Sunday, September 6, 2009

It's a shame we'll miss baby bunny season...

After months of providing wackiness and fun to children of compromised health, I'm back to the land of internet (though just North of the land of the free).

Who knew that Victoria would be full of adorable feral bunny rabbits?

This should really be advertised more heavily in Canadian tourism adds. It sure beats moose. Unfortunately, these little critters are doing what rabbits do best and so UVic is obliged to "take care of it."

Poor bunnies :(

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cities! Doing stuff...

Ghent, Belgium goes vegetarian.

Vauban, Germany goes car-less.

New York and Paris get naked:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New York, I love you

Back in 'merica! Potential swine flu aside, it's good to be home. And by home, I mean New York City.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Becky!

Happy Birthday, Becky! I hope you have had a great day, and I look forward to continuing the celebration in Lexington.

By now you should have received your gift certificate to Kiva.org. Given your active engagement with the world of human rights and global betterment, you probably already know that Kiva Microfunds is a microlending organization dedicated to funding institutions in developing countries, which in turn lend the money to small businesses.

For those that are not familiar with this organization, however, Kiva is remarkable because it gives everyone an automatic and tangible way to make the world a better place. To participate, you choose one of the hundreds of qualified entrepreneurs profiled on the website, and you lend however much you can to help them reach their goal. You can read all about these entrepreneurs, and see how many previous loans they have received as well as their rate of default.

One entrepreneur I've decided to support is Pendra Diallo:

"Mrs. Penda Diallo is a divorcee aged 40, mother of three children, who lives in Sanankoroba, a village situated 20 km from Bamako (the capital of Mali) where she is a social worker in the SOS children's village. Sanankoroba is situated in the second administrative region of the Republic of Mali.

Penda sells 'pagnes' (lengths of brightly colored African print cloth), bedsheets, fabrics, etc. In her search for complementary financial resources, she decided to join the micro-finance institution Soro Yiriwaso. She is on her first individual loan after having correctly reimbursed three group loans (solidarity loans) and with this loan she intends to buy 35 'pagnes' and 15 sheets

She does her buying at the market in Bamako, then sells for cash and credit in Sanankoroba. She hopes to make an average monthly profit of 55,000 F CFA so that she can not only reimburse the loan but also invest in her business and contribute to family expenses."

None of your money is a donation. Via profiles on their website, you keep track of how much of your loan has been repaid each month, and when you have been paid in full, you have the choice of reloaning the money, donating it to Kiva to fund operating costs, or withdrawing the money.

Thanks to Wikipedia, here is a partial list of famous/influential people who support Kiva Microfunds:
I know this present is, in essence, a delayed box-full-of-cash, but I hope you like it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Small peeing children

My trip to Brussels last weekend introduced me to Manneken Pis, the child who has been continuously peeing outside for hundreds of years now. Originally constructed in 1388, this little boy represents the future for all Dutch/Flemish males, who will experience countless outdoor urinations throughout their lives. But their countries are prepared for it. Outdoor urinals are erected (ha) throughout cities in crowded drunken areas so that these boys and their bladders will be able to take care of business. That's all well and good except that girls' bladders are often smaller and just as much in need of relief. In the statue world, this led to the construction of Jeanneke Pis. In the actual world, this has led to lines that last forty-five minutes. I spent a total of two hours in lines for the bathroom yesterday and the day before (Queen's Day and Night, respectively) and still had to pay as much as a euro to relieve myself. These outdoor urinals are free, convenient, and wait-free. My solution? Funnels. Think about it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

When two worlds collide...

Two of my favorite things in the world are Wikipedia and the MacArthur Foundation. And so here we have Jonathan Fanton interviewing Jimmy Wales, and it's such a great combination:

Other great combinations:
1. Kentucky and Australia
2. Google and the Oxford American Dictionary:
3. Free access and law school
4. the French and the Germans
5. Clark and Michael

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The best laid plans of mice and men...


I had to momentarily suspend country appreciation on account of busy-ness (not to be confused with business, which is originally what I wrote, and not at all what I meant). I also decided that while the abecedarian method is fun and allows for a more varied week, I should probably take advantage of physical travels, as well as relevant national holidays, in my virtual adventures. So tomorrow is the Day of the Armenian Genocide, and since all I did on Armenian day was listen to a lot of Cher, I'll continue its appreciation tomorrow. I'll celebrate Belgium on Saturday and Sunday, since I'm going to Brussels for the weekend.

Australia will be duly celebrated on Monday. I'm going all out for Australia day. I will only listen to Australian music, I will talk to Australian people, and I will use Australian slang (it's easy as!).

And then Thursday, the Netherlands will be celebrated. Thursday, you see, is Queen's Day. I'll have to buy something orange.

Anyhow, time to save this post....

Here are cool things that live on the internet:

Like Lastfm, only for books. Find out what people are reading RIGHT NOW!

Clearly, a world where doing this feeds the hungry is fucked, but, well, yeah, the world is fucked up. So go draw on bread and try not to think about it.

Susan Boyled potatoes. Looks run of the mill on the outside, but what's on the inside will change your life. Or something like that. Leave out the bacon, because pigs are people too.

This was where my brother was born! (Er, not in the Taco Bell bathroom...but in South Bend...)

Way to go, Spiderman!

Way to go, smaller, Brazilian Spiderman!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Still travelin' (but first, a recap)

I've learned so much this past week! The highlights of things learned include:
-Dari is what Afghans call their language, not Persian or Farsi, even though it's basically the same.

-Argentina claims part of Antarctica, which is disputed by Chile and the UK, both of which also claim parts of the continent. In order to enforce their claim, Argentina flew a seven-month pregnant woman onto their Antarctic base so that they could claim that the baby was a native-born Argentinian, and thus that Antarctica is part of Argentina.

-Andorra and Angola's mottos are remarkably similar ("strength united is stronger" and "virtue is stronger when united," respectively).

-Albania, under Enver Hoxha, was the world's first officially atheist state.

-The banjo originated from Angola; they call it "mbanza" in Kimbundu.

-Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John's, Antigua. Also, Silvio Berlusconi has a home there.

-Nathaniel Davis, Assistant Secretary of State under President Ford, resigned when his warning that supporting the Angolan insurgency would lead to an escalation in the conflict was ingored. He later became a professor at Harvey Mudd College.

-Argentina's population consists of only 10% mestizo or Amerindian. In contrast, Paraguay's is 95%.

-Adolf Eichmann's last words were, "...long live Argentina."

-About two thirds of Albanians fell victim to a government-sponsored ponzi scheme in 1997. Riots ensued.
I decided I need a sabbath. I didn't realize how exhausting virtual travel could be. This weekend I'm going to Brussels (in reality), so I'll have to take a hiatus then too.

I'm excited to finish off the A-list this week. I already have great fondness for all of the following countries and I can't wait to learn more about them. Especially about Azerbaijan, which for now I only associate with Eddie Izzard. Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, April 21: Armenia
Wednesday, April 22: Australia
Thursday, April 23: Austria
Friday, April 24: Azerbaijan

Beautiful people in Argentina


Do beautiful people have an advantage in Argentina? Gonzalo Artelora thinks so. The self-declared feosexual (feo is Spanish for ugly) believes that growing up ugly gave him a disadvantage. His solution is to tax the beautiful, of which Argentina seems to have many, and give the money to the uglies. He thinks that former president and current First Man Nestor Kirchner should be sympathetic. He is, after all, a hook-nose who cares nothing for fashion. Artelora calls him a "comrade."

Artelora's tongue-in-ugly-cheek campaign is more than just a joke.
It's not about making yourself look beautiful, he says, but about coming to terms with and being positive about who you are and what nature has given you.
I was really disappointed by this feel-good message. Easy for Gonzo to say. Ugly people, especially ugly women, are treated terribly, all over the world, and always have been. For Artelora it's all well and good; he was an awkward teen and emerged from it relatively unscathed (he looks pretty normal in his adult pictures) and with a quirky sense of humor to boot. Chicks dig that. But don't expect President Fernandez to start letting herself go at any point. To put it simply, there are higher expectations for women. And beauty is one of them.

Speaking of beautiful women in Argentina, Metric's Emily Haines traveled to Buenos Aires to clear her mind and write new songs. While the problems of the beautiful and talented might seem silly compared to the problems of, say, workers struggling to keep their jobs and assert their rights, I do like her song.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ancient and bearded: Antigua and Barbuda


Not just a host to a one of the biggest ponzi schemes in recent months, Antigua and Barbuda can also boast of having the world's first giant thing in nature to be named after Obama. Mount Obama was coined by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer following the American President's November victory.

Additionally, there are 365 beaches in Antigua alone, which means you could visit a different beach every day for a year! I suppose that would be cool if you're into sitting around and doing nothing all day on a beach...

That said, I think I would hate visiting this place. It looks like a tourist cestpool. And not just any kind of tourist, but jerk billionaire tourists who want to steal people's money. No thank you. But since this is supposed to be an adventure in appreciation, here are some recipes that look delicious:

Ducana:


INGREDIENTS:
* 2 large sweet potato
* 1/2 cups sugar
* 2 1/2 cups flour
* Dash of all spice
* Dash of cinnamon raisin (optional)

METHOD / DIRECTIONS:

Grate sweet potato and add sugar to grated potatoes. Leave for a while - it will spring water from the mixture (so you don’t have to add water at anytime). Mix in flour and add spices and raisin. If the mixture is too thick then you may proceed to add a little water, if the mixture may seem too watery add a little more flour. Spoon some mixture into foil paper. You may be able to make at least five individual Ducuna from the above recipe. Wrap Ducuna and place in boiling water and boil for 45 minutes until they are firm. Unwrap and enjoy (it will be hot). Hope you like it.

National Dish

The national dish of Antigua and Barbuda is fungie (pronounced as foon-gee) and pepper pot. Fungie is a dish that is similar to the Italian Polenta, and is almost completely made from cornmeal.


Fungie & Pepperpot


Ingredients

For Corn Meal Fungee
4 cups water
2 cups corn meal
1 tsp salt to taste
6 okras, cut into small pieces

For Pepper Pot
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Vegetable oil
4 cloves, cut
2 medium onions, chopped
4 tbsp ketchup
4 tbsp margarine
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch chive
1 lb spinach, chopped
2 cups fresh greenpeas
4 fresh green eddo leaves
1 lb antrobers(eggplant), peeled & cut
1 lb okras, chopped
1/2 lb pumpkin,peeled & cut
1 lb salt beef, chopped
1 lb pig snout(optional), cut--->hahahahaha what! I'm glad this is optional
1 lb green papaw, cut
3 small squash, cut
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper

Corn Meal Fungee Preparation
Place water, okra and salt in a pan. Bring to boil until okras are cooked. Remove half the liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon. The corn meal is mixed to a pasty batter by adding cold water then stirring & mixing this.

Add wet corn meal. Reduce the heat, stir continuously with a wooden spoon until mixture becomes fairly stiff.

When the mixture breaks away cleanly from the pan (i.e it does not stick), the fungee is ready. Butter a bowl, turn the mixture into the bowl, shaking it into the shape of the bowl, then turn it out into a serving dish.
Serve hot with Pepper Pot, boiled fish or stew.

Pepper Pot Preparation
Wash all leaves and vegetables in salted water. Place cut vegetables; eggplant, squash and leaves to soak in fresh water Cook salted meat in water with no salt for 10 minutes.

Remove and drain. Heat vegetable cooking oil. Add salt meats. Fry for about 15 minutes, add onions and fresh meats. Fry for another 5 minutes.

Add all vegetables, except peas. Stir. Add just enough water to cover and cook the vegetables till tender. When the vegetables and meat are cooked, add the peas along with all seasonings.

Allow all ingredients to simmer under low fire for approximately 15 minutes or until thick. Serve with okra fungee rolled in butter or margarine.

Antigua’s Fungee is Barbados’ Couscous. If you’re vegetarian or do not eat red meats, you may omit the meats from your preparation. Recipe courtesy of Antigua & Barbuda Board of Tourism.

Oh, also, their flag looks like someone is trying to send a ninja star through the mail. Dope.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Andorra

Andorra is so tiny that there's not much that can be said about it. They just got a government in the '90s, the people live into their eighties, they like to ski. They lost a bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. They are Catholic but support gay marriage. They are a national minority in their own nation. They refer to their country as a "princess" in the national anthem. They don't like taxes. They were officially at war with Germany until 1957. There's more, but that's all that's interesting.

There's a lot that can be said, however, about Caribou. Caribou is the musical alias for Daniel Snaith, an electro-musician/mathematician from Canada. His Andorra (see the connection??) album won him the esteemed Polaris Prize in 2008. He went on a very long tour last year which shows working hard hasn't yet gone out of style, but he has never played in Andorra. Anyhow, I could drone on, but how's about you just have a listen to the whole album instead? Plus two bonus remixes!


SeeqPod - Playable Search

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fiji is sooo boring

The Fiji Daily Post has nicely protested the recent emergency regulations which, among other things, have been deployed to severely limit freedom of the press. Given that the top story has been declared by the Fijian "Government" to be not newsworthy, the Post has turned to other events dominating the national agenda. These include breakfast, watching paint dry and the spectacle of a man boarding a bus.

The tension between the authorities and journalists over the media blackout was relaxed a little today as foreign journalists were "welcomed" back into the country. It's difficult to pick a winner at this stage, we'll just have to see who crumbles first.

Blackouts: a Top Ten list

In military lexicon, a blackout is a tactic used to thwart the enemy, usually consisting of turning off lights and severing communication lines. While this may have been the original concept behind blackouts, now blackouts take myriad forms, from comeback pop albums to really insignificant protests. Here is a totally objective and statistically created top ten.

10. The Battle of Los Angeles
In February 1942, just three months after the U.S. entered into World War II, a UFO sighting caused panic in Los Angeles. Air raid drills were sounded and the entire city was ordered to shut off their lights.

9. Blackout Sabbath
In which Rufus Wainwright encourages everyone to turn off their lights, and in return promises to serenade us all by candlelight.


8. New Zealand's Internet blackout
Protesting a new law that somehow blocks freedom blah blah blah due process of law blah blah blah. Participating websites opted to change their homepages to this for a day. Here's a video that explains it. It's totally annoying. (Kangaroo court...get it?)


7. Britney's Blackout wins three MTV Europe awards. And here I didn't even know this album existed. Guess I survived the blackout...get it?


6. Weird couple has World War II themed wedding, complete with Neville Chamberlain and a blackout.

5. Seismic activity severs tubes which contain the internet and thus causes a blackout in India, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan.

4. Crazy Ukrainian teens go on a Clockwork Orange rampage and media blackout ensues.

3. NBC's historic Blackout Thursday of 1994


2. Sirhan Sirhan has "complete mental blackout" when it comes to his assassinating Robert F. Kennedy.

1. New York City blackout inspires beauty in an otherwise kinda mean city.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Puppy!

The wait for the First Puppy is over! Welcome, Bo!

I don't want to rain on the puppy parade and side with the often-shrill PETA people, but I am a little disappointed that Bo is a blue-blooded Kennedy, and not a mutt from a shelter. Then, I saw this picture of President Obama running with Bo -

And this picture of Bo wearing a lei -


- and was too hopelessly distracted to be critical.

Never been kissed (but not in a Drew Barrymore-vehicle-film sort of way)

While I admire Becky's nondiscriminatory animal humanitarianism, I am one of those obnoxious people who tend to care much more about the cute endangered animals, and I always chose my activist chocolate bars based not on the chocolate I actually wanted to eat (bat, salmon), but the animal on the label (panda, baby penguin).

awww, look at the baby!

As such, her post on the faceless, but loving kitty creeps me out hardcore. On the off chance that any of you are as shallow as I am, but also feel guilty about being a bad person, I have another story about "the inside that matters" that may be a little easier to get behind.

Susan Boyle is 47. She has never been married, and, in fact, has never been kissed. She has been singing since she was twelve, but her dream has always been to sing in front of a big audience - and she gets her chance when she appears on "Britain's Got Talent." She is sassy, though a little frumpy, and didn't get a chance to figure out frizz-control before arriving at the competition. As she takes the stage, you can feel the audience and the judges collectively dismissing her. The judges, including Simon Cowell, restrain themselves from rolling their eyes, but several audience members do not. With the first bars of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables, Susan fidgets a little, and you hear a few scattered giggles - and then - she begins to sing -

The fascists have disabled embedding for this video, but here is Susan's performance. As far as I know, Susan has not been forced into prostitution to provide for her child, but damn, does she sell this song.

Albania's small town charm

I've recently been made aware of a blog which ignores whatever lame cause various protesters are promoting in order to graphically objectify the more attractive of the protesters. Pretty legit.

Anyway, this is related to Albania, because the first thing I noticed upon reading this article was that a certain home-bound, death-sentenced, reading-level-of-a-twelve-year-old Albanian boy is a fox. Not to mention the fact that he has never been able to have a girlfriend, he dreams of a normal life, he wants to be whisked away from Albania...he's the male Rapunzel!

Okay, now that that's out of my system, here's the deal: Certain areas of Albania still follow the Kanun, a code of behavior that has been passed on for more than 500 years, in which “blood must be paid with blood,” with a victim’s family authorized to avenge a slaying by killing any of the killer’s male relatives. The Albanian constitution used to be based on it. What. And now an estimated 1,000 children are kept locked up so that they won't be avenged in the streets.

This law in itself is enough for me to make a mental note to never go to Albania, but then they have to go and inform me that one dude killed an ice cream man for not selling his kid a cone. Way to ruin ice cream, Albanian dude.

Luckily, there's an upside to all this senseless killing. Since only the men are targetted, there ends up being a shortage of them in Albanian villages. So women, just like Rosy the Riveter, stepped up to the plate. Taking a vow of celibacy, these women were the de facto men of their respective households. Nowadays, with western infiltration telling women that they can be free as women and not as men, there's not such a need for this lifestyle anymore. The men can go on getting killed while single motherdom will become the norm, just like in inner-city America. Way to enter into modernity, Albania!

Faceless love


There exists in the world a cat without a face, and she loves everyone and she just wants to be loved back. And she blogs.

It's really hard to read the blog because Chase uses typical cute-cat speak but then there are these pictures that make you want to scream, "OH MY GOD YOU HAVE NO FACE!!!!!" but then you realize that Chase is here to make us all a little more tolerant.

Here is what Chase said in her first post:
My name is Chase. I am 2 years and 3 months old. When I was 3-6 weeks old, in June 2005, I was hit by a car and left in the road. A young man heard my cries after a few days and came to my rescue. He brought me to the Chevy Chase Animal Clinic and gave the doctors some money to do what they could for me and hopefully find me a home. A new vet tech, Melissa, was working there. The doctors informed her she would get to care for me. She took me in and would take me home at night and on weekends to give me extra care that I needed while I recovered. I ended up having a back leg amputated and over the summer my nose and, eyelids, and skin from my face sloughed off from the trauma of the accident. The wonderful doctors sent me and Melissa to the University of Tenn Vet Hospital for 2 rounds of plastic surgery. Unfortunately neither attempt was successful. I would have to live looking different than my other kitty friends. I adjusted fast and even though I don't have eyelids I can still sleep just fine but I prefer to go to a dark room or under the bed. My caretaker, Melissa, ended up switching jobs and then relocating to a different state. I happily have become her "baby" and she takes care of me still to this day as a member of her family. I need a bit of special attention to keep my eyes in good shape. I get artificial tears applied to them 3-4 times daily, as well as antibiotic drops and steroid drops as needed. I have GREAT vision and love to catch flies and crickets! My face looks pink but it is just tissue and the fur will never grow back. I am NOT IN ANY PAIN! I am a very loving and friendly cat. I love to meet new dogs and cats and really like to lick them. This got me in trouble when I was a clinic cat at the vet's office. Not all the dogs wanted to meet me. But often I would curl up with the sick animals in their cages and keep them company.
This is just an introduction to me and my family. I will try to keep you posted in my daily obsticles and fun filled days as often as possible.
Love and Meows,
Chase the cat
Way to go Chase. What a trooper.

Did people know about this? I feel like this is one of those things people know about and then I find out later and am all worked up about and people are like, chill, we've all known for years. That must be how these isolated Amazonian tribes would feel if they ever were told about the existence of "the rest of the world." Hate to break it to you guys, but we all know each other. And we can fly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Burka Blue

"You give me all your love, you give me all your kisses, and then you touch my burka, and do not know who is it."
Day is starting off smashingly. I learned already that in the past 100 years, Afghanistan has had all major forms of governance (republic, theocracy, communist, etc.) except for military junta. I also learned about their first girl pop band, named, of course, Burka Band. They got popular in Germany, hence the German subtitles.



They had to flee Afghanistan because, well, this is scandalous. At least the burkas help conceal their identities...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Around the world in 192 days

Since I'm working for the UN and all, I've decided to embark upon a personal journey of cursory appreciation by devoting 192 not necessarily consecutive days to the member states of this organization. Each will get its own day. I'm assuming this will entail skimming the Wikipedia entry of the day's country, trying to coordinate my outfits with the state's flag, eating the country's food (where applicable), and trying to impress people with little known facts (which I will have picked up from Wikipedia). If I know someone from that country, I may give them a ring (a phone call, not a finger ornament). This will probably last until I get bored, but the beauty of the non-consecutive is that I will definitely finish eventually. Feel free to join me on this tour! Here are this week's targets:

Monday, April 13: Afghanistan
Tuesday, April 14: Albania
Wednesday, April 15: Algeria
Thursday, April 16: Andorra
Friday, April 17: Angola
Saturday, April 18: Antigua and Barbuda
Sunday, April 19: Argentina

The global financial crisis: the Songsmith version

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Best leave that to the professionals...

Fans of Michael Pollan know that he promotes salvation through gardening. Per example:
You begin to see that growing even a little of your own food is, as Wendell Berry pointed out 30 years ago, one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems — the way “solutions” like ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do — actually beget other solutions, and not only of the kind that save carbon. Still more valuable are the habits of mind that growing a little of your own food can yield. You quickly learn that you need not be dependent on specialists to provide for yourself — that your body is still good for something and may actually be enlisted in its own support. If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need. We may also need the food. Could gardens provide it? Well, during World War II, victory gardens supplied as much as 40 percent of the produce Americans ate.

But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen. Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools. You will have reduced the power of the cheap-energy mind by personally overcoming its most debilitating weakness: its helplessness and the fact that it can’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve division or subtraction. The garden’s season-long transit from seed to ripe fruit — will you get a load of that zucchini?! — suggests that the operations of addition and multiplication still obtain, that the abundance of nature is not exhausted. The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
So isn't it nice that Michelle Obama embraced this PR-friendly past time and started her own White House garden? The Mid-America CropLife Association doesn't think so.

Michelle's organic gardening elicited "shudders" from some of MACA's employees. And this letter from another:

March 26, 2009

Mrs. Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Obama,

We are writing regarding the garden recently added to the White House grounds to ensure a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables to your family, guests and staff. Congratulations on recognizing the importance of agriculture in America! The U.S. has the safest and most abundant food supply in the world thanks to the 3 million people who farm or ranch in the United States.

The CropLife Ambassador Network, a program of the Mid America CropLife Association, consists of over 160 ambassadors who work and many of whom grew up in agriculture. Their mission is to provide scientifically based, accurate information to the public regarding the safety and value of American agricultural food production. Many people, especially children, don't realize the extent to which their daily lives depend on America's agricultural industry. For instance, children are unaware the jeans they put on in the morning, the three meals eaten daily, the baseball with which they play and even the biofuels that power the school bus are available because of America's farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture is the largest industry in America generating 20% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99% of U.S. farms. Over 22 million people are employed in farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and sales. Through research and changes in production practices, today's food producers are providing Americans with the widest variety of foods ever.

Starting in the early 1900's, technology advances have allowed farmers to continually produce more food on less land while using less human labor. Over time, Americans were able to leave the time-consuming demands of farming to pursue new interests and develop new abilities. Today, an average farmer produces enough food to feed 144 Americans who are living longer lives than many of their ancestors. Technology in agriculture has allowed for the development of much of what we know and use in our lives today. If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?

We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents. The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family's year-round food needs.

Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical. Local and conventional farming is not mutually exclusive. However, a Midwest mother whose child loves strawberries, a good source of Vitamin C, appreciates the ability to offer California strawberries in March a few months before the official Mid-west season.

Farmers and ranchers are the first environmentalists, maintaining and improving the soil and natural resources to pass onto future generations. Technology allows for farmers to meet the increasing demand for food and fiber in a sustainable manner.

* Farmers use reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres to prevent erosion.
* Farmers maintain over 1.3 million acres of grass waterways, allowing water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil.
* Contour farming keeps soil from washing away. About 26 million acres in the U.S. are managed this way.
* Agricultural land provides habitat for 75% of the nation's wildlife.
* Precision farming boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
* Sophisticated Global Positioning Systems can be specifically designed for spraying pesticides. A weed detector equipped with infrared light identifies specific plants by the different rates of light they reflect and then sends a signal to a pump to spray a preset amount of herbicide onto the weed.
* Biogenetics allows a particular trait to be implanted directly into the seed to protect the seed against certain pests.
* Farmers are utilizing 4-wheel drive tractors with up to 300 horsepower requiring fewer passes across fields-saving energy and time.
* Huge combines are speeding the time it takes to harvest crops.
* With modern methods, 1 acre of land in the U.S. can produce 42,000 lbs. of strawberries, 110,000 heads of lettuce, 25,400 lbs. of potatoes, 8,900 lbs. of sweet corn, or 640 lbs of cotton lint.

As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply. America's farmers understand crop protection technologies are supported by sound scientific research and innovation.

The CropLife Ambassador Network offers educational programs for elementary school educators at http://ambassador.maca.org covering the science behind crop protection products and their contribution to sustainable agriculture. You may find our programs America's Abundance, Farmers Stewards of the Land and War of the Weeds of particular interest. We thank you for recognizing the importance and value of America's current agricultural technologies in feeding our country and contributing to the U.S economy.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Bonnie McCarvel, Executive Director
Janet Braun, Program Coordinator
Mid America CropLife Association
11327 Gravois Rd., #201
St. Louis, MO 63126

Food is a science best left to the scientists.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A tale of free knowledge: James Franco

This concept was inspired by Drew, who is the silent yet pivotal member of this blog team.

So James Franco, while at UCLA, wrote his thesis under novelist Mona Simpson. Mona Simpson wrote Anywhere but Here and is the younger sister of Steve Jobs, but didn't know that until later in life because Steve Jobs was put up for adoption by his then-unwed parents, one of whom is Syrian. Steve Jobs is rumored to have dated Joan Baez, and to have done so solely because she once dated Bob Dylan. He's a big fan. Joan Baez's first act of civil disobedience was refusing to leave the building at Palo Alto Senior High School at age sixteen during an air-raid drill. Another notable alumnus of Palo Alto Senior High School is James Franco.

Animal rights


Nicholas Kristoff's op-ed this week looks into animal rights and speculates that that ethical obligations beyond our own species is finally catching on. While this idea has been promoted the eccentric Peter Singer for decades, legislation is finally popping up that suggests its entry into the mainstream is nigh. Kristoff quotes Jeremy Bentham's litmus test as the new standard: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

Kristoff looks at new legislation in California as a sign of progress. Switzerland has gone even further in protecting animals from harm and has adopted laws which allow for a better quality of life for "social" creatures. Before we cheer the revolution in animal rights, maybe we should step back and think about what it means when someone like Alan Dershowitz can be both pro-animal rights and pro-torture. Do we care about animals more than people?

Animal rights activists often see their campaign as fitting in the trajectory of ethical advancement. Over two hundred years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft's appeal on behalf of women's rights was argued to have equal merit as an appeal for animal rights. At the time, this was meant as an insult. Now, many animal rights advocates are coming back to this point. In drawing a comparison to violations of human rights, they hope to draw the connection that animals are just like us; they deserve rights too. But when the Holocaust is compared to dinner, the campaign seems more to diminish the former than promote the cause of the latter.

Clearly that's not what the well-intentioned, albeit sometimes misguided, folks at PETA have in mind. It's a tactic that has similarly been used by the pro-life community, pro-Palestinian activists, even those raising awareness of global warming (on both sides). All such comparisons are meant to do is proclaim: this is serious stuff. The offense stems from the perception that they diminish the seriousness of the Holocaust, but that's not what any of these groups and individuals have in mind. They are working under the assumption that we all get how serious the Holocaust is, and they are using this common conception to draw our attention to another, in their eyes, very serious issue. In doing so, they actually reinforce the belief that the Holocaust is an unquestionably horrible event. It's pretty common to hear of Hitler-Satan comparisons, right? Does that make Satan any less evil?

So it's a similar thing when animal rights advocates compare their task to that of anti-slavery activists, the women's liberation movement, and the gay rights movement. Such a comparison shouldn't be seen as a threat to the importance of those causes, but rather a reinforcement of their importance. There is no reason to claim that animal rights advocacy takes away from the promotion of human rights. Right?

Well, you can't ignore the visibility of animal rights activists. They are dousing fur-clad celebrities in paint, taking out full-page magazine articles, and liberating lab animals. And of course it gets people wondering: where are the radical Darfur protesters? Or the anti-poverty demonstrations? Who is sticking up for women's rights these days? The high profile nature of animal rights activists suggest that they don't care about human causes. When PETA sends a letter to Hamas asking them to stop swinging cats around by their tails, you can't help but think they are really really stupid. It reinforces what many folks who don't already care about animals are thinking: how can you stick up for animals when so many people lack basic rights?

It's not that obvious. Pro-lifers face similar criticism--why waste your efforts on the unborn? For them, as for the animal rights advocates, the task isn't just to secure rights for those who deserve them, it's to convince people that these individuals deserve them in the first place. This increases the gravity of the call. Because otherwise they'd have to bow out entirely, right? Until the rights of the borned humans are fully realized?

OK, I'll sever the abortion-animal abuse link right now, I was just trying to broaden the issues a little bit. But basically, I think it's short-sided to say that we can't fight for animal rights so long as people aren't provided for. Perhaps if the human rights community would accept the animal rights advocates, the latter would be able to prioritize their campaigns and show proper concern for human atrocities. The emphasis has to be on inclusiveness. Similarly, the animal rights advocates should consider working towards joining the greater community of people fighting for rights of the oppressed rather than fight for animal rights only and using comparisons that further alienate the cause. Think about how hurt gays in California were by the seeming snub of African-American voters when Prop 8 passed. It certainly highlighted the insularity of these movements. If you care for the rights of the oppressed, you should care for all who are oppressed, in whichever form. People have an immense capacity for empathy; there's no reason we can't care about multiple issues at a time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who needs liberty when you can have four more years of no privacy?

Remember how Bush and his cronies disregarded the law and did whatever the hell they wanted? Remember how Obama was supposed to be a beacon of light and hope and change and stuff?

In this illuminating article, Glenn Greenwald confirms what I suspected before: the president can follow whichever laws he chooses to follow. Not only that, but that Obama chooses to not follow a whole bunch and there's nothing we can do about it.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, which filed the lawsuit against AT&T and other wireless service providers for illegal eavesdropping on American citizens, has now filed one against Obama, Eric Holder, the United States, et al. for warrantless wiretapping. And what does Obama say? Basically, that the U.S. has secret stuff that is super important because of terrorists and stuff and you wouldn't understand and terrorists are out there and blah blah blah. Not only does the Department of Justice ask for the lawsuit to be dismissed, they also employ Bush-speak in doing so. FUCK.

Greenwald even scanned the brief and excerpted some of the scarier Bushisms in his article. Here are a few:



Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Vegetarian Feast!

Though this meal is months away, I am already all a-flutter! On June 13th, I will be having dinner at a local farm, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, IL. The four to five course meal will feature local and sustainably farmed fruits, vegetables, meats, and the farm's own cheeses. These events, which run from late May to October, are themed around interesting ingredients, such as game meat (bison, venison, quail), or challenges, such as the 100 yards dinner, an "extreme local" meal.

We have selected the "Vegetarian Feast," which will take place in the heart of cherry and currant season, but part of me longs for "The Whole Hog." My love for bacon runs deep (and tests my almost-always-pescatarianism), but more importantly, it would afford me the opportunity to recreate Michael Pollan's closing meal in The Omnivore's Dilemma...minus the actual wild boar killing...and slaughter...and meat carving...and fat rendering...and sausage making...

On second thought, I'll stick to my kale and cauliflower. It will be much easier to kiss the baby goats without grease on my lips.



Know your organs!

http://www.timedquiz.com/timed/internal-organs

Saturday, April 4, 2009

BTW, here's the making of the Antwerp video and the T-Mobile version in England.

Friday, April 3, 2009

do re mi...

So I've had a very long two days of work...got lots done, learned a lot, blah blah blah, but good lord it was exhausting. But today I get home and find this:


And all is just beautiful.

Sure, it's just a really creative advertisement (down with capitalism and all that). Sure, they stole the idea from improv everywhere. But that little girl (0:45)...and the teenager with attitude (1:05)...and the one with the hair (1:19)....and the old woman (confused at 1:20, happier at 1:59)....the zany old guy in a suit (2:38)...the scary biker (3:50) and just the joy. Makes me want to visit Belgium (er, I am, just under different circumstances). Anyway, hope it brings you cheer as well!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull's band is the shit. And the song ain't bad either (a cover of The Crane Wife 3 by The Decemberists). 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Killers cover Bright Eyes, terrorism postpones Killers

Only one of those nouns is to be taken literally...

This Killers cover of Bright Eyes is great.



A couple weeks ago the Killers concert in Amsterdam was postponed due to terrorism. IKEA was also affected. Terrorism really sucks.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Smug, rich, and genetic freaks


From Spiegel Online International:

Twins Suspected in Spectacular Jewelry Heist Set Free

Saved by their indistinguishable DNA, identical twins suspected in a massive jewelry heist have been set free. Neither could be exclusively linked to the DNA evidence.

German police say at least one of the identical twin brothers Hassan and Abbas O. may have perpetrated a recent multimillion euro jewelry heist in Berlin. But because of their indistinguishable DNA, neither can be individually linked to the crime. Both were set free on Wednesday.

In the early morning hours of February 25, three masked men broke into Germany's famous luxury department store Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe). Video cameras show how they climbed into the store's grand main hall, broke open cabinets and display cases and made off with an estimated €5 million worth of jewelry and watches.

When police found traces of DNA on a glove left at the scene of the crime, it seemed that the criminals responsible for Germany's most spectacular heist in years would be caught. But the DNA led to not one but two suspects -- 27-year-old identical, or monozygotic, twins with near-identical DNA.

German law stipulates that each criminal must be individually proven guilty. The problem in the case of the O. brothers is that their twin DNA is so similar that neither can be exclusively linked to the evidence using current methods of DNA analysis. So even though both have criminal records and may have committed the heist together, Hassan and Abbas O. have been set free.

Both brothers have stolidly refused to comment ever since their arrests on February 11. Since no further evidence has become available, police cannot detain them.

"Those who remain silent are not necessarily covering up their guilt, but rather simply making use of their constitutional rights," Hassan O.'s lawyer Axel Weimann told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper on Wednesday. He also noted that the glove with DNA evidence was not necessarily proof that either twin had been at the scene of the crime, since it could have been placed there by someone else in order to frame the brothers.

According to the daily, the twins sent a message that they were "proud of the German constitutional state and gave it their thanks."

There is still no trace of a third suspect -- or the loot.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Look into my eyes


Brazilian President Lula blames blue-eyed people for the economic crisis; Maureen Dowd hilariously responds with a history of blue-eyed envy. As she points out, blue-eyed dominance has been waning since she was a child.

More than just a general shift of beauty standards, the decline of the blue-eyed ideal comes also from genetic mixing. Blue eyes are on the decline, as more brown-eyed folks are raising in the ranks, procreating with baby blues, then dominating the recessive blue-eyed gene. It's nice to see that people are becoming more color-blind when it comes to choosing a mate (so long as that mate is also successful and rich). Plus, we should really stop the blue-eyed incest. Turns out we're all related. The comments section in that last link is gold. Blue-eyed racism raises its ugly--er, beautiful--head as people feel the need to point out the beauty of the blue eyes led to their natural selection.

Actually, they say the same thing about blondes. But not everyone agrees. Says some blonde model:
“I don’t think being blonde makes you more ripe for sexual activity. It’s much more to do with personality than what you look like. Beauty is much deeper than the colour of your hair.”
Deep, indeed.

Reminds me something my Swedish friend told me about why Swedish girls are so attractive. Apparently, the story goes that the vikings took all the beautiful girls from England and brought them back to Sweden with them. I guess that also explains why British girls are so unattractive. I keed, I keed.

As for the financial crisis, I think we should blame people with penises. Seriously, if we're going to attack a phenotype, that one catches most of them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's a shame joke t-shirts are only cool if you're a thirteen year old boy...



There's a video that goes along with this, but it's a little much.

Tortuous road to justice


The same Spanish judge responsible for the arrest of Chilean dictator Pinochet in 1998 is now trying to bring justice to the American torture defenders.

According to Harper Magazine's Scott Horton, an anonymous source named UC Berkeley's John Yoo and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales as being targets in the criminal probe. While such probes usually amount to more of a public shaming than an actual carrying out of justice (sound familiar?), that kind of shaming can be important. John Yoo got a hero's welcome at CMC last year (as did Karl Rove this year). I'd love to see the school renouncing both of them on account of them being war criminals, as well as huge jerks.

Baltasar Garzon has a long history of fighting the good fight, and doing so righteously. A couple years ago he had this to say about the War on Terror (from the New York Times):

"A model like Guantánamo is an insult to countries that respect laws," Judge Garzón said in an interview during a counterterrorism conference in Florence in late May. "It delegitimizes us. It is a place that needs to disappear immediately."

Garzon is known for being tough on terrorism as well as on world leaders/criminals. I'm impressed by his creative application of universal jurisdiction in trying those who have committed crimes against humanity. Many European countries have invoked this principle and I'm optimistic that eventually one will take. Once it does, the impunity celebrated by Bush and his cronies will hopefully start to crumble.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tina Fey's Twitter gives me a complex about my Facebook statuses

They are mostly about food. I really love her.

http://twitter.com/TinaFey

Let's put our cards on the table: I dutch oven you -hilarious. You dutch oven me -I barf in the bed.
4:44 AM Mar 11th from web

Amos probably didn't start out Famous, but with cookies this good, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
10:55 AM Feb 12th from web

Am I eating a Caramello bar for lunch? Yes. Yes I am.
12:06 PM Feb 3rd from web

What does Monica Lewinski say to her new boyfriend? "It's close, but it's no cigar."
8:28 AM Jan 20th from web

I like my men like my peanut butter: chunky.
7:45 PM Jan 19th from web

Are Eggrolls just Chinese Hotpockets?
2:22 PM Jan 16th from web

I don't know why I even bother chewing corn anymore.
2:45 PM Jan 13th from web

I'm not ashamed to admit this can of cheetos has been rolling around my desk drawer since 2006. And they're still good.
7:26 AM Jan 9th from web

You tell the sandwich artist "a dab of mayo" and they slather it. It's almost like they're not being paid a living wage or something.
8:44 PM Dec 22nd, 2008 from web

Somewhere a man named Barack Obama sits on a toilet and thinks the same thing I do: I need to trim my toe nails.
11:11 AM Nov 15th, 2008 from web

Why do they say, "I'm Prairie Doggin' it", when "I'm doin' a turdle!" would make more sense. And be punny.
9:37 AM Nov 13th, 2008 from web

"But Daddy, Obama's kids are getting a puppy, why can't I?" Because Daddy voted for McCain.
9:05 PM Nov 4th, 2008 from web

READY THE SHOT GLASSES AMERICA.
8:02 PM Nov 4th, 2008 from web

Is it too early for nachos?
6:42 AM Nov 3rd, 2008 from web

Halloween is good because I can pretend I'm buying candy to give away.
10:15 AM Oct 18th, 2008 from web

So basically jazz is amazing. But only old jazz! None of this midi bullshit. Fuck you smooth jazz.
3:44 PM Oct 13th, 2008 from web

My aborted fetus knows more about economic policy than John McCain.
10:51 AM Oct 7th, 2008 from web

Has anyone else noticed that the Whatchamacallit is seriously underrepresented in many of today's fine vending machines?
9:41 AM Oct 6th, 2008 from web

I'm a multitasker. Which is why I nap on the toilet.
5:54 PM Oct 5th, 2008 from web

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Down and out down under


It's been an interesting week in Australia.
  1. A retired judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Federal Court of Australia was sentenced to three years imprisonment (with a non-parole period of two years), for attempting to pervert the course of justice. You can read the sentencing judgment here. A recipient of Australia’s second highest civilian honour and previously deemed a national living treasure, Marcus Einfeld was the first (serving or retired) judge to be imprisoned in Australia. He perjured himself while trying to avoid a $77 speeding fine. In US currency, that’s about $53. He told police, the Courts and pretty much everyone else (including national television) that a friend of his was driving the car at the time the speed camera clicked. Trouble was, the person Einfeld was trying to pin the crime on died in 2003. Wtf mate.
  2. Heads of government in Australian states are called premiers. Today, Anna Bligh became the first female in Australian political history to be elected premier in her own right.
  3. Australia’s Prime Minister wants to give 8.7 million of us nine hundred bucks, just because he’s a nice guy (and we’re sliding into recession). This guy thinks it’s unconstitutional. Thanks, guy.
  4. Two Australians died in Afghanistan.
In other (older and less Australian) news, Bob Dylan is releasing a new studio album, the first since the much overrated Modern Times (in 2006). I’ll use that as an excuse to post some of my favourite Dylan videos.



I haven't seen all of Eat the Document, but these two clips are really cool.





It’s also World Poetry Day.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Betcha think this song is about you...

As a friend of mine put it, a few times a year, Jon Stewart saves America.

Thanks, Jon.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who loves math?

Congress!

I'm so glad that congress has officially proclaimed tomorrow, March 14, to be National Pi Day. I'm even happier to note that this was debated for a full forty minutes before they even voted on it. It's ok, we all know the economic crises of the future are being thwarted by the promotion of Pi Day today. And how bout that roll call? Proving once and for all that 5 in 86 Republicans hate math.

Anyway, what does one do on Pi Day?

Here are suggestions!

1. Send all your friends (even the Republicans) a Pi Day ecard.
2. Write a Pi-ku.
3. Memorize as much of Pi as you can.
4. Bake and eat delicious pi[e]s! My favorite is pecan.

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sí podemos!

El Salvador goes to the polls on Saturday, and things are looking positive for an FMLN victory. Mauricio Funes, the party's presidential nominee and former El Salvadoran TV personality, is helping to solidify the new, tamer image of the once revolutionary guerrilla organization.

The right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) has held control of the government in El Salvador since 1989, thanks in no small part to the political pressures of the United States. ARENA was eager to receive all W. in particular had to offer ($$$) and implemented not only economic policies that would make Milton Freedman cry with joy, but human rights abuses that made many more weep in despair. And then there's their joining the Coalition of the Willing, the only Latin American country to do so. Thanks, guys! In return, you get...one of the highest crime rates in the world. And freedom, of course.

As Dick Cheney said (and really sorry for making everyone remember Dick Cheney) in 2004: "[T]oday El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections."

Free elections? Really?

In 2004, several members of the U.S. congress threatened to block remittances of El Salvadoran workers if FMLN won the elections. This time around, more than thirty members of the U.S. congress have signed a letter to President Obama calling for non-interference in the elections.

In an ironic turn of events in both the U.S. and El Salvador, this election has FMLN tying itself to the new U.S.American government. Funes has been using an image of Barack Obama , as well his catch-phrase, in FMLN campaign advertisements. Of course, there are those who scoff at such a comparison. The once radical Obama (in the eyes of the conservative news media) becomes a holy beacon of American values when compared to the next Hugo Chavez. William Booth is quick to point out the long-standing friendship between ARENA-led El Salvador and the U.S.:

Funes's opponent is Rodrigo Ávila, 44, former chief of the National Police, who represents the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which was formed by Cold War conservatives and was the winner of the last four presidential contests. Ávila says Funes is a puppet who will serve his true masters -- the FMLN hardliners who want to turn El Salvador into a Venezuelan satellite, under the influence of President Hugo Chávez.

As for the Obama comparison, Ávila is skeptical. "I don't know what he's talking about," Ávila said in an interview before a midday rally at a soccer field in San Vicente on Sunday, as he was being mobbed by women and children wanting a hug. "He's claiming a lot of different things. I don't know about the comparison. Obama speaks English. Obama graduated from college."

Ávila speaks fluent English and graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in industrial engineering. He also attended the FBI National Academy. Funes speaks little English and did not finish his literature degree at the University of Central America.

Obama speaks English? Really? Obama lives in America! How 'bout this one: Obama's monolingual too. Also, only about 1/3 of El Salvadorans even make it past the ninth grade. Man of the people, perhaps? But really, way to take a ridiculous campaign statement and try to pretend it's relevant, Booth. Next thing you know, Avila will be claiming he's just like Alvin Ailey because their names both start with "A" and you'll be all like, ahh yes, and here's a list of other people whose last names start with "A." But then again, if women and children love him...

Clearly, Funes is piggy-backing on the power of change. As Roger Atwood noted in Mother Jones:
Just as Americans overcame the nonsense about Obama being a Muslim or terrorist, so Salvadorans can overcome the fear of electing a leftist as president.
It's only fitting that a change in American politics can help bring about change worldwide.Yes we can? Sí podemos!

Felix Frankfurter

For some unknown reason, I have acquired a recent interest in Israel. While leafing through the pages of one of Felix Frankfurter's books of papers and addresses, I found an address given in tribute to Israel on the occasion of its tenth anniversary.

The address is curiously realist. Frankfurter noted that "paeans of praise are so spent upon [Israel] that I think there is hardly a realization, even on the part of those who see what has been done, of what had to be undone." He highlighted the achievement by quoting Mark Twain from 1869:
"Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies ... Nazareth is forlorn ... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the eye ... Palestine is desolate and unlovely ... It is sacred to poetry and tradition - it is dream-land."
Frankfurter then notes, "now, 1869 is not so long ago". That comment is at once a celebration of the achievement of Israel (as Frankfurter puts it, "Miraculous? Yes; but yet not superhuman") and a reminder of the recency of its desolation. 

And why is this important for everyone?
"What we are celebrating is neither sectarian nor parochial. It is not restrictive in significance nor local in need. I do not think I use the language of hyperbole if I say that history, democracy, and civilization are vindicated by the beginning of the second decade of Israel."
The constant hope is that Israel, like the US, lives up to its potential, continues to replicate its previous triumphs and remains worthy of the extraordinary people who forged its existence.

Frankfurter was by all accounts an excellent judge, but his path to the bench was by no means certain. In a piece published in the Reader's Digest in 1956, Frankfurter mentioned that when he was fresh out of law school, he secured a position at a leading law firm. This was no mean feat given that the law firms of the day never took Jewish clerks. "[O]ut of a generous motive", a partner at the firm urged Frankfurter to change his name. The young clerk refused, replying that his name "is part of me". The similarity to Doctor Zhivago is striking: to grasp the meaning of the world's wild enchantment and to call each thing by its right name.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Michael Chabon, the awkward teen years



I dunno...it might be good, might be really lame. Has a Laurel Canyon feel to it. My Michael Chabon experience is limited to the first 100 pages of The Yiddish Policemen's Union (which was good, I just had to leave it in Berlin) but he's supposed to be a literary genius and stuff. And nothing beats a movie that allows you to pretend like you've read the works of literary geniuses (ahem, Everything is Illuminated, ahem, Atonement). Here are those trailers, for those of us who can't be bothered to even watch the films at all:



"An unprecedented cultural and historical disaster"

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Cologne's archive collapse called 'cultural catastrophe'
Hundreds of thousands of documents and items, some dating back to the Middle Ages, were buried when the six-story building collapsed, and two people are missing and feared dead. The other employees and visitors escaped before the building crumbled to the ground.
[...]
In addition, the building housed papers belonging to Konrad Adenauer, West Germany's first postwar chancellor, who signed the reparations agreement with Israel; correspondences by the poet Paul Celan, author of "Death Fugue"; and papers of the writer Guenther Grass, also a Nobel laureate, and of Gottfried Boehm, a recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize; as well as the archive of a newspaper edited by Karl Marx.
This is devastating.

I used to think about memory as something personal, private, and arbitrary - serendipitous remembering, reluctant forgetting, and vice versa, all at your own pace. Not so. As a librarian-in training, I've learned to appreciate the immense effort, sustained over a hundred lifetimes, that goes into preserving a cultural heritage. And yet, I worry sometimes about the quality of our memories. Should we preserve the @So-and-so Twitter updates between politicians and celebrities as the modern equivalent of literary correspondence? To do so is like comparing a non-stick pan flaking cancerous shards of its coating to an old-school cast-iron skillet.

It pains me to think about all hundreds of thousands of skillets being forgotten in Cologne.