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
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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
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Hitler Is Dead
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 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
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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
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posted by Alan Chamberlain at 1:54 PM
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In Praise of Balance
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.
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
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Tuesday, May 14, 2002 } --------------------
A Culture of Credulity
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."
posted by Johanne Brown at 10:14 AM
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Monday, May 13, 2002 } --------------------
When Bad Things Happen to Evil Clowns
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.
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
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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:
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
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Info from the Battle Field
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.
...when you want to make sure they're dead.
posted by Alan Chamberlain at 7:57 AM
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Friday, May 10, 2002 } --------------------
Governor suspends death penalty
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?
posted by Johanne Brown at 12:51 PM
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Thursday, May 09, 2002 } --------------------
"Observations of a cancer casualty"...what we fear the most to discuss are invariably the things that need to be said.
posted by Johanne Brown at 10:01 AM
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Will the Sleepers Awake?
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:
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
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Tuesday, May 07, 2002 } --------------------
Hankie logic. The handkerchief is plain but not simple.
It seems values are as disposable as tissues, hence the hiatus of the hankie--the calling card of the well bred and the sensible.
posted by Johanne Brown at 1:38 PM
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