Sunday, March 25, 2007

Under the Plane Tree

The Athenians valued Themistocles, but they never really loved him. He was pushed from power mere months after his epic victory. [Cleanup after the Leonidas Spartan 300 mess.] As Plutarch later reported, the Athenians “treated him like a plane-tree; when it was stormy, they ran under his branches for shelter, but as soon as it was fine, they plucked his leaves and lopped his branches.” (David Brooks in The NYT).

And ...

President Bush wants to keep everything that happens in his White House secret, but when it comes to his own emotions, he’s as transparent as a teenager on MySpace. (Frank Rich in The NYT).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The British Invasion, Take 2

The British have colonized Manhattan, acquiring minute rent-stabilized apartments in the West Village that they pass on to each other like hereditary titles. (A.A. Gill writing in Vanity Fair about his fellow "Brits Behaving Badly).

And ...

Most Americans think they look like gay Marines with deformed ears.

And ...

Those with the voices like broken crockery, the book-at-bedtime accent, have a lot to answer for.

And ...

We hunker together, forming bitchy old boys' and girls' clubs where we complain about and giggle over Americans like nannies talking about difficult, stupid children.

And ...

Inside, four young Englishmen from the Midlands are reminiscing over lists of Edwardian boiled sweets, like a spoof of "High Fidelity".

A Touch of the Gout

[Walter Benn] Michaels argues that nothing much has changed by substituting the idea of particular cultures for the discredited idea of race. For pragmatic as well as analytical reasons, he wants the left to forget about this kind of diversity, whether we call it racial or cultural ("diversity, like gout, is a rich people's problem"), and focus instead on poverty. (The New York Review of Books reviewing Michaels' "The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality").

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Middle School: An Acquired Taste

“Middle school is like Scotch,” [JoAnn Rintel Abreu, an English and social studies teacher,] reflected in the teachers’ lounge one afternoon. “At first you try to get it down. Then you get used to it. Then it’s all you order.” (The NYT).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Six Packs on Parade: Sparta's 300 Go to War

And what guys! Decked out like gladiators in a gay fashion layout, the soldiers from the Greek city-state of Sparta look gym-ready for battle in crotch-squeezing ensembles that expose as much flesh as an R rating will allow. (RollingStone review).

Fighting Words on Fishing's Front Line

"My dad was a duck hunter," said (Thom) Watson (a sponsor of a Maine bill to limit the use of live fishing bait). "He used to say ice fishing was like a hunter sitting by a fireplace looking up the chimney waiting for a bird to fly over." (Article in The WSJ on the ice-fishing vs flyfishing wars).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The V-Word, a Salad Fork & a Carving Knife

Still, it’s important that parents and their children recognize that “vagina,” like “scrotum,” the subject of last month’s bad word kerfuffle (see the children’s book “The Higher Power of Lucky”) is not really a bad word, just a word that, like a salad fork or carving knife, needs to be used correctly, not brandished recklessly. (Article in The NYT on "Vagina Monologues" controversy at John Jay High School in Cross River, NY).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Historical Forecast: Uncertainty & Gloom

Western man in the middle of the 20th century is tense, uncertain, adrift. We look upon our epoch as a time of troubles, an age of anxiety. The grounds of our civilization, of our certitude, are breaking up under our feet, and familiar ideas and institutions vanish as we reach for them, like shadows in the falling dusk. (Arthur M Schlesinger Jr. in an appreciation in today's NYT).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blogland Comity It Ain't

He's like the kid who gets to the ball field early, warms-up and takes batting practice, only to sit the bench because in the end, he sucks. (A blog commentator's view of another blog commentator on The Nation blog).