Arts and Letters Daily
Andrew Sullivan
Best of the Web
James Lileks
Jeff Jarvis
Joanne Jacobs
Jonah Goldberg
Little Green Footballs
Ken Layne
Matt Welch
Michael Barone
Pundit Watch
Sgt. Stryker
The Corner
U.S.S. Clueless
Virginia Postrel
News Sources
Journals / Magazines



This page is sponsored by PENTHOUSE.COM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



-------------------- { Friday, May 17, 2002 } --------------------

When American Gardens Attack

One of our favorite online writers and gardeners,Dr. Leda Horticulture has recently begun her annual battle with the Louisiana climate:

March 27: The neighbor steps onto her porch and sees me hunched over weeding. I'm crouching in the mud beneath New Dawn, sweating profusely as I try vainly to dodge fire ants and scalp-shredding thorns. The oxalis is growing back much faster than I can pull it. "Oh, you're so lucky to have your garden!" she calls out cheerfully. "It must be such a nice little stress-free way to escape reality." Wiping blood from my brow, I wonder if I have enough gin to fill the bathtub.

Yes, there's nothing like a garden for restoring the soul -- and making a gentle woman as hard as a full clip in a nail gun. We'll be checking in on Dr. Leda's progress as the season grinds on.

posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 2:03 PM

* * *

The Prophetic in American Money

Who has the time to figure this stuff out? The endless spin on the dire warnings and signs of the Apocalypse has finally come around, like all things human, to money. In this case, it has to do with how you fold a US $20 bill to reveal the burning Pentagon on one side and the burning towers of the World Trade Center on the other. Rumors that the original bill was found in the Flordia condos rented by M. Atta and other of our Saudi friends are probably untrue.

posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 1:42 PM

* * *

Hitler Is Dead
By Leon Wieseltier

In the cover article of the May 27th issue of The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier exhorts the Jewish community to not let new holocaust rhetoric provoke "ethnic panic". He argues that the myth of the Amalekites transforms every struggle into a persistent fatalistic narrative of doomed Jewry. In doing so, he makes an eloquent case for the transformative importance of Zionism and Israel.

The real problem with typological thinking about history is that it is not historical thinking at all. It is ahistorical thinking. It obscures and obliterates all the differences between historical circumstances in favor of a gross, immutable, edifying similarity. It is an insufficiently worldly way to judge the world. For this reason, such thinking was overthrown in the modern period by Jews who decided that their myths would not ameliorate their misery; that there was not only one question and only one answer; that the entire universe was not their enemy and their enemy was not the entire universe; that the historical differences mattered as much as the historical similarities, because a change in history, progress, normality, tranquillity, was possible; that historical agency required historical thinking, that is, concrete thinking, empirical thinking, practical thinking, secular thinking. All these notions amounted to a revolution in the Jewish spirit, without which the Jewish national movement and the Jewish state could not have been brought into being. A historiosophy is not a strategy. The Jews taught themselves to attend not only to their fates, but also to their interests. That is to say, they taught themselves no longer to regard themselves as the last Jews. The lesson was called Zionism. The last Jews have nothing to do but fight or die; but Zionism has more to do. Israel was not created to destroy Amalek. Israel was created to deny Amalek.

The old joke is that all Jewish ritual feasts may be reduced to nine words; "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat." There is no question that Israel must defeat her enemies, but in the same way that the Marshall Plan restored a devastated European economy, so must Israel, once her frontiers are secured, invest in an economic development partnership with the Palestinians. Whatever the ultimate dispositions of territory in the region, if there is to be a true peace that may endure for generations, this narrative must evolve to conclude "let's rebuild."

posted by Alan Chamberlain at 10:29 AM

* * *

-------------------- { Wednesday, May 15, 2002 } --------------------

A Female Lawyer with Real Balls

People are always looking for a lawyer with balls, but Sue Ellen Wooldridge, deputy chief of staff for Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, has more than her share. Testifying in front of a congressional committee on her qualifications for her new position, she admitted they were slim to none with one critical exception. While freely admitting she had little awareness of issues critical to the Department of the Interior, she also added the critical factoid that "she was the only appointee who had ever castrated a sheep -- with her teeth."

On second thought, that might come in very handy in Washington. Now, if we could just get her to work our personal list of politicians...

posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 3:16 PM

* * *

How Low Will ABC Sink?
By Alan Chamberlain

Crawl across the bottom of the muted CNN screen this morning says that ABC is replacing Politically Incorrect with a "new show starring comic Jimmy Kimmel".

This is a sort of an aftershock of the Nightline/Letterman fiasco, and certainly confirms the worst inferences from that PR nightmare. Does it not seem as though Disney's ABC is determined to outfox Fox? Does Eisner think the barrel has no bottom?

Don't get me wrong; PI was no Peabody bait, but it was at least a nod in the direction of critical thinking. Some of Maher's guest choices were questionable at best (my old favorite bullshit artist, Michael Moore, e.g.) and his timing in scrutinizing US policy in the wake of the WTC attack could not have been worse. But at least it was an examination of the issues that rose above the bleating of AM talk-radio and the yelling heads of The McLaughlin Group. And considering how many of the guests were not from the journalism or political trenches, PI was still consistently more candid and inquiring and frankly honest than Hardball.

All I know about the replacement show is that it features Jimmy Kimmel, and I'm tempted to think that's all I need to know. Whereas Maher's schtick is that of a guy whose interest in the world beyond show business imbues him with an amateur's enthusiasm for examining the issues illuminated by current events, Kimmel's entire oeuvre consists of being an opinionated jerk about things he can't be bothered to understand (and, girlfriend, that's my corner...) In sports, that can be amusing, in small doses between more informed analyses from ex pro jocks. In The Man Show, the parody of male chauvinism run amok is well-suited to his bumptious personality.

Perhaps his new project won't be politically oriented. Perhaps, if it is, he'll ape the rampant idiocy of Rush Limbaugh, or present a farce on The Capital Gang. Still, I'll miss Maher and his earnest, irreverent, persistent challenge to late-night audiences to take a second, third, or fourth look at their assumptions, prejudices, and biases. Meanwhile, I'll be shorting DIS.

posted by Alan Chamberlain at 1:54 PM

* * *

In Praise of Balance
By Peter Berkowitz

I've long suspected that democracy, at least as it has evolved, is overrated. Norma Thompson, in her The Ship of State: Statecraft and Politics from Ancient Greece to Democratic America, apparently shares this suspicion, or so I am persuaded by Peter Berkowitz' review in The New Republic. He prefaces his analysis with a meditation on John Stuart Mill, and in doing so, illuminates the principles of liberal reform.

The liberal way is a spirit or an approach, not a procedure or an algorithm. It does not prescribe an optimal blend of balance and single-mindedness, certainly not concerning the questions about which we care most. Indeed, it might even be said to exhibit a decided tilt toward single-mindedness on the subject of personal freedom. So when it comes to relations between the sexes (as Mill makes clear in The Subjection of Women), women as well as men must be encouraged to think for themselves, to develop their individual talents, and to become autonomous individuals, even though this may lead to a slighting by both sexes of the virtues of sociability and caregiving that traditionally have been thought to be women's special province. In politics (as Mill maintains in Considerations on Representative Government), the liberal way requires an appreciation of the need to accommodate both the party of permanence and order and the party of progress and freedom, though the liberal argument for balance in politics prizes permanence and order for the contribution that they make to progress and freedom, and not for themselves or for the sake of any other human goods that they might promote. As for reason and faith (as Mill explains in his Essays on Religion), the liberal way is committed to keeping an open mind by rationally considering faith's claims. In practice, though, this means that only the part of religion that conforms to the demands of individual autonomy is welcome in public and carries a viable claim to truth and respect.

All its blessings notwithstanding, the spirit of democracy does not make the blending of balance and single-mindedness any easier. As our liberalism, in the guise of reason and fairness, tilts us in our undertakings toward its favored good, freedom, so democracy, under the same guise, inclines us to embrace its highest ideal, which is equality, not only in those spheres where justice demands it but also in those where justice does not and perhaps should not. Democracy presses for an equality beyond the liberal imperative for equality in respect of rights and equality before the law, a democratization of equality that in practice often looks and feels like a demand for uniformity in thought and action. The reason for this excess is that differences--between men and women, between political orientations and objectives, between the secular and the religious--breed distinctions at which the democratic conscience looks askance, and which it works to rein in and wear down and paper over. In contemporary America, there is good reason to wonder whether any power or practice or principle can withstand democracy's progress.

By the time Mill wrote On Liberty, functional democracy was already a fait accompli. His writing enjoys the luxury of criticism; evaluating a performance is always less challenging than writing the play, after all. Still, his observations, and the inquiries they inspire among current critics, merit thoughtful reflection.

posted by Alan Chamberlain at 9:24 AM

* * *

-------------------- { Tuesday, May 14, 2002 } --------------------

A Culture of Credulity
by Jack Beatty/The Atlantic Monthly

Here's a perspective gets to the heart of the abuse of children by Catholic Priests. It suggests that "American Catholics spent their civic lives in a democracy, but gave over their spiritual lives to a clerical absolutism."

Incredibly, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Boston are arguing that a six-year-old child was "negligent" in allowing himself to be raped by Father Paul Shanley, the advocate of man-boy love whom Cardinal Bernard Law knowingly protected—and that the boy's parents, who were unaware of Shanley's predations, were negligent as well. Legal and psychological experts, quoted by The Boston Globe, branded the negligence defense as a legal absurdity and a public-relations calamity. Yet, in a broader sense, negligence is the missing concept in the Church sex-abuse scandal—the negligence of Catholic parents in imbuing their children with an unquestioning faith in clerical authority, a faith so central to some parents that their children had to protect it by enduring rape in silence. I have been asking Catholic friends raised in the fifties and sixties whether they would have told their parents if a Paul Shanley had molested them. They all say no. It would have hurt their parents too deeply. I doubt I could have told my own parents for that same reason. The ceremonial superstitions of Catholicism—abstaining from meat on Fridays, crossing ourselves when passing Catholic churches, carrying home palms on Palm Sunday, wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday, abstaining from food three hours before receiving Holy Communion and from water an hour before—permeated our lives much as they did for Catholics in the Middle Ages. To question the spiritual content of these rituals was unthinkable. The superstructure of the Church rose up from them. Start doubting whether eating fish on Fridays was taking time off your time in purgatory and you could end up questioning the Immaculate Conception—or thinking that the Pope could err in faith and morals, or that his priests could. The whole point of mid-twentieth-century parish Catholicism was to protect the Faith against the rationalism of the age with a wall constructed of counter-cultural argument at the top and talismans at the bottom, from the St. Christopher medal on your dashboard to protect against accidents to saying exactly three Hail Mary's and four Our Fathers to expunge the sins of the week. You were taught to bow to statues, to treat plaster-of-paris as a symbol of the transcendent. Priests were God's emissaries on earth, backed by an infallible Pope. The Church can't be wrong. The priest can't be wrong. "Father" had to be obeyed. That some priests would abuse this inordinate grant of power was inevitable. The culture of credulity of the still-barely assimilated Catholicism of the post-war era, I believe, is the permissive factor in the priestly abuse of children. American Catholics spent their civic lives in a democracy, but gave over their spiritual lives to a clerical absolutism.

posted by Johanne Brown at 10:14 AM

* * *

-------------------- { Monday, May 13, 2002 } --------------------

When Bad Things Happen to Evil Clowns
By James Lileks

The designs, bleats, rants and general good looks to be found at James Lileks website can always be counted on to get your day off to a good start. Every so often, Lileks finds something that just makes him go off on a rant. To be the subject of a Lileks screed must be very painful, just look what he does to the aging blatherer Patch Adams.

"... (Patch Adams,) the subject of a 1998 movie starring Robin Williams, took a grave tone despite his outlandish appearance. "I am literally comparing Bush and his cronies to Hitler," Adams said, "only Hitler had a smaller vision."

"Hitler also said things like Gesuindheit.

"Let us just . . . tarry a moment. Let us think of the two men.

"Hitler: 1000 year Reich.
"Bush: Four years, eight if the breaks go his way.

"Hitler: desired the extermination of subhuman vermin
"Bush: resigned to losing the UC Berkeley faculty vote

"Hitler: killed 90% of European Jewry
"Bush: staunch friend of Israel - but since Sharon = Hitler, we’ll have to grant this point to Patch

"Hitler: Vegetarian paganist
"Bush: Carnivore Christian - again, to some, it’s a draw

"Hitler: Who iss dis Patch Ahdams? Who iss dis Juuuuden zat he can zay dis shiest? I vant him found! I vant him dead! I vant voto-grafs of his shotten-up body on zis desk by noon tomorrrrrow! AM I KLAR? KILL HIM! KILL HIM! KILL HIS VAMILY!
"Bush: informed about Patch Adams’ remarks, Bush notes that he’s sorry he feels that way, but he understands that Patch Adams is a pretty good beer, and back in his wild days he might have enjoyed a cold one or two. Does he make an alcohol-free version? No? Well, he oughta, if it’s as good as people say. G’night! God Bless."

Read the rest and you'll never waste money on a Robin Williams film again.

posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 1:10 PM

* * *

Just Imagine
By Michael Kelly

The compare and contrast gambit when it comes to bringing some clarity into the Isreal-Palestine question is never more clearly or succintly put than in this column by Michael Kelly:

Imagine that the government of the United States believed, on evidence, that a certain Islamic leader was responsible for directing a campaign of murder against Americans. To ask Abba Eban's question, what would we do? Actually, the answer doesn't require much imagination, does it? We would mount an army against that leader and all his followers, and we would bomb them and shoot them and chase them and arrest them and ship them to Guantánamo Bay.

If we had the leader in question trapped in a room, we would not let him out and set him up again as a partner for peace.

That's worth printing up on a flyer at Kinko's and taping to every pole and post in your immediate neighborhood.

posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 11:15 AM

* * *

Info from the Battle Field
By Anonymous Marine Commander

A letter home from the war in Afghanistan, with detailed narrative of that dodgy firefight at the beginning of the Anaconda operation. Wonderful tag line. This has been making the rounds in email, but it's also up on the MCIA site.

The commandos on the ground were able to hold against heavy odds. Another rescue force was launched and flew max speed to the area, inserting a couple hours later. Rangers, CCT, PJs poured out and right into an extremely heavy firefight. That's where the other 6 got killed, many wounded. This was a brutal slugfest of a firefight. Close air support called in and the fight was on for about 9-12 hours. US commandos finally won, and more helos and forces inserted to recover wounded, KIA. Roberts body recovered as well. Predator watched after he was shot as 3 Al Qaeda dragged his body from where he was shot - he was already dead.

For my money, Roberts and the others who came to try to rescue him deserve at least the Silver Star if not more. True heroes, taking it to the enemy, so we can all relax at home in the U.S. safer from terrorist attack. Believe it or not, this incident is only one of several unbelievable combat actions yet untold. SAS is pushing for one of their men to get the Victoria Cross as a result of the cave fight last fall. (And he clearly deserves it from all accounts). UK SBS was in an extremely heavy firefight early in the action last fall. There are other US stories that have not (and may not) be told that are equally incredible, if not more. Stay tuned.

Whether we need heroes or not, the forces are clearly and eagerly going hand to hand and man on man with the Al Qaeda. We may underestimate from time to time in small battles, but the Al Qaeda have clearly underestimated what we were going to be like on the battlefield compared to their Soviet experience.

The other reason we need the appropriate top awards pinned on these heroes is this - Let the message go forth to the Al Qaeda, other terrorists, and those who want to back them anywhere on the globe. Think you're tough? You want to kill our families, blow up civilians? Stand by! We are sending our very best to hunt you down and take you out. These are the guys who are coming to get you. hese are the guys who will climb into the mountains and into the darkened caves halfway around the world and look you in the eye, toe to toe, with any weapon at hand (ours or yours), to take you out. These guys have trained longer, are stronger, harder, faster, tougher, and more relentless and lethal than anything you will ever produce. And we will arm them with the best money can buy, from Spectre gunships and thermobaric bombs to knives sharper than any box cutter you can sneak on a plane. They are now on your trail. They're hunting you down. How's it feel to be a terrorist now? Never bring a box cutter to a Jihad.

...when you want to make sure they're dead.

posted by Alan Chamberlain at 7:57 AM

* * *

-------------------- { Friday, May 10, 2002 } --------------------

Governor suspends death penalty
By Ben Pillow/SunSpot Staff

Could it be that no matter what the outcome of this state-funded study, Maryland, which is nestled right ON the Mason Dickson, plans to stick to it guns on Capital Punishment?

After granting convicted murderer Wesley Eugene Baker a stay of execution today, Gov. Parris N. Glendening went one step further and effectively issued a moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland until a state-funded study on capital punishment is completed in September. Glendening canceled next week's execution after Baker's lawyers formally asked the governor Tuesday to at least postpone it until the completion of the two-year study examining whether there is a racial bias in the application of the death penalty. "The most difficult decision that a governor must make is to determine whether or not the state should impose the death penalty," the governor said in a statement. "I continue to believe that there are certain crimes that are so brutal and so vile that they call for society to impose the ultimate punishment. However, reasonable questions have been raised in Maryland and across the country about the application of the death penalty." Glendening went on to cite some of those concerns: more than 60 percent of those on death row were convicted of murdering white victims, despite the fact that 80 percent of Maryland homicide victims are African-American; nine of the 13 inmates currently on death row come from Baltimore County; and errors made in other states on death sentences have recently come to light. The governor acknowledged Marylanders' support for the death penalty, but said "it is imperative ... that I and our citizens have complete confidence that our process is fair and impartial."

posted by Johanne Brown at 12:51 PM

* * *

-------------------- { Thursday, May 09, 2002 } --------------------

Magic Time
by Michael Davitt Bell/from The Atlantic Monthly

"Observations of a cancer casualty"...what we fear the most to discuss are invariably the things that need to be said.

FOR four years I've been battling (as they always say) cancer, and now I've lost. I'm told I have the proverbial six months to live -- which I might, with luck and additional chemotherapy, be able to stretch to a year. The sarcoma that appeared in my right thigh in the summer of 1992, that first metastasized in my lung in 1994 and cost me a kidney a year later, has now spread all through my lungs. Beyond doubt I'm dying. Nothing unusual here, of course -- except that I find I not only am reconciled to my fate but also have achieved a strange kind of happiness that's new in my experience. In 1979 I had another cancer, a melanoma that was removed in a simple outpatient procedure and did not recur. But by the end of my first year of treatment for the sarcoma, with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery to remove the original tumor, more chemotherapy, I had descended into a depression so severe that all sense of self was gone, all desire, except for a persistent, repetitive series of affect-free fantasies of specific and detailed ways I might kill myself. I doubt that I can account fully for the level of happiness, even euphoria, I've now reached, three years later and in the face of much worse news. But some of it comes, I'm sure, from the fact that since the cancer's appearance in my lung in the summer of 1994 revealed that the original treatment hadn't eliminated the disease, and thus the statistical odds of my surviving were close to nil, I have determined to be open and honest with other people about my disease and my prognosis. I think this has also allowed me to be open and honest with myself. My relationships with friends and family -- above all with my two daughters, now in their twenties, whose mother and I divorced when they were small -- have thus taken on an emotional openness and intensity almost inconceivable for someone who, like me, grew up in an upper-middle-class WASP family in the Midwest, a family in which the word "love" was never spoken or heard except, perhaps, to express admiration for an object or article of clothing ("I just love the way that sweater looks on you!"). So I find I'm not overcome with remorse or anger, or with terror of the fate awaiting me; instead I'm cherishing each moment, each mundane experience I have left. This is, for me, a magic time.

posted by Johanne Brown at 10:01 AM

* * *

Will the Sleepers Awake?
By Boswell

Just before dawn in Brooklyn Heights a dream woke me.

It was one of those troubled, personal dreams where emblems of your past and present lives proliferate in an obscure but oddly familiar setting. I dutifully scribbled notes for discussion later in the week with my therapist, both out of fear of forgetting and out of fear that I would again find myself there with nothing substantive to talk about that seemed worthy of discussion.

Millions of Americans know, have known, or will know this petty little fear; you've paid for the hour, the hour is "all about you," and yet this stuff, your 'stuff', seems to you only shameful and small and not really worth discussing at all. Millions also know the response to this complaint from the therapist. 'It is your therapy and it is supposed to be all about you, and it's in these petty and small details that you find out the larger truths that will, it is hoped, will lead you into some future where, when all is understood, all is forgiven.'

In therapy, confessions, or even "sessions of sweet, silent thought," we seek this odd forgiveness for what we have become in ever increasing numbers. We seek it because we live in a culture that has given us nothing larger than ourselves and, even though we might yearn for things larger than ourselves, there seems to be nothing but ourselves at hand and so we work with this small lump of clay that will never be the stone of Mt. Rushmore. We seek it from the therapist, even though he will tell us it is ourselves that will forgive us, we seek it from our idea of God, even though our priests cannot be trusted and will tell us to "Go and sin no more" (Difficult advice to follow these days when you consider the source.), and even, it seems, we seek forgiveness from our dreams.

But we wake up from dreams and the world awaits us, much the same as it was the day before, and the work of the world is also there to be done, whatever our roles in that work may be, most of which are, if we were frank, absurd. And the world is not all about ourselves but pressingly, inevitably and enduringly about all the others with whom we share the world, its sordid and strange past, it's perplexing present and its unknowable future.

In our immediate orbit of work and family it is, in a sense, "our world" and is what we make it day by day. But it is of course involved in a much larger world of every expanding and overlapping circles where greater issues and duties than our small needs, fears and hopes hold sway. And, at times, these larger circles of events and moments impinge on our small and pleasant worlds and draw our attention to them.

In these last eight months, I've been reading an inordinate number of books and articles on war and on history and on what the immediate future might bring. Like millions of other Americans, the 11th of September drew my attention in an immediate and violent manner. I've become, I think, both more thoughtful about the present state of the world, as well as angry about America's unprepareed condition. Living where I do I've also become very sensitive to the sound of airplanes overhead. (A single engine plane is heading west to east at this moment, the sound fading to silence instead of an explosion so I assume that it is safe and being safely handled and tracked.) Indeed, it is usually airplanes overhead that wake me in the morning rather than dreams.

Smiling experts sitting knee to knee with the nation's morning television mavens tell us that lots of New Yorkers have trouble sleeping these last months because we have "unresolved issues and anxieties." I like to think we simply know first hand how quickly our enemies can effectively destroy your city, and that other Americans have yet to learn this lesson up close and personal. A lesson that I hope they will never learn, but one that I am resigned to seeing taught again in the near future, since many in my country seem not to have learned it yet, even those who stood in the ashes of all those who died in the Towers. In America in 2002 it still seems to me that we have an inordinate fondness for sleep, dreams and forgetting.

All of which is to say that, strangely, after waking and scribbling down the notes about the dream before they escaped me, my first thoughts went to a passage in a book I've been reading, "Culture and Carnage: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power" by Victor Davis Hanson. This is a book in which one deadly encounter between nations or other powers is detailed from the battle of Salamis in 480 BC to the Tet offensive in Vietnam. Two days ago I read Hanson's report on the fate of American torpedo bombers against the Japanese fleet at the battle of Midway. His report makes it clear that these bombers and the American crews were, because of the obsolescence of the machines and the commitment of the crews, doomed to destruction from the outset, but that their selfless courage in pressing forward made the victory of Midway, and the turning of the tide in the Pacific during the opening year of America's Second World War, possible. It's a vivid account of sacrifice for the sake of a greater good and a larger victory. But what came to my mind on waking today was not the details of the battle but of what Hanson writes as a kind of epitaph to the men of the torpedo bombers who sacrificed themselves:

"To the modern American at the millennium, these carrier pilots of more than a half century ago -- Massey, Waldron, and Lindsey last seen fighting to free themselves in a sea of flames as their planes were blasted apart by Zeros -- now appear as superhuman exemplars of what constituted heroism in the bleak months after the beginning of World War II. Even their names seem almost caricatures of an earlier stalwart American manhood -- Max Leslie, Lem Massey, Wade McClusky, Jack Waldron -- doomed fighters who were not all young eighteen-year-old conscripts, but often married and with children, enthusiastic rather than merely willing to fly their decrepit planes into a fiery end above the Japanese fleet, in a few seconds to orphan their families if need be to defend all that they held dear. One wonders if an America of suburban, video-playing Nicoles, Ashleys and Jasons shall ever see their like again."

A light rain is still falling on this street in Brooklyn Heights in the spring of 2002, and I would like to think that the kind of men described in that paragraph can still be called up our of this nation in the kind of numbers necessary to our tasks ahead. We've seen their like on horseback lately in Afghanistan, but these are our 'Special Forces,' and hence limited in number. I'd like to think that we have been woken from the long sleep of comfort, money, and ever-expanding special pleadings that have splintered us with the promise of bringing us together. But I know the temptation is always to roll over, hit the snooze bar, and try to grab a few more years of rest even as the enemies of our world patiently plan to assault us again and again, convinced of the weakness of our Nicoles, Ashleys, and Jasons, and the culture which created them.

They have, as they have shown, great patience. More patience than we have shown and far more commitment than we have shown to attaining their dark goals. They are the Believers while we are still the Dreamers, waking only briefly to write down a few notes for discussion later in the week, during the hour when all that is in the world is really only about ourselves.

posted by Gerard Van der Leun at 3:58 AM

* * *

-------------------- { Tuesday, May 07, 2002 } --------------------

Hankie logic. The handkerchief is plain but not simple.
By Sarah Lehman/

It seems values are as disposable as tissues, hence the hiatus of the hankie--the calling card of the well bred and the sensible.

My mother was a great believer in handkerchiefs. Like silver napkin rings and well-polished shoes, handkerchiefs separated those who were properly brought up from those who were not -- they were one more outward sign of a life correctly led, priorities correctly set and implicit hierarchies correctly understood and maintained. A freshly ironed handkerchief belonged in every little girl's Sunday school purse, along with a shiny new quarter for the collection plate. A lacy handkerchief belonged in every lady's evening bag, together with a comb and a pink lipstick and something called "mad money." My father's dresser drawer was incomplete without a neat stack of Irish linen or Egyptian cotton squares, each one geometrically perfect and emblazoned with his monogram crisply in the corner. There was no difference in our home between handkerchiefs for showing and those for blowing. A flashy pocket square was the mark of self-indulgent foppery, but a proper handkerchief was a sign of correctness, moral rectitude and preparedness. Handkerchiefs let you know who you were and how you got there. Handkerchiefs were always a sensible present for people in one's life whom one didn't know too well and didn't particularly need to know better: fourth-grade teachers, maiden aunts, anonymous co-workers. Like their intended recipients, I found them tepid, frigid, cloying. Still, they advertised one's sensibilities in an unobtrusive way, never gave actual offense and were safely appropriate in an infinite number of gift-giving situations.

posted by Johanne Brown at 1:38 PM

* * *