Monday, October 31, 2005
Now comes the fun part of figuring out all the ways this discovery might be useful. Trained wasps have already been used to detect aflatoxin, a fungi-produced poison that attacks crops in storage. They can be trained to detect explosives. They might be useful in forensics. Who knows? It's early days yet.
For a kid's version of this news, see Wasps trained to sniff out trouble.
For articles written at the adult level, see:
'Wasp Hound' uses tiny insects to track scents (University of Georgia)
Drug-Sniffing Wasps May Sting Crooks (National Geographic)
Sting Operation Targets Terror (Wired.com)
On October 31, 1828, Edinburgh, Scotland's infamous serial murderers William Burke and William Hare killed what Burke later confessed was their 16th person for profit. Another way of putting it is they created their 16th corpse, there being a market for corpses at the time, and they having found by chance that it was lucrative to provide fresh bodies to medical researchers.
Luckily for people prone to drinking in Edinburgh at that time (Burke and Hare had a penchant for drunks and 'daft' people), a couple of tenants at Hare's boarding house found the body and told police.
After his trial, Burke was hanged before a crowd estimated at between 25,000 and 30,000. Thousands viewed his corpse when it was put on public display. The authorities granted public access to the dissection of his body by the Royal College of Surgeons. (Does this fall under the saying, "What goes around comes around"?)
His skeleton was put on display and people have sold and exhibited items said to have been made from pieces of his skin. (I think this rates a Double Yuck.)
Hare was released in return for testimony against Burke. The physician who bought and bought and bought freshly dead human bodies without asking enough questions was cleared because there was no evidence of murder on individual corpses. (That would be a Dr. Robert Knox, if you're wondering.) To be a bit more specific, Professor Knox was officially cleared, for all the good it did him. The general public never forgave him.
Brendan O'Brien has more, at Scotsman.com. See also The Grave Robbing Business, or the Burke and Hare article at Edinburgh City Libraries, or William Burke & William Hare, 'The Resurrectionists'. (The last title refers to a snide nickname for grave-robbers.)
The case has long since passed into folklore. I don't know which details in these articles are true and which got added by active imaginations along the way. But as a friend who taught both English and folklore once told me, 'It's not what happened, but what people think happened that influences history.' And history it is, even if it comes down to us in odd and sorry ways; I understand that there are parents even now who threaten their youngsters with a visit from Burke and Hare if they don't behave.
See also the History of the College page at The Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh. It doesn't mention Burke and Hare, nor any other illicit corpse providers for that matter, but that it and other European universities mounted a major push to apply scientific method to medicine in the 1700s and 1800s did cause some unintended consequences. One of the few things I remember from a History of Medicine course in college was that a fair amount of grave-robbing and a few murders went along with early classes in anatomy, not to mention early clinical trials meant to amass data for analysis. You can't dissect bodies if you don't have bodies, after all. And if you've convinced yourself that science will conquer disease, and science needs data, and key data can only come from autopsies, well...
(There are reasons graveyards grew stout walls and individual burial plots sprouted pointy fencing back then. Not that Burke and Hare are accused of grave robbing, but they were catering to the same market as body snatchers.)
Side note: The Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh is celebrating 500 years this year. On a brighter note, I'd be very surprised if it still buys bodies under the cover of darkness, "no questions asked"...
For anyone trying to figure out where Breyer and his ilk are coming from, I have to wonder if Boudreaux is onto something.
For anyone wanting Breyer's position...
Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution
That Rosa Parks cited [James Weldon] Johnson as an inspiration along with giants like [Booker T.] Washington and [W.E.B.] Du Bois tells us something about her deep appreciation of him. But it's also a reminder of Parks's dignified brand of social activism. Like Johnson, Parks recalls a time when the NAACP was an important institution staffed by serious people tackling real problems faced by a marginalized race.
While laboring under the thumb of policies enacted to preserve racial inequality, these pioneers consciously compiled a large store of near-universal respect for a movement whose goals couldn't have been more principled. The passing of Parks, and what she represented, leaves us with black leaders who seem to excel in cheapening this legacy when they're not squandering it altogether.
Full Riley commentary
...several interesting things were said, such as this, from Rice: "...we have had a very broad discussion that is only befitting two of the closest allies in the world, an alliance that is clearly based on common values, that is clearly based on a desire to see freedom and liberty spread. And that understands that when democracy is on the march then we are all safer, and when democracy is in retreat we are more vulnerable."
Such a statement...would have been unimaginable 50 years ago. But with Japan for an example, we might not want to be overly pessimistic about the potential of democracy to reduce the warlike tendencies of previously-aggressive states, and to turn former deadly enemies in to our closest and most helpful friends in distant but vital regions.
Full Elephants in Academia post
For my two cents' worth, I'm glad Bush broke out of the "it has to be a woman" tunnel vision thing. I am soooo tired of people in Washington being stuck back in the 1970s. By now, thank you very much, we should have moved along to "the best person for the job" thing. Really. Honest. Truly outstanding women can compete on a level playing field for that sort of post. There's no need to be patronizing about it - and dividing candidates into male and female subcategories is horribly patronizing, I think. For what it's worth.
Update: Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing in Bench Memos at National Review Online, in a post from early this morning, This Is the One and Only Time I Will Point this Out, says:
I just got the White House talking points on Alito. Nowhere in them does it say that he is one of the best male lawyers in New Jersey.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Frederic's name didn't bring anything immediately to mind, so I've been browsing -- and stumbled across this wonderful contemporary book review of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. (Also this snippet from Random House on one of Frederic's books.) Gotta love the Internet.
And this one, ahem, has To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, which I read shortly after I met my husband, when I was immersing myself in all things Judson, just for the joy of it. :-)
How nice to know that someone likes the book on its merits. I found it fascinating, as I remember - but I've always been worried that my obvious bias might have blinded me.
Related earlier posts here and here.
Actually, I lifted these books from his list in part so I'd have an excuse to include that last book. I haven't read The Rise of Silas Lapham in years, but I remember it got under my skin, in the good way that good books do. But I'm just about the only William Dean Howells fan around here. (Sigh.) Most people, in fact, seem to have never heard of him. How nice someone else is keeping this book on the still-alive-and-talking list (as opposed to the nobody-remembers-anymore list).
It also gives me an excuse to ask if anybody knows how in the Sam Hill that last name "Lapham" is supposed to be pronounced? I suppose it's a good old New England name that all halfway-educated Easterners know, but I haven't got a clue. I've heard it every which way, which doesn't help.
Mossa has a rather more varied and broad-ranging list than my very few examples can show. I suggest you go take a look.
(And, hey, if you post your own list of great books, please leave a note in the comments here. I'm busier than usual lately and can't make the blog rounds like I used to. I'll be counting on you guys for more tips than usual for a while.)
Friday, October 28, 2005
Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America's First National Park
Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
Logic of Failure
Man and the Natural World: A History of Modern Sensibility (no picture available as of post time.)
No matter. We don't have to take their word for it.
Cindy Swanson, for instance, is asking for readers to make their own Top 25 list of books. She's kicked things off with her own list. (Use title link.)
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Japan's evolving alliance with US (Mainichi Daily News: Features)
U.S., Japan Strike Deal on Okinawa Base (by Joseph Coleman, AP, as printed in Guardian Unlimited)
US to shift key Okinawa base (Bennett Richardson, Christian Science Monitor)
US, Japan Agree on Relocation of Military Air Base on Okinawa (Steve Herman, Voice of America, also available in audio).
U.S. heliport location OK'd (The Asahi Shimbun)
US abandons Okinawa chopper base (Peter Alford, The Australian)
U.S. agrees to relocate base from Okinawa (Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times, published in International Herald Tribune).
US to relocate Marine base (George Nishiyama, news.com.au/Reuters, published in The Courier-Mail)
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Dr Howard Martin, 71, is accused of murdering Frank Moss, 59, Stanley Weldon, 69, and Harry Gittins, 74, by giving them overdoses of morphine.
Update: See also this article by Paul Stokes in The Telegraph, Oct. 26.
Bookworm excerpts part of a Jay Nordlinger column - his account of a recent visit to Carnegie Hall, where the sophisticated audience laughed at something they were meant to see as a good thing. That's bad enough.
But back in April, Peggy Noonan wrote a column that haunts me. In this case, the audience cheered what they were meant to see as tragic. If the second section of 'Raisin' and Falling doesn't upset you, I don't know what would. I wouldn't read it right before bedtime. It gave me nightmares. (And, like I said, it still haunts me.)
If you think there's an instance where Christmas is being suppressed in your town, school or workplace, send me a note and I'll look into it
The address he gives for that is firstname.lastname@example.org. Before you write there, please read his "My Word" on the subject first - or his book - so you won't be shooting from the hip, eh?
Click on the book cover below to order or for more information from Barnes & Noble.
The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought
I was raised in a very secular household, but we never had any trouble with Christmas. We had a tree - with an angel on top, no less: we were just taught that the angel had no more meaning than reindeer (of which we had a whole herd, decoration-wise). When I got a little older I briefly got caught up in the "freedom from religion" ruckus (of which banning Christmas symbols is only part of the plan), but I couldn't get what those folks were telling me and what I was seeing with my own eyes to jibe. I look at Gibson's book, and it gives me an odd feeling - I came awfully close to becoming one of those activists he's warning you about. If you think that gives me unique insights, you might be right, but at the moment it sure doesn't feel that way. Like many of the things I did in that period of my life, I look back and wonder what in the Sam Hill I thought I was thinking.
Someday maybe I'll elaborate, but I've already held this post in draft form for two days while I tried to come up with something useful to add to it. I guess all would add at this point is that I stayed in the "freedom from religion" stage longer than I might have thanks to some Baptists on my college campus who followed me around and made my life miserable - tossing disembodied Bible verses at me through the shower curtain while I showered, for instance. (I'm not making this up. The girls actually came into the dorm bathroom and recited meaning-stripped sentences from the Bible at me while I was trapped in the shower, dripping wet and sans clothes. This is not useful behavior, trust me.)
Another bit of Baby Boomer pop culture bites the dust...
(Be honest, now. Did you used to tear it into pieces and roll it into balls as a kid?)
Actually, Wonder Bread predates us Boomers. It came out in 1921.
Then it underwent major changes in the 1940s. From an article by Marcelene Edwards in the The News Tribune:
The miracle: In 1941, Wonder Bread participated in a government-supported move to enrich white bread with vitamins and minerals. Known as the “quiet miracle,” bread enrichment brought essential nutrients to people who previously could not afford nutritious foods.
hat tip: Out of the binjo ditch.
Monday, October 24, 2005
For anyone not familiar with the series, Encyclopedia Brown is a fictional boy detective who starred in several books. For instance:
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective
But I see that Flip's put up some other good posts since I looked last. In The Usury Suspects, he looks at the DNC's new branded Visa card "with an APR as high as 29.99% (the default rate for missed payments) and as high as 23.99% for normal balances." In New York Times Endorses Bloomberg he notes that the New York Times and Newsday are both endorsing Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg for re-election.
Last but not least, Flip attended "Blog Row" in Washington. Posts here, here, here, among others. I suspect he'll have more to come.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I thought it was a silly excuse at first (likely a coded way of discouraging someone from throwing money around like that) - and then I remembered the fun I used to have in Grandma's kitchen during family reunions. Working together - whether fixing food or cleaning up after meals - provided some of the best times of all, whether I was working with cousins or aunts or uncles or a grandparent. Dishwashing, done properly, makes the rest of the world go away for a while, I think ;-).
Donna-Jean's family does it one better - they add singing.
For some nice backlist posts from the same blog, see Hurricanes are a Drag for Stupid Criminals and Operation Lollypop.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
It reminds me of Pavel Chichikov's two-sentence formula to sum up all of human history (oft-quoted by Mark Shea):
1. What could it hurt?
2. How was I supposed to know?
I don't buy that it sums up all of human history, but it sure covers a lot of it! (Especially the bad mistakes.)
(P.S. Hey, Slobokan, I like the new look.)
Friday, October 21, 2005
The mall planned for the World Trade Center site will include a Barneys, DKNY, Gap, Express, Charles David, H2O, and Starbucks, according to renderings released yesterday by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
But there's a catch - none of the retailers included in the images has committed to renting space at the site, where shopping is scheduled to begin in 2010.
Asked why the retailers were pictured in the plans without having agreed to open stores at the site, a spokesman for the Port Authority, Steven Coleman, said the images were examples of "artistic license."
He said he was not sure if the retailers knew they were pictured in the Port Authority's renderings. "That's not to say they won't open stores there," he said.
None of the retailers contacted by The New York Sun would say whether they plan to open outlets at ground zero. Many were unaware they had been included in renderings of the project.
I know this sort of thing happens - but there are reasons that architects worth their salt learn to do drawings with creative slashes and squiggles that look like lettering on signs (but aren't).
One of the reasons I know that this sort of thing happens is that many years ago I heard a radio broadcast announcing that I was to be a speaker at an event celebrating a local history project spearheaded by a state agency. This was news to me. To make a long story short, the radio station was only passing along information provided by the state agency. The head guy at the agency was surprised that I wasn't delighted at being on the roster, and although he reluctantly agreed that it would have been better had I known about it ahead of time, I swear he never understood why the honor didn't outweigh any embarrassment.
I tried to explain that I had other obligations that night and couldn't go even if I wanted to (which I didn't) - and now it was going to look like I'd reneged on a promise.
But you have to come, he said, we've announced it...
I don't think we ever got on the same planet, he and I. Upon checking around, I found he'd done this sort of thing to other people. Fairly regularly, actually. He wasn't mean, you understand. In fact, as I remember him he was soft spoken and surprisingly polite. I don't think he was trying to force anybody into doing anything. At a guess, he just thought that his projects were so wonderful that of course other people would drop what they were doing and come help however he thought they should help.
In my humble opinion, people like that should not be allowed to become top bureaucrats. They need the give and take of the private sector to bring them to their senses, or at least to teach them that they can't always have their own way. This guy was spoiled rotten, and it showed.
Iraqi police have arrested four men in connection with the kidnapping of the Guardian journalist Rory Carroll in Baghdad. The police are looking for a further four suspects.
Carroll, 33, who has been on assignment in Iraq for nine months, was freed on Thursday night after being held for 36 hours. He is due to fly back to his family's home in Dublin tomorrow.
The Iraqi police have seldom been proactive in hostage situations. But diplomats praised them for following a trail that started with the head of the family who Carroll interviewed in Sadr City. The trail led to a group of men who visited the home during the interview.
Carroll was released unharmed after intensive diplomatic negotiations behind the scenes. The Irish foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, disclosed today that his government had been helped by the British, French and Italian governments. Although Carroll is an Irish citizen, the Irish government, which opposed the war, has no diplomatic presence in Baghdad.
Mr Ahern also thanked the Iranian government for its help. He confirmed that no ransom had been paid and said he had no knowledge of any prisoner swaps.
The Guardian has several related stories.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Headmistress over at The Common Room blog is the mother of a child with cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Her post here.
Wilfred McClay at Mere Comments weighs in with Eradicating the Disabled.
Please let me know if you have (or run across) other good posts on this. Thanks.
*"The Abortion Debate No One Wants To Have" was written by Patricia E. Bauer, and was published Tuesday, October 18, 2005, in the Washington Post. The subtitle is "Prenatal testing is making your right to abort a disabled child more like "your duty" to abort a disabled child." Kudos to the Washington Post for running this.
Kicking Over My Traces has the round-up - plus a request for more posts and more hosts for future carnivals.
Filing to read later when I have more time:
London mayor, U.S. diplomats swap road rage Related previous post: Americans refusing to pay English taxes (modern variation)
Williams defends Anacostia site for ballpark (eminent domain case)
Executive order sought on prayers (military chaplains)
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The library provides background information on its website. See About the author or Jane Austen's England, for instance. Then there's a On film page, which is how I know that there is a Bollywood musical take-off called Bride and Prejudice, which has already had one showing as part of One Book, One Chicago, and will be shown again Oct. 25, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Cindy Pritzker Auditorium...
(And, OK, some of the Discussion Questions are, uhm, somewhat silly, let's say. You can't have everything ;-)
The library also has lists of Classic British Authors and New Classic British Authors For Younger Readers.
Somewhat related previous post: Jane Austen fans, unite
From the first post:
Now we face the prospect of Hurricane Wilma. Earlier today, it set a record for the lowest barometric pressure for an Atlantic hurricane and, as of 2:00PM, its sustained winds were measured at 165 mph, with gusts to 200 mph. As it enters the Gulf of Mexico, it will almost certainly weaken due to cooler water and wind shear from an approaching cold front (if you live here long enough, you become something of an expert on these matters!).
No one knows how much Wilma will weaken, nor does anyone have a very good idea as to exactly where she will make landfall (expected late Saturday or early Sunday) in Florida. The “cone of uncertainty” is unusally large. For these reasons, I still don’t know whether we will be evacuating.
Until we evacuate (if we have to), I plan to live-blog Wilma’s approach. If we don’t evacuate, I’ll continue to live-blog until our electricity goes out, which it almost certainly will. For the vicarious thrill-seekers among you (I count myself in that category), this should prove to be entertaining. Adrenalin is a wonderful thing.
(All together now, ladies: Men!)
From the second post:
A late season hurricane severely intensifies the evacuation problem. The population of our part of Florida swells after Columbus Day, as the “Snowbirds” migrate south for the winter. There are a lot more cars on the local highways than there were even two weeks ago.
By last evening, all service stations between Ft. Myers and Naples were out of regular gas. Today they are out of gas, period. Sometime before 3 PM today, our local supermarket was completely out of bottled water and bread. As old hands at this stuff, we stocked up ahead of time.
I didn't catch much television news today, but what I did hear was emphasizing that there aren't many tourists this time of year, especially in the middle of the week. I'm not sure what part of Florida the reporter was in, but I'm wondering if they've forgotten about the Snowbirds?
Have your fun, Marc, but be safe, will 'ya?
What a story. History is filled with amazing tales like this.
And yet, how many of our kids recoil at the word “history,” telling us how “boring” it all is.
Here’s what that tells me — not enough teachers are using the right strategies to bring history to life for kids. They too often find it to be rote and irrelevant to their lives. But it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be.
hat tip: The Carnival of Education: Week 37 at The Education Wonks
Update: Elliott has a related post at The war of the words over what kids need to know. It's about textbooks, specifically the ideological fights over what goes into them.
The Guardian's Iraq correspondent, Rory Carroll, was last night missing after being kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad. Carroll, 33, an experienced foreign correspondent, had been conducting an interview in the city with a victim of Saddam Hussein's regime. He had been preparing an article for today's paper on the opening of the former dictator's trial yesterday.
Carroll, who was accompanied by two drivers and a translator, was confronted by the gunmen as he left the house where he had been carrying out the interview. He and one of the drivers were bundled into cars. The driver was released about 20 minutes later.
Carroll has been in Iraq since January. He volunteered for the assignment and his coverage has been critical of the US-led coalition. Before Iraq, he had been the paper's correspondent in Africa, based in Johannesburg, since 2002. In the previous three years he had been based in Rome, where he covered the aftermath of the Kosovo war.
The Guardian issued statements in both English and Arabic, including an audio version in Arabic, following the incident.
This shouldn't happen to anybody. Here's hoping he gets out of this all right.
The Americans are refusing to pay, citing the Vienna Convention. The mayor counters that British officials pay road tolls in the U.S.
Does no one remember that these two particular countries generally only go to war with each other over this very sort of thing?!? ;-)
Robert at Expat Yank has more.
A recently rediscovered Beethovan score of Grosse Fuge (officially last seen at an auction in Berlin in 1890) is expected to fetch up to £1.5m when it goes on sale at Sotheby's on the first of December in London.
The score, which contains multiple deletions and corrections, was found by librarian Heather Carbo at the Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Ms Carbo was conducting an inventory of the seminary's archives when she came across the manuscript in a basement cabinet.
Manuscripts by Mozart were discovered at the seminary in 1990.
President Dr Wallace Charles Smith said: "At the time, we called it 'the Mozart miracle'. It seems appropriate that this time we are thankful for the 'Beethoven blessing'."
Full BBC article
Update: Palmer Theological Seminary, formerly Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a news release with more details.
Ms [Lleuwen] Steffan, from Sling, near Tregarth, Bangor, first became interested in hymns after finding a hymn book in her grandmother's attic.
"I knew the words off by heart because I used to sing them like a Polly parrot, but I had never thought what they actually meant," she said.
"There was a feeling that something big was happening, there was a revolution behind these hymns.
"The message is ageless, no matter if you believe in a religion or not.
"You can't fail to be touched by the strength of feeling in the words, and understand that the people who wrote them experienced something real," she added.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
I've just been watching video reports out of Iraq, on this weekend's election. That was just one of quite a few options available. Interesting website.
Click on the book covers below for the information available at Barnes & Noble.
The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers
Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity
There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The Aol Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future
Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance
The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth
And so the question has come up - which is better for the markets, open-trading pits or electronic trading? She looks at the pros and cons of each.
TURBULENT times hit oil markets when hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew destruction into America's Gulf coast and slashed refinery capacity by at least 18 per cent. The price of crude soared beyond $70 a barrel.
But while our attention has been grabbed by these dramatic events, other changes that could affect oil market trading have been gathering apace.
In April, London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) finally closed down its open-pit trading floor after 25 years of activity.
But just when we thought that open-pit trading was being jettisoned as a colourful anachronism, the ebullient Americans have arrived in town in the form of NYMEX Europe, which launched its first open-outcry oil market in London last month...
However, the blogger neo-neocon has an interesting and intelligent look at this year's winner, at Next year I suppose he'll get the Peace Prize: Pinter wins Nobel for literature which I think deserves a wider audience.
Meanwhile, Robert Tumminello at the Expat Yank blog has been having a heyday holding Pinter's political pronouncements up to the light. See here, for instance. And here. And here.
And now Terry Teachout, who covers this sort of thing for a living, weighs in with Another Left Turn in Stockholm, which begins:
NEW YORK--Nothing could have been less unexpected than the news that Harold Pinter had won the Nobel Prize for literature. The only surprise was that he deserved it--which probably wasn't why he got it.
Teachout goes on to say, at the bottom of his piece:
What he said.
All this notwithstanding, it's clear that the Nobels are frequently given for purposes less aesthetic than political, though more often it's the peace prize with which the Nobel committee gets stuck on stupid. (Two words: Yasser Arafat.) And so I wouldn't be at all surprised if one of the reasons why Harold Pinter was deemed especially worthy of this year's literature prize was because his political views were so closely in sync with those of the rest of Old Europe's chattering classes.
Maybe I'm wrong. I wish I were. But by now it doesn't much matter. A prize that has been indiscriminately bestowed upon V.S. Naipaul and Dario Fo, after all, can no longer be taken very seriously, no matter who gets it after that.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
To many astute readers, the novel seems more like propaganda for the permissive society than a work of art. It is a deeply flawed novel, both stylistically and morally, but the sixties should not be given the last word on its meaning and significance. On the Road is a surprisingly melancholy book, and its originality renders every subsequent expression of youthful angst derivative and cheap. It is not an advertisement for the sixties version of personal freedom, but a warning against it.
I haven't read On the Road (nor anything else that author wrote, for that matter), but yesterday I approached a fervent Kerouac fan for his take on this article's central premise. To my surprise, he said that it's pretty much what he and his college buddies concluded back in the late 1960s - that when everything was said and done, it represented a way of life that was no way to live.
Did I say this surprised me? I understate. I don't know a lot about this man's young adulthood, but what I do know includes that he equipped himself with a VW bug and a funky dog with a horrible name and traveled around for a while. What I know is that he was a Jesus freak for a while, with hair to his waist and jewelry. He went to Woodstock. He jumped on the Zero Population Growth bandwagon bigtime. He's read everything that Kerouac ever wrote, and probably most of what's been written about him. I more or less expected this fellow to rise to the defense of the wild life represented in this book, written by an author I thought he held as a hero. I'd been assuming (silly me) that Kerouac represented something akin to Walter Mitty dreams, but more real - some grand escapade that a man holds in the back of his mind as something he might do someday. An escape hatch, maybe. An indulgence held reverently in reserve, perhaps.
I think I found a key to my confusion when I mentioned the part of the article where Webb talks about Kerouac's drunken appearance on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line about a year before his death. "I think the article said he died at age 47," I said.
"Yes, 47," my friend replied, without having to stop to think. Knowingly. And then he talked about how Kerouac had lived with his mother his last years. How he withdrew from life. How he disintegrated.
Suddenly it was less like talk about a hero, and more like being with a specialist studying a plane crash to try to determine what happened.
I have been thinking about this since, off and on. I am trying to remember if I've ever had an avid Kerouac reader in my bookstore that didn't talk about those last years, and the way Kerouac went to sad little pieces. They all seem to have the details of the disintegration down. They all seem to want others to know about it.
Ernest Hemingway fans can be that way, too. But that generally seems more like a fascination with genius that can't seem to live with itself. Very few people, if any, talk like they think they could have been Hemingway. On the other hand, most Kerouac fans I've met have more the aura of 'that could have been me, if I'd gone that way'. And here they are, businessmen and nurses and other respectable grown-ups now, the ones who talk like that.
Maybe some of the sixties generation got it right after all.
Scott at Power Line has a nice post, Saluting Sandy Koufax. (Via Betsy's Page.)
Friday, October 14, 2005
The October 14 page focuses on Sarah Winnemucca (who died at her sister's home in Henry's Lake, Nevada on October 14, 1891) and William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania (who was born on October 14, 1644, in London, England). Now that's an interesting combination...
Of the former:
Winnemucca was the first Native American woman known to secure a copyright and to publish in the English language. Her book, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, is an autobiographical account of her people during their first forty years of contact with explorers and settlers.
Her book is still in print, by the way.
Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims
On this day in 1939 a German submarine sank HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow, Orkney. The death toll of over 800 was a significant setback to the war effort. Read about Scotland's shipwrecks at heritage.scotsman.com.
There's more on the HMS Royal Oak at WW2 Cruiser Operations.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground
From Barnes & Noble (click on book cover for more):
FROM OUR EDITORS
A huge map hangs from a Pentagon wall that divides the planet into five area military commands. Veteran Atlantic Monthly correspondent Robert D. Kaplan decided that the only way to explore such a map, "to know it intimately," was on foot. With unprecedented access, he traveled alongside America's elite fighting forces to far-flung regions of the world, including Mongolia, Columbia, Yemen, West Africa, and Iraq. With vivid reportage, he describes not only conventional military missions and patrols in volatile areas but also humanitarian activities. First-rate journalism; first-class insights.
Megan Sherar, the sister of Biblio.com's CEO, Brendan Sherar, boarded a plane bound for Peace Corps Service in rural Bolivia over two years ago. Biblio.com was in the midst of preparing to launch a then new site for used, rare, and out-of-print books.
Little did we realize that 18 months later, over a distance of 3000 miles, and 7000 feet in elevation, our divergent paths would rejoin.
In April of 2003, a group of citizens of the community of Morado K'asa in Bolivia approached Megan with the idea of constructing a library for their community of 200 plus families. This group was headed up by JUSIBA ("Joventud sin Barreras" - "Youth Without Barriers"), an active local youth organization, and was backed by the leaders of the community.
At the same time, back in the U.S., after a more than a year in business, Biblio had achieved solid financial stability. Keeping with our corporate goals and missions, we were in the process of choosing a set of charities and non-profits which we could benefit by leveraging our success as a company. (We choose these by a companywide process of nomination and voting).
It was at this fortuitous moment that Megan presented her idea to us, and asked if Biblio could help finance the construction of a library for her community...
Read the rest of the story
Deciding to build on that success, Biblio.com has recently founded an independent, non-profit corporation called BiblioWorks Foundation to develop literacy and education programs to communities in need. Right now they are branching out in South America, but they are also working on projects in North Carolina, which is where the BiblioWorks folks call home. More.
As controversial as the Iraq war has become around the world, it is easy to lose sight of the extraordinarily good news that has emerged from that country and battleground. The first was the downfall of one of the world's most heinous dictatorships. Saddam Hussein killed his people, bullied his small neighbours and threatened his large ones. The other is the widespread and enthusiastic way in which Iraqis have grasped democratic choice. This weekend, they will once again go to the polls to make the decisions that will decide their country's fate. When Iraqis vote _ or abstain _ tomorrow on a constitution hammered out in a remarkably short time, they will be doing something none of their Arab neighbours do. Several major Sunni organisations still were debating this week whether to vote or boycott. By contrast, about 5,000 members of major Islamist student groups in Egypt held protests to demand a free vote, on anything. The arguments and debates over the proposed Iraq constitution during the past several weeks have been passionate, opinionated and peaceful...
Read the rest.
(Would somebody like to stake out the high ground on this? At first glance, it appears to be available.)
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
This is part of an ongoing project at National Public Radio, called This I Believe:
April 4, 2005 · This I Believe is an exciting national project that invites you to write about the core beliefs that guide your daily life. NPR will air these personal statements from listeners each Monday on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. By inviting Americans from all walks of life to participate, series producers Dan Gediman and Jay Allison hope to create a picture of the American spirit in all its rich complexity.
This I Believe is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. In creating This I Believe, Murrow said the program sought "to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization."...
Some of the original essays from the 1950s are here.
See also Dust off the boards, chess is back in style (Bundaberg and Region NewsMail, June 3, 2005), in which reporter Nikki Royan notes that chess is catching on with some schoolkids in Australia. Volunteer Allan Menham says it gives kids an academic edge by helping them learn to sit still and concentrate, teaching them to analyse things quickly, and "It teaches them to take a beating too."
(Do I hear self-esteem program coordinators fainting left and right at the thought of their fragile darlings actually learning to be good losers and - gasp - getting experience in dusting themselves off and going back at it?)
If you have any romance left in your heart for Castro, read Against All Hope or Waiting for Snow in Havana. The former is chilling and deserved to be read to honor the courage of its author and his prison mates. The latter is a magical book about growing up that also tells of what Castro was really about as almost an afterthought. It is one of the finest books I have read in the last ten years.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)--Memphis has become the 197th U.S. city to embrace a Community Marriage Policy.
More than 175 faith and community leaders at Shelby County’s Second Annual Healthy Marriage Summit affirmed their commitment to equip “individuals, couples and families for healthy, successful relationships,” as stated in the Mid-South Community Marriage Policy.
The goal of the policy is to reduce both the rate of divorce and the number of children born out of wedlock in Shelby County by 20 percent by 2010...
hat tip: The Alliance Alert
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
False Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear
Click on book cover for information at the Barnes & Noble website.
Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles
Update: I seem to still be having trouble with my Barnes & Noble links. You might get shunted to the Barnes & Noble front page and have to search for the book. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Help to reestablish hurricane-devastated librariesMore
Community institutions have been devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. At least 12 libraries in Louisiana and Mississippi were completely destroyed, along with the thousands of books in their collections. You can help to restock those shelves. As the United States rebuilds the Gulf Coast region, Alibris is proud to be working alongside the Texas Library Association (TLA). TLA has established a book donation program to accept contributions on behalf of affected libraries. Donated books will be stored until the affected libraries have found alternate facilities and are in a position to receive and process book deliveries. You can assist devastated libraries by purchasing books from this wishlist today. Your books will ship direct to TLA's donated storage facility in Austin, where they will wait until the affected libraries can put books on their shelves and open their doors. Donate a book today!
In the full disclosure department, my husband and I sell new and used books at several sites on the Internet, including Alibris, under the name of Uffda-shop.com. There's an outside chance I might profit a little bit from this donation drive. I hope you know that's not why I'm putting this information up.
For that matter, if I was in charge of making the wish list, I'd have made a different list, and left a few of these selections off. But it's not my library that got wiped out, and I'm not the one organizing the book drive. Forgive the icky selections and help with the healthy ones, eh?
Monday, October 10, 2005
The two immediate questions are: will this coalition be stable and coherent? And can Frau Merkel push through any of the changes urgently needed to reform Germany’s economy? Smiling wanly, she insisted yesterday that the economy would be her main focus and the new coalition stood for “new policies”. Already, however, she has conceded too much....
Given these contradictions, the prospects of a stable coalition are slim. It may run without fatal conflict for a few months, as the SPD will want to demonstrate maturity and responsibility and show that the coalition is merely continuing reforms already begun by Herr Schröder. But when real change is contemplated, the SDP will be tempted back to populist politics and Cabinet wrangling will begin. Each side will then want to go to the voters to increase its power. Only the deluded can see a long period of political stability.
Frau Merkel has little time, therefore, to establish herself...
hat tip: A Constrained Vision
The authors contend that to speak in terms of "money" instead of breaking it down into the actual monetary substances - the four main ones in the 16th through 18th centuries being gold, silver, copper and cowries (shells) - gets in the way of understanding the patterns of production and trade and, in their opinion, world history.
This is not a snappy read by any stretch, but it does provide an interesting way of looking at things, plus includes some surprising information. For instance, the authors claim that at the end of the sixteenth century, more Mexican money was circulating in southern China than in Mexico. Also, the introduction of American crops fundamentally changed China's society and economy by allowing heavy population shifts into non-rice-producing areas. They also contend that the founding of Manila by the Spanish in 1571 marks the birth year of global trade.
For instance, Jane Roh, reporting for Fox News, Sept. 22, 2005, in an article titled "Experts See Legal Abortion Without Roe" noted:
...Jack Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School, asked some of the nation's foremost constitutional law scholars to imagine how they might have written Roe. The results are compiled in "What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said: America's Top Legal Experts Rewrite America's Most Controversial Decision."...
What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said: The Nations Top Legal Experts Rewrite America's Most Controversial Decision
Click on the book cover above for the information available at Barnes & Noble.
Balkin, writing on his blog Balkinization, gave an introduction to the book here. (July 18, 2005). His scholars, I should add, include pro-life voices - and Balkin allows moral objections to be raised, along with the procedural objections, in his book. His eleven scholars come at the debate from every which way, and come to different conclusions about what the Supreme Court should have done, but he appears to let them each have their say. It's a university press book, and therefore a bit pricey, but it sounds like it might be a good resource for anyone interested in this particular debate.
Anybody who has actually read the book, please leave notes in the comments. Specifically, is it understandable to people who aren't constitutional law experts? From the summary in Balkin's blog post I'm thinking that it would be, but I'm making a guess here.
My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror
Update: For whatever reason, the book cover link is going to the Barnes & Noble front page instead of directly to the book in question. I've redone the link, but to no avail. I'll keep working on it, but for now you'll have to take the extra step of typing in the book info and doing a search. Sorry about the inconvenience.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Mossa, a Jesuit steering toward ordination in 2008, hosts the You Duped Me Lord blog. I keep meaning to ask him about that blog name...
Update: He left an explanation in the comments, which I'm bumping up here:
Check out Jeremiah 20 in the New American Bible translation. That's where the name comes from. I love it because expresses the frustrating and wonderful truth about vocation that it never is quite what you imagined it would be, because God knows that if he told you what was going to happen, you probably wouldn't have done it. We have to grow into our vocations, and sometimes we might get a little angry at God in the process! But read on in that chapter and you'll see that Jeremiah has been inescapably captured by God in spite of everything. I can relate.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Hmmm. If I remember right, the last time I got listed in the stats as being in Louisiana a gopher had cut phone lines up here in the Northwest. I hope we're not having some other problems like that.
In case you're wondering where my most recent visitors (supposedly) come from, the list includes Kalamazoo, Michigan; New York; Camarillo, California; Alameda, California; Woking, Bracknell Forest, UK; Houston, Texas; Hawaii; Plattsburgh, New York; Deschnes, Quebec, Canada; San Leandro, California; London, Lambeth, UK; Spain; Seattle, Washington; Lancaster, Blackpool, UK; Springfield, Virginia; Ellicott City, Maryland; Lewiston, New York; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Federal, Entre Rios, Argentina; Hehlrath, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany; Arlington Heights, Illinois; Trenton, New Jersey; Dover, Massachusetts; Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK; Montville, New Jersey; Bloomington, Indiana; Jamestown, North Dakota...
Ruffini had some interesting posts on Harriet Miers Oct. 3 and Oct. 5.
On the one hand, I'm delighted that there are young people out there who know and admire one of the funniest performers America has ever produced. (Full disclosure: one of my cats is named after Gracie Allen - another after her husband, George Burns.) On the other, to give the poor child the entire moniker instead of, say, naming her Gracie Something-Else (or naming her Grace Something-Else and calling her Gracie) seems a bit much.
This is not to say it can't be worse. See what the actor Nicholas Cage did to his son recently, for a sad example.
Then there are friends of ours, who, being not the least Greek as far as I can tell, named their baby girl Anakhoreo Ilona Last-Name-Withheld-By-Me. And, no, I'm not entirely sure how to pronounce it. (And I had to go back to an e-mail to make sure I had the spelling right.) The friends and relatives were (and are) a bit flummoxed. Plan A, amongst some of us surprised friends and relatives, was to call the dear child Anna. As it happens, though, she is usually referred to as Oreo, as in the cookie. Some people think this is cute.
I appreciate not wanting to go with the crowd on names. There are real problems with naming a child with an over-popular name. I'm 49, which means I was born during a "Kathy" glut. All the way through school, I was never the only Kathy in any given classroom. All through grade school, there were three of us, and we were required to use our last name initials at all times. In junior high and high school, where the grade schools converged, it got worse. In college, I got lumped with the other Kathys, particularly the one in the room next to mine, under the classification "The Kathys," and was introduced, as often as not, simply as "One of the Kathys." When I lived briefly in a big city, my fellow apartment dwellers dubbed me Kathy 27 (I think it was 27) the day I moved into the complex. It was not that I was the 27th Kathy to live there - oh, no, there were far more than that. I got the Kathy slot that had just come open, when the previous Kathy 27 moved away. Everybody thought it was funny. Except me. It's hard enough feeling like an individual in a big city without the neighbors refusing to learn your last name because your first name is part of a local running joke.
My sister had the opposite problem. She was given an unusual-looking and unusual-sounding name based on a last name, with a "De" in front of it. Teachers had to ask for instructions before teaching her how to write it. In databases, it winds up with a space and without one. Until the Internet came along, my sister was convinced that she was the only person in the world with her particular first name. Now we find that although it's uncommon, it is used as a first name, and has been used as such since colonial days. Especially in the South. (Particularly in Louisiana. Usually for guys. Not what she wanted to know.) In her younger days, she defiantly refused to answer to a nickname. In recent years, she has insisted upon one. (Her new husband, she tells me, is rather fond of the full, formal name, and may undercut her on her nickname quest.)
I expect that child naming is something of a lose-lose proposition. No matter what you come up with, the kid will almost certainly be upset about it at some point or points, for one reason or another (too common, too strange, too much someone else's name, too old-fashioned, too trendy, not trendy enough...). But sometimes I wonder what some people are thinking when they name their children. At the one time in their lives when they should be having their eyes solidly on the future, why is it that so many parents seem to have 'cuteness attacks' that make them give a cute or 'clever' or babyish name to someone who, barring catastrophe, will be a baby only a short time before launching into adulthood, when such a name will probably be jarringly out of place?
hat tip: Jonathan Spalink at PowerBlog
John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father
Click on the book cover for particulars from Barnes & Noble. (And, yes, I'm an affiliate, so I'd get a little commission money if you happened to order anything from Barnes & Noble on that visit. I guess I need to say that from time to time to fulfill the full disclosure requirements?)
I find myself lately not passionately supporting or opposing any particular nominee. But I'd give a great deal to see Supreme Court justices term-limited. They should be picked not for life but for a specific term of specific length, and then be released back into the community. This would involve amending the Constitution. Why not? We'd amend it to ban flag-burning, even though a fool burning a flag can't possibly harm our country. But a Kelo decision and a court unrebuked for it can really tear the fabric of a nation.