family has deep roots in the area. Which makes it even more unfathomable to me. But then all of these are unfathomable in the end, at least in terms of logic.

On to something less awful. Did you know that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville? Well, it does. And to honor one of the USA’s greatest writers, the University of Plymouth has compiled a free, downloadable, chapter-by-chapter audio recording of Moby Dick.

In the spring of 2011, artist Angela Cockayne and writer Philip Hoare convened and curated a unique whale symposium and exhibition at The Levinsky Gallery, the dedicated contemporary art space at The Arts Institute (formerly Peninsula Arts), University of Plymouth, under the title, Dominion. Inspired by their mutual obsession with Moby-Dick and with the overarching subject of the whale, they invited artists, writers, musicians, scientists and academics to respond to the theme. The result was an enthusiastic response which evidently could not be contained within the physical restrictions of a gallery space and a three-day symposium.

Each chapter is read by a different person, and they range from the extremely well-known, e.g. Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Stephen Fry, to the surprising until you think about it for a moment and then it makes total sense, e.g. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, to people I’ve at least never heard of. And there are bloggers who are hosting their own readalongs in conjunction, if you want to talk about it while you read. I’m thinking of joining this one when they begin on August 1 (Melville’s birthday).

Finally, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the bestselling writer Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Harari’s books have been translated into many languages, and readers were surprised to discover that he has allowed translations to be changed in order to fit the requirements of less, shall we say, free-speech-respecting governments and autocrats. And some of the changes and omissions were in a chapter entitled “Post-Truth,” no less:

He agreed to omit the mentions of Mr. Putin’s announcement about Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, he said, seeing it as a necessary compromise to make the book available to Russian readers.

“I really faced a dilemma whether to change these examples and publish the book or to leave them in and publish nothing,” Mr. Harari said. “I would never agree to write something which is not true, and I would never agree to change the main message of the book.”

Still, he was troubled to learn of other changes that he had not approved. For example, in the original book’s dedication, Mr. Harari references his husband, noting that “I only know how to write books. He does everything else.” But in the Russian translation, “husband” was changed to “partner.”

“If that’s true, I’m really furious,” he said. “I’m openly gay. I go around the world speaking about it.”

If I understand him correctly, it’s OK to omit a major world event, because that doesn’t “change the main message,” but omitting a direct reference to his sexual orientation, that’s an outrage. Way to make it all about you, Mr. H. Kudos to the NYT headline writer, though, for an excellent burn.