Tuesday, May 31, 2005
UPDATE: Turns out there's another similarity. We are both Episcopalians. But yea, there is an important difference. The judge belongs to a church that broke away in 2004, after the ordination of an openly gay bishop. Big difference there.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Sunday, May 29, 2005
1. To set the record straight. "Getting it right" in rebuttal to someone who has gotten it terribly wrong is a powerful motivator. An early publication of mine was written out of frustration with a New York Times review of a novel, The Night Travellers by Elizabeth Spencer. A male reviewer took this woman's novel that had two protagonists, male and female, and assumed that the boy was the one the story was really about. He measured it against his expectations of a boy's coming of age story and found it wanting. But this was the wrong measure, I claimed. It was the girl's story, and it had a very different trajectory.
2. Because I want to let you in on a secret. A poem by Plath is more interesting if, for example, you understand how the poet absorbed and translated the influence of the artist Giorgio de Chirico. A novel by Melville becomes more richly layered if you explore just one allusion to a long-forgotten historical figure. This style of criticism is commonly called an influence study.
3. Because I want to set the record straight by letting you in on a secret. For my dissertation, which led to a collection of essays, I studied the ways in which Renaissance literature influenced Virginia Woolf. By the early 1990s, feminist scholars of the Renaissance kind of had it in for Woolf, who in A Room of One's Own invents "Shakespeare's sister," a frustrated writer, and assumes that in the 16th century she would have been all alone. Not so! these contemporary scholars proclaimed, sharing their own secrets. Just look and you'll find all sorts of women writers back there. Maybe so, I thought; but that's not all Woolf got out of the Renaissance. Her Renaissance comes out of Michelet and the French Revolution--it is a space of imagination and hope and radical reinvention. By this point what I was deeply engaged in was not influence study so much as historical (literary) criticism: trying to understand works in broad social, political, and intellectual context. And this is where I have chosen to dwell.
4. Because I want to let you in on secrets within secrets, and closer to home at that. I'm lucky to have come along in a time when interdisciplinary study is so strong. (Paul likes to cruise the textbook aisles to see how many history professors are teaching novels.) Influenced by Woolf herself (by an understanding of both her interest in "the lives of the obscure" and her insistently open and democratic critical practice, as outlined by my friend Melba Cuddy-Keane), influenced further by making a life in Chapel Hill among a wealth of historical resources, I've turned my attention to the American South across two centuries. I've returned to Spencer, for example, by doing some 19th century detective work to discover the 1886 context behind her 1950s novel The Voice at the Back Door.
The fascinating thing about this project is the way it invokes issues of historical memory. The episode that Spencer alludes to, the historical event that I teased out of old newspapers, happened in her home town. But she knew almost nothing about it; her family wouldn't talk. There's a lot that southerners have refused to talk about. And so the study of historical memory itself, which has made valuable contributions to other fields, in southern studies has now come into its own. (The debate over the legacy of Cornelia Phillips Spencer is an example of an evolving historical memory.)
Another thing is that once you start to think about "the texture of memory," as James Young calls his book on Holocaust memorials--about memory a component of history, rather than something apart--the work of writing becomes even more difficult, for you become aware of contingencies upon contingencies ("turtles all the way down"). You come to understand that the record does not intend to be set straight--which is not to say, however, that meaning cannot be made. I have two new projects on the horizon, both of which involve coming to terms with difficult untold stories. Seems like everyone I know who grew up in the South has a story. "Tell about the South": and so we should.
5. For pure pleasure. Gloria Steinem said it best: "I like to have written."
UPDATE: Eric Muller joins Michael Froomkin and Orin Kerr in articulating a thoughtful response. Some overlap: "I write out of a delusional sense that I have reached some insight others are missing" (Kerr); "Some articles I wrote because I was angry and wanted to fix something" (Froomkin); "I write to have fun and to tell stories about the law that I think are important, that outrage me, and that move me" (Muller). And others have recalled George Orwell: "[L]looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally."
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Mahler focused on a church in Arizona; Sharlet went to the Mecca of the evangelical Christian movement, Colorado Springs. He follows the faithful as they migrated to this place:
The story they found in Colorado is about newness: new houses, new roads, new stores. And about oldness, imagined: what is thought to be the traditional way of life, families as they were before the culture wars, after the World Wars, which is to say, during the brief, Cold War moment when America was a nation of single-breadwinner nuclear families.
Colorado Springs is the home base of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," but what these folks found is a little different. They found Pastor Ted Haggard, who talks to the White House weekly. From his "New Life" church, Haggard preaches a "free-market theology."
New Lifers, Pastor Ted writes with evident pride, “like the benefits, risks, and maybe above all, the excitement of a free-market society.” They like the stimulation of a new brand. “Have you ever switched your toothpaste brand, just for the fun of it?” Pastor Ted asks. Admit it, he insists. All the way home, you felt a “secret little thrill,” as excited questions ran through your mind: “Will it make my teeth whiter? My breath fresher?” This is the sensation Ted wants pastors to bring to the Christian experience. He believes it is time “to harness the forces of free-market capitalism in our ministry.” Once a pastor does that, his flock can start organizing itself according to each member’s abilities and tastes.
Sharlet admits to being a kind of Judas to his subjects. "And I won't be shy about calling Ted Haggard, James Dodson, and all the other power preachers Judases. They're writers of a kind as well, telling stories about the nation, and they inevitably betray their subjects despite their best intentions."
UPDATE: A response in the form of a persuasive litany.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Tim's book about some mighty times up in Oxford, N.C., has sold 50,000 copies. That's great. It'll be more by the time UNC gets through with it. This is a book about confronting the past straight on. Toward the end of it, Tim lays it out:
We cannot address the place we find ourselves because we will not acknowledge the road that brought us here. Our failure to confront the historical truth about how African Americans finally won their freedom presents a major obstacle to genuine racial reconciliation. In some instances, white people rose to the call of conscience, though only a handful followed their convictions into the streets. More often, what grabbed white America’s attention was the chaos in those streets. . . . The civil rights movement knocked down the formal and legal barriers to equal citizenship, but failed to give most African Americans real power in this society.
The reception in Oxford is, naturally enough, mixed.
"I know some people in town are angry about the book," said author Tim Tyson, who spent part of his growing-up time in Oxford and was 10 years old in 1970. He noted that a friend told him the book divided white Oxford into two camps, "the people who were angry about the book and the people who had read the book."
It's a book well worth reading in our own not so mighty time.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
DOWNTOWN VIGIL: 6:00 community dinner and discussion on the cross burnings and the communty's response, 7:30 pm Vigil: Meet for both at the Durham Main Library parking lot, at 300 N Rosboro, between Holloway and Liberty streets. The dinner will take place within walking distance of the library. The vigil will likely take place near the site of the cross burning, 2 blocks away at the United House of Prayer on Dillard and Holloway. If you can help bring a dish, banners, or candles please Contact Andrew Pearson, email@example.com 360 2028.
WEST DURHAM VIGIL: 8:00 pm At or near St. Luke's Episcopal Church, (919) 286-2273, 1737 Hillandale Rd, Durham 27705, near I-85. The Church pastor and neighborhood and community groups are involved in the planning. Contact: John Schelp, firstname.lastname@example.org, Old West Durham Neighborhood Association,
SOUTH DURHAM VIGIL: 8:00 pm on the sidewalk on South Roxboro Street, near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in front of the site of the cross burning. The plan at present is to have everyone gather on the sidewalk at the site of the burning on South Roxboro Street tonight at 8 pm and bring a candle "to shine some light in this moment of darkness." Churches and civic organizations are being contacted and fliers are being printed up. Contact Terry and Ann Lee Mosley, email@example.com, 489-8592.
One route the court could have taken, but did not, was to declare that education itself is a fundamental constitutional right. Actually, Jack Balkin, in his smart and clever book What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said, said "one could be forgiven for thinking that the court did hold that education was a fundamental interest." Chief Justice Warren wrote that the opportunity for education, "where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." But the simple holding of Brown as it became understood was considerably more modest: that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Any doubt on this point was resolved in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973), a 5-4 opinion in which Justice Powell held (as Balkin puts it) "that education was not a fundamental right or a fundamental interest, that the poor had no constitutional right to equal treatment on grounds of their poverty, and that states and municipalities had no constitutional obligation to equalize funding for education, or, for that matter, to guarantee equal educational opportunity for rich and poor." (Thurgood Marshall was in the dissent, as you might imagine.) It was an issue best left to the states.
In North Carolina the Leandro case put this question to the test. Although Justice Orr would have found a constitutional right to equal education, he was a lone minority. The guarantee of Leandro is only a guarantee of certain basic minimal standards.
Still, you work with what you have. Judge Howard Manning, who has embraced his role as enforcer of the law, cajoler of legislators, thorn in the side of school administrators, does not let up. In a report issued this week on the sad state of N.C. high schools (available here), he cited four in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district--four schools whose low test scores aligned with high percentages of minority students--as victims of "academic genocide." Manning to Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Manning to North Carolina: you must and can do better.
Known in some quarters as Roy Moore's persecutor because as Alabama attorney general he stoood by a federal court's order to have Moore's Ten Commandments removed from the state courthouse, Pryor did support Moore's candidacy for the state Surpreme Court on grounds of Christian redemption, and he continued to "avidly support" the judge's efforts to put Christianity in the courtroom.
Now from the federal bench, he has betrayed Moore again. In the case about the public school "warning label" on science textbooks he denied Moore permission to file an amicus brief while accepting other briefs. "Pryor explained in the ruling that Moore's arguments weren't relevent because they essentially asked the appeals court to overturn Supreme Court precedent." (Via Howard Bashman.)
And by the way, the pro-life folks can't figure out if he is with them or against them, because he has indicated an interest in following the rule of law.
It's all too confusing for me.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Between December and the date the case was heard, in March, the Bush administration caved, at least in regard to the defendants involved in Medellin: it ordered that all 51 of the defendants joined in that case be allowed to make their procedural defense. (At the same time, it announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from this inconvenient treaty obligation.)
The Supreme Court's decision was announced Monday. The appeal was dismissed "in order to give the Texas state courts a chance to sort out the issues." Those cases will get sorted out, but what about the defendant in Durham and others elsewhere? Four justices would have held on to jurisdiction so that eventually they could decide the question. "It seems to me unsound to avoid questions of national importance when they are bound to recur," Justice O'Connor said. Justice Ginsburg was the swing vote for dismissal.
Scott McLemee is puzzled: "nobody in the American media has insulted Ricoeur yet. What’s going on? Have our pundits lost their commitment to mocking European intellectuals and the pointy-headed professors who read them?"
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Once upon a time, Burlington Industries brought the world to Greensboro. Its executives came and went from a helipad atop the corporate headquarters, an award-winning landmark of steel and glass on a corporate campus of stunning maple trees.
The company prospered; the town became a city.
The city grew; the world changed. Eventually, no one could find much use for a textile company's corporate world headquarters.
So on May 23, 2005, they brought it down.
Various efforts to save this stunning building--Ed called it "one of the finest examples of corporate modern architecture in the southeast"--came to naught. Over in Chapel Hill, it strikes me as a dose of humility.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Two wedding dresses retrieved from the subway.
Five cut diamonds.
A collection of 200 light blue butterflies.
Skis, sunglasses, roller skates.
Many, many cell phones. (Sometimes they ring.)
"A museum of daily life," says the director.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Saturday, May 21, 2005
The jury returned its verdict on Wednesday. They found that indeed the work environment was hostile. But they gave no money damages. Money damages depended upon a finding against DOT management, and on this point the jury credited the defense. "Lawyers for the DOT had argued that the men's supervisors believed the looped rope was a tool, not a noose, and therefore the agency was not responsible."
It was certainly a tool. Yes, that it was.
UPDATE: Last night at the NAACP Banquet I sat next to Ashley Osment, whose husband Al McSurely represented the plaintiffs. She explained that the verdict was a total loss. The way the newspaper had it, I thought it was like a civil rights case under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 in which you can get an order against a state agency telling it not to act up again, ever, even when you can't get money damages. No, this was a Title VII employment discrimination case: you not only have to prove a hostile environment, but you also have to link the management directly to it. The jury wouldn't go that far. So the plaintiffs lost. Not even a promise that it wouldn't happen again. Ashley said that because of the misleading coverage they'd fielded many "congratulations" calls. But this is not even a Phyrric victory, because nothing was gained.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Thursday, May 19, 2005
I hope every Texan who voted for candidates calling for smaller government watches closely HB 2337. That bill, which passed out of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee today, would allow the Texas Department of Public Safety to gather biometric facial recogniton data from Texas drivers, and make it available, along with thumbprints from the civilian database, for law enforcement use without judicial review.
The technology isn't there yet to identify people from video using current facial recognition systems, but it's headed in that direction. The biometric industry's stated long-term goal is to merge their products with closed circuit camera systems to identify individuals from video. Do Texans want their government monitoring them by name as they walk down the street, law abiding, minding their own business? Right now, with votes that may occur at the Legislature this week, Texas is setting the stage for such a scenario. . . . [I]t will be up to future Legislatures or the courts to confront the privacy invasions inherent in the proliferation of generalized, non-probable-cause-based camera surveillance by the government on this scale.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
The trial took place in Charleston, county seat of Tallahatchie County, Miss. Today, there's not even a case file left. But it's first one thing and then another, isn't it? The FSU professor, Davis Houck,
said he was told that an Itta Bena man, a friend of Till's, had the transcript, but it was stolen by a prostitute after the couple got into an argument.
"Everybody's got their own story, and the stories keep spinning out," Houck said.
Steve Whitaker, a Charleston native, wrote his FSU master's thesis on the case in in 1963. He said the copy he got from the defense attorney was destroyed in a basement flood in his house.
They're not telling where, but the FBI has found a copy. "Amazing," Whitaker says. Possibly the transcript information will lead to indictments of people other than half-brothers J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, both dead now, the accused who walked. Though their after-the-fact confessions meant that the case was pretty much settled in public opinion, back in 1955-56 there was talk of a broader crime--one that might have involved black witnesses.
Professors David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito have been following the conspiracy leads for years now as part of their work on a biography of Mississippi civil rights leader Dr. T.R.M. Howard. Surely the transcript will help, but the Beitos don't seem very hopeful that it will lead to convictions, not does an assistant attorney general involved in the case.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Two Dallas News photographers won a 2004 Pulitzer "for their eloquent photographs depicting both the violence and poignancy of the war with Iraq." One of them, David Leeson, said,
I understand the criticisms about blood and gore. I don't seek that. When I approach a body on the ground after a battle, I'm determined to give dignity to that person's life and photograph him with respect. But sometimes, as with my pictures of child victims, the greatest dignity and respect you can give them is to show the horror they have suffered, the absolutely gruesome horror.
Thank you, Ed Cone. (Scroll down. Ed's permalinks are not precise.)
Read (as they say) the whole thing.
His first post challenges left academics to articulate positions of hope in a dark time.
The left has two basic pillars on which to rest its hopes: democracy and liberalism. The two are not the same and can, in fact, be in conflict with one another at times. Neither can be abandoned, even when their marriage is rocky. Liberalism is the bulwark against tyranny. Liberal institutions and liberal civil rights are, to a certain extent, shielded from the decisions of the demos. The left has to affirm—even if it is sometimes against our own instincts—that liberal safeguards against the abuse of power act as a check on pure democracy.
These are good words to hear, if hard to put into practice. Give John a listen.
Monday, May 16, 2005
By the 1930s, under the influence of German artist Hilla Rebay, Guggenheim had come to concentrate in the "non-objective art" being created by Kandinsky and others including Rebay herself. Since the Impressionist period art had been moving into abstraction, but this movement took it to another level: The artists, writes Huxtable,
claimed to have created a new kind of reality that extended pictorial space beyond the picture frame into real space, and that any division between the two ceased to exist. By experiencing paintings in this new way, the theory went--in a sense, by becoming part of them--viewers could reach a new understanding of art and reality. The harmony thus achieved would become a feeling of inner serenity, of oneness with the world, which, if universally practiced, could lead to world peace.
To further the mission of the collection--which was intended, audaciously, to be permanent and unchanging--Rebay charged Wright with designing a "temple of non-objectivity."
What he took as his mandate was second nature to him--a release from convention, the freedom to redefine a building type, in this case to rethink the art museum in an unprecedented way. . . . He returned to an idea that had preoccupied him for many years: the search for a plastic, sculptural architecture that would be unbroken by conventional walls and floors, where mass and space were one.
And so the spiral form, the "inverted ziggurat," a ribbon of gallery space from bottom to top. Or top to bottom: Wright "wanted the visitor to take the elevator up to the top and 'drift down' the spiral to the open space on the ground." (In an interview, Rebay claimed the design was her idea: "I explained to him what I wanted, a museum that goes slowly up. No staircase, no interruptions, He said, 'Have you a design?' I gave him a design. He said, 'Excellent.'")
To Wright, the great architect of organic form, it mattered that the site chosen for the museum was adjacent to Central Park. (Given his wishes, it would have not been in New York.) It is the park across the street, not the buildings nextdoor, that the museum was designed to speak to with it cylindrical shape (repeated, even, in the metal circles on the sidewalk). But the execution was compromised for various reasons, notably cost: Solomon's nephew Harry Guggenheim imposed the kind of discipline on Wright that he typically lacked (cost overruns were a very common complaint of his clients). And it wasn't just money. The Guggenheim family "had long viewed Hilla Rebay as a lady Svengali" with entirely too much power over Solomon, according to Huxtable; hence she was removed as director of the museum. The notion of the permanency of the collection disappeared. The direction changed dramatically.
Her replacement, James Sweeney, represented everything about modern architecture that Wright opposed: the whites and chromes and glass, the austere, the everything but the organic and the natural. "Sweeney repainted Wright's soft ivory interiors stark white--Wright avoided and abhorred white--and substituted artifical light at the top of the ramp's outer walls," Huxtable tells us. "All this was done to create the kind of shadowless, neutral ambience favored by the modernists whom Wright had battled all his life."
Even as imperfectly realized as it is, as Huxtable notes and anyone who has been there can confirm, "Wright's basic, powerful idea of unified space and structure" survives. "Whatever the dramatic, spiraling interior lacks in flexibility for exhibition purposes, . . . this soaring volume with its encircling ramps is an intensely moving experience."
But it is a severe test of Wright's architecture to ask it to stand up against the current exhibition by French installation artist Daniel Buren. When you enter the museum, the experience of the circular shape is assaulted by an 81-ft.-high wedge of glass. "Imagine a glass office tower slammed through the front of the building," wrote Michael Kimmelman in the Times. We're told in the exhibition's narrative that the glass introduces the city's grid into the museum--this space that was supposed to speak to Central Park. And it gets worse: Look up to the dome and you see a garish pinwheel of clear glass and magenta, a color Wright was as unlikely to use as he was the lime green of the horizontal bars that Burren has placed along the rim of the spiral ramp. These electric colors are Buren's hallmark--and they could not be more out of place here.
This is not the first time the central space of the Guggenheim has been used for a massive art installation. The first time was in 1971: Daniel Buren himself installed a gigantic striped banner there. The trouble was that it interfered with the sight lines of other art on display in the same show--by Donald Judd among others. They complained, and it came down. At least one critic suspects that this exhibit is Buren's revenge.
This Friday a new exhibit opens: on Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim's "Art of Tomorrow." That would be the one to see.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
In truth, the leaders of the British and American Enlightenments shared the same hope as the French lumières: that the centuries-old struggle between church and state could be brought to an end, and along with it the fanaticism, superstition and obscurantism into which Christian culture had sunk. What distinguished thinkers like David Hume and John Adams from their French counterparts was not their ultimate aims; it was their understanding of religious psychology. The British and Americans made two wagers. The first was that religious sects, if they were guaranteed liberty, would grow attached to liberal democracy and obey its norms. The second was that entering the public square would liberalize them doctrinally, that they would become less credulous and dogmatic, more sober and rational.
In other words, our Founding Fathers believed, or at least fervently hoped, that the Protestantism they were importing from England, grounded as it was in the Enlightenment, would gradually and more fully embrace reason and tolerance. (Jonathan Edwards is a different story.) But it hasn't worked out that way. And so we end up with some quite interesting attempts at dialogue across the left-right religious line, like this polite impasse, which I reported on before, reached between Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) and Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.):
Price: "When do I push to enact what may be religiously grounded precepts and principles into civil law, and when do I demur?" His position is that "in a pluralistic democracy one does attempt to appeal to more widely shared values."
Souder claims that he has "an obligation" to "bring [his] faith into the debate"--whether his views are widely shared or not.
A liberal Christian like Price wants to know why we can't all reason together. A conservative Christian like Souder knows, as Fish puts it, that "every religion is orthodox unto itself": that there are core principles that cannot be negotiated, that are worth going to the mat for in the name of the "free exercise" of religion. Fish takes Souder's fundamentalism seriously. We all need to do the same, while we jealously, zealously guard the wall of separation. As Lilla concludes,
The leading thinkers of the British and American Enlightenments hoped that life in a modern democratic order would shift the focus of Christianity from a faith-based reality to a reality-based faith. American religion is moving in the opposite direction today, back toward the ecstatic, literalist and credulous spirit of the Great Awakenings. Its most disturbing manifestations are not political, at least not yet. They are cultural. The fascination with the ''end times,'' the belief in personal (and self-serving) miracles, the ignorance of basic science and history, the demonization of popular culture, the censoring of textbooks, the separatist instincts of the home-schooling movement -- all these developments are far more worrying in the long term than the loss of a few Congressional seats.
Lilla, a Guggenheim fellow, has a book coming out on theology and politics called "The Stillborn God." I can't wait to read it.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Friday, May 13, 2005
(Via wood s lot.)
"[An accurate map of North and South Carolina, with their Indian frontier, shewing in a distinct manner all the mounta]ins, rivers, swamps, marshes, bays, creeks, harbours, sandbanks and soundings on the coasts; with the roads and Indian paths; as well as the boundary or provincial lines, the several townships, and other divisions of the land in both the provinces; the whole from actual surveys by Henry Mouzon and others."
Thursday, May 12, 2005
In fact, the controversy is about more than whether these seven individuals become federal judges. It is about the relative power of the two parties going forward and about the likely content of constitutional law in the next generation. Both of these things are eminently worth fighting about.
The Republicans currently hold all three branches of government. They have won what I call the "constitutional trifecta." During such periods, all three branches are working more or less in sync with each other, and American democracy, which is full of checks and balances, begins to approach the single minded efficiency of a parliamentary system ruled by a single party and led by a Prime Minister who is the head of the party. . . .
Although the Republicans have won the trifecta, the country is fairly evenly divided in support for Democrats and Republicans (I put it this way because there are many independents who switch allegiances depending on the candidate or issue). So the current situation represents a serious malapportionment of power. The Republicans have too much power given their public support; the Democrats too little. The Republicans would like to consolidate their gains and become the majority party, not simply in terms of seats but in terms of public support, and drive the Democrats into a position of permanent minority status. . . .
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
"Not the negro," said W. today: "not the negro. The negro was not the chief thing: the chief thing was to stick together. The South was technically right and humanly wrong." He discussed the present political situation in a rather more explicit way than is usual with him. He "cares less for politics and more for the people," he explains: "I see that the real work of democracy is done underneath its politics: this is especially so now, when the conventional parties have both thrown their heritage away, starting from nothing good and going to nothing good: the Republican party positively, the Democratic party negatively, the apologists of the plutocracy. You think I am sore on the plutocracy? Not at all: I am out to fight but not to insult it: the plutocracy has as much reason for being as poverty—and perhaps when we get rid of the one we will get rid of the other." W. will not talk persons in his censure. He says he will talk persons only in his love. "When I hit I want to hit hard, but I don't want to hit any man, the worst man, even the scoundrel, one single blow that belongs to the system from which we all suffer alike." Could this suffering have been avoided? "No more than the weather: it is as useless to quarrel with history as with the weather: we can prepare for the weather and prepare for history." Then was history automatic? "Not at all: it is free in all its basic dynamics: that is, the free human spirit has its part to perform in giving direction to history." Was this statement not self-contradictory? "I shouldn't wonder: in trying to represent both sides we always run some risk of finishing on the vague line between the two." He admitted that there was "no practical politics in this kind of talk," but then: "What do I want with practical politics? Most all the practical politics I see anywhere is practical villainy." Did he see anything within the political life itself in America at present to excite his hope? "Absolutely nothing: not a head worth while raised above the surface: not a cross section of a party, or a clique even in any party anywhere, to promise a formidable reaction and advance." Then he was despondent? "Not a bit so, for you see I am not looking to politics to renovate politics: I am looking to forces outside--the great moral, spiritual forces--and these stick to their work, through thick and thin, through the mire and the mirage, until the proper time, and then assume control." Finally he said: "The best politics that could happen in our republic would be the abolition of politics."
Whitman's cardboard butterfly was missing from the Library of Congress for over 50 years.
Sen. Paula Hollinger, D-Baltimore, chairwoman of the committee that will consider the bill in the Senate, said Monday [back in March] she doesn't know what will happen in her committee.
''I have an open mind,'' she said.
''I think we should name something major for him,'' Hollinger said. But she said it might be more appropriate to name something related to the court system to honor his achievements as a lawyer and the first black justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Delegate Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County, sponsor of the bill, said supporters will not settle for anything less than naming the airport after a man they said is a state and national hero.
''We are told we may lose the competitive edge if we put the name Thurgood Marshall on the marquee. Isn't that strange?'' Burns said at a rally held prior to the evening sessions of the Senate and House of Delegates. ''They didn't stop flying into Reagan National'' when the airport serving the nations' capital was renamed to honor the former president, he said.
Senate President V. Mike Miller has suggested there might be more appropriate ways to honor Marshall, such as naming a law school after him.
A compromise resulted: "BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport." The hallowed branding appeal of "BWI" is not lost.
Yesterday, they celebrated the new name (Baltimore Sun, registration req.), which will be effective Oct. 1.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Monday, May 09, 2005
Their legal brief says capping local taxes on schools was unconstitutional, and they cited the 1961 story, which depicts a future society where everyone is made equal by forcing impediments on anyone who is better.
"Nobody was smarter than anybody else," the attorneys quoted Vonnegut as writing. "Nobody was better looking than anybody else."
Not so fast, says Vonnegut: that story is "about intelligence and talent, and wealth is not a demonstration of either one."
Mind-boggling. The brilliant Michael Bérubé could dash off something witty and wise, the kind of thing that would make Virginia Woolf herself smile. But sadly, I wouldn't bet that the book sold out. It probably got returned to the publisher after not selling at all.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Editorial: Chapel Hill News.
UPDATES: News coverage here and here.
Photo by Ruby.
More photos by town information officer Catherine Lazorko.
I'm talking to a WUNC reporter who wanted to know why King visited here in 1960. But the solid wall of sound from Liquid Pleasure, while delightful, virtually ensured that you would not hear me on the radio.
Edwards, one of the best-read men in the New World, defined religion not according to the values preached in Boston and New York, cities he considered corrupt and overrun by rich liberals, but by those he found in the heartland of the day, the small towns along the Connecticut River. He celebrated a religious devotion of "affections" rather than works. And he decried "envy" and the "party spirit," by which he meant not "frolics" (also of great concern, especially when they involved, as they often did in a period much less chaste than we tend to imagine, "both sexes" and "nightwalking"), but rather the politics of the unquiet poor, that which true believers of the present moment revile as "class warfare."
. . .
The man revealed by Gura -- and in his own writing, much of it only now available to our republic of "envy" through a massive publishing project undertaken by Yale University Press -- helped craft a religion that is on the personal level intense and revolutionary, but deeply conservative -- disinterested, even -- when it comes to larger problems of inequity. Sound familiar?
Scholars of religion suggest that the United States may now be undergoing a third (or a fourth, depending on your definition) Great Awakening. The public sphere is more openly engaged by religion than it has been for a century. It’s worth asking hard questions about the roots of this religion, and whether it is well-suited to a democracy based on elections rather than a belief in a God-chosen elect, predestined to higher office, if not salvation.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
The good news: no local folks joined them, and counterprotesters outnumbered them by 10 to 1. The sad news:
Phelps' 12-year-old granddaughter, Grace Phelps-Roper, missed school to protest the play. Her wind-reddened fingers gripped a sign that read: "Thank God for Sept. 11."
She said the sign means that people should thank God for everything he does, including Sept. 11, and that they should be glad he did not kill them. She said she's traveled far and wide protesting homosexuality "since I was old enough to do it."
Friday, May 06, 2005
The FBI wants to exhume the body. As if there could be any doubt about the cause of death. But no autopsy was performed, they say. As if that were news. Mamie Till Mobley insisted on making news in 1955, though, spreading the news of the horrible brutality her son had suffered. She insisted that the world see what had been done to her son. In her own words,
I decided that I would start with his feet, gathering strength as I went up. I paused at his mid-section, because I knew that he would not want me looking at him. But I saw enough to know that he was in tact. I kept on up until I got to his chin. Then I was forced to deal with his face. I saw that his tongue was choked out. The right eye was lying midway of his chest. His nose had been broken like someone took a meat chopper and broke his nose in several places. I kept looking and I saw a hole, which I presumed was a bullet hole, and I could look through that hole and see daylight on the other side. I wondered, "Was it necessary to shoot him"?
Mr. Rayner, she says, asked me, "Do you want me to touch the body up?" I said, "No. Let the people see what I have seen. I think everybody needs to know what had happened to Emmett Till."
More than 50,000 people viewed his open casket.
The cause of this child's death is quite well known: insensible racial hatred.
Note that although the Cleaver house has two guest bedrooms, Wally and the Beave have to share.
I can't figure out where Mary Richards sleeps at all.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
The concept of liminal space is useful, too, for understanding rhetoric as practice, generally, and for reading this collection, the inaugural issue of Rhetor, in particular. Liminality entails a position on the margins: on the edges of society, the coast of a continent, the borders of one’s body, the end of one stage of life and the beginning of another, etc. Rhetoric, especially in popular discourse, finds itself quite casually and habitually marginalized. Randy Harris puts it succinctly and well: “When someone calls an utterance rhetorical, they mean — to use a few of Roget's choicest synonyms — it is rant or bombast or twaddle. They mean, ‘it stinks’.”5 A bit of a free-floating ion on the margins of the disciplinary schoolyard, rhetoric finds itself attaching to different partners — composition, speech communication, and literary studies, to name a few.
The discipline of rhetoric in Canada, as many of us know, finds itself betwixt and between, lacking a strong, clearly defined tradition or place in the university. According to Maurice Charland, in his recent article, “The Constitution of Rhetoric’s Tradition,”6 rhetoric in Canada and the U.S. finds itself “within or between several traditions.” This interstitial status, he maintains, allows for autonomy and diversity in one’s field, even if it also means rhetoricians work without a traditional net:To figure oneself as a rhetorician is an act of self-ascription that in the first instance enables refusal. One may refuse reigning orthodoxies, be they Platonic or post-structuralist. One may figure oneself as within or between several traditions. In other words, what rhetoric is is up for grabs. "Rhetoric" thus can serve as alibi for eccentricities, for interdisciplinarity and the violation of disciplinary boundaries, and for the development of alternate intellectual strategies and rogue practices, even as it also permits a return to — and refiguring of — classical sources and humanist thought. As Hariman has observed, rhetoric's marginal standing and consequent lack of coherence is a potential source of strength.
(Via wood s lot.)
"I felt in my heart that this bill was the right thing to pursue," said Representative Tommy Merritt, a Republican from Longview whose wife is a former member of the Kilgore Rangerettes, the celebrated women's drill team from Kilgore College in East Texas. The Rangerettes, who dress conservatively in white cowboy hats and boots and red, white and blue outfits, were held up as a proper example by the bill's supporters.
The sponsor is a man of God who believes that taking extremities is no vice:
The legislation [is] sponsored by Representative Al Edwards, a Houston Democrat and ordained minister who once proposed a measure to amputate the fingers of drug dealers.
The so-called "booty bill" is said to be about the exploitation of young women. OK, but let's level the playing field. Where is the bill to regulate steroid use in Texas high school athletics? It didn't happen.
Rangerettes: Models of virtue
Test it out from wherever you are. It works pretty well for ZIP codes 27514 (Caffe Driade, Cup A Joe) and 27516 (Open Eye and Weaver Street). You can contribute by adding your own favorites.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
In today's Chapel Hill News, Catherine Wright offers a fresh report on Dr. King's visit to Chapel Hill on May 8-9, 1960--nice work to get new information on this important, yet underreported even in Chapel Hill's history. (No pictures of his visit have ever surfaced.) Daily Tar Heel reporter Emily Vasquez and N&O reporter Anne Blythe were similarly able to get new information and new perspectives on that event.
One of the most significant byproducts of our long conversations leading up to this Sunday's celebration was the rediscovery of the importance of Dr. King's Chapel Hill visit to the local civil rights movement.
UPDATE: The publicity could have been better. We could have had more people. But all that considered, it was fine. We had about a dozen readers who all selected different, but great, passages from King's work to read. And we learned something--at least I did. Dan Pollitt said that King's visit in 1960 was his second to Chapel Hill, that he came earlier, right after the Montgomery bus boycott, and met with some seven people here. We need to know more about that and make sure it isn't forgotten.
We saw some N&O folks at the Triangle Bloggers Conference, taking notes and taking note. It's good to see them plunge into the brave new world of "conversational" journalism.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Not to worry, it's all Constitutional because it's cultural teaching: it's history and literature, they say:
In an Associated Press report on the Gallup poll, survey researcher Marie Wachlin was quoted as saying that students who lack knowledge of the Bible are "clueless" when it comes to understanding many references that are common in English literature. For instance, the meanings and nuances of phrases like "walk on water," "pearls before swine," "the golden rule," "the last shall be first," "pearl of great price," "30 pieces of silver" and "the widow's mite" are far less accessible to young people who have no familiarity with their biblical context.
Don't be fooled by a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Monday, May 02, 2005
Operation: Ivy League encourages the planting and subsequent nurture of ivy growth on corporate architecture. Ivy-clad buildings have long-since been associated with the dreaming towers of gothic architecture and sleepy country cottages. To cover the, often unsightly, architecture of the city in lush ivy growth would not only draw attention away from the intended language of the buildings but would also attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to the area.
I'm all for taming the corporate beast, but let's have a little compassion. Sounds nice, a little green to soften the hardscape, but this could lead to real trouble. Lo, in a generation, they'll be begging to join the No Ivy League.
Take the pledge! No ivy!
English ivy IQ test.
(On the other hand, moss graffiti seems kind of cool.)
This Wednesday at noon, a related event in front of the old Post Office: from noon to 1 p.m., "Reading the Words of Dr. King." A read-in. Everyone is invited to come and listen or read a favorite passage. Thanks to Joe Herzenberg for organizing this part of the celebration.
The early reviews were a little shaky. For example, Ben Brantley in the Times, while lavishing praise on Victoria Clark as Margaret, the mother, called the production "pretty and confused." Eric Grode at Broadway.com called it "affecting, occasionally overreaching." But never mind their carping. The musical has gained 11 "Drama Desk" award nominations, including for best musical and best musical actress--just one shy of "Spamalot" (with which it really should not be compared).
One of the best reviews is in small print in the front section of the May 2 New Yorker:
At last, a musical for grownups. Lovely and complicated, deeply feeling without being sentimental. Craig Lucas' book is based on Elizabeth Spencer's novella about a Southern lady who takes Clara, her beautiful but intellectually impaired daughter, to Florence, where she stumbles into a love affair. Adam Guettel's arpeggio-laden music and nuanced lyrics are superb; as Johbn Lahr wrote in his review of the show's Chicago production last year, "Guettel's tunes are richly textured and warmly atmospheric."
Elizabeth was on hand for the opening, and she went back last week to appear in a panel discussion before a performance. Yesterday's Times had a full-page ad. What a triumph! And well deserved.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
One difference was that the person representing the state of North Carolina's efforts was Denise Neunaber, project director for the N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness. Denise told us a story: when she was in college, a dorm burned down. Many girls lost everything. A huge drive was conducted to replace their clothes, shoes, all their material needs--except one. It came to a point where the girls said, thanks, I think I have all the shoes I need, enough clothes. What I really need is a place to stay: a home.
What the homeless need is housing. What a remarkable idea, real housing as a first priority. It even may be counterintuitive: why not put them up "temporarily" in a shelter and then help them figure it out. Don't they need a job first? But it isn't easy to figure out your life, to look for a job, if you don't have housing. And so, take a look at Logan Place in Portland; or the Pathways to Housing project in New York.
This roundtable was also a bit more sobering than the first because of an open recognition of the changes in mental health services that are about to happen in North Carolina: large-scale "divestiture" on the part of the state. As Billie Guthrie said to me, we're launching this effort right at the time we're seeing another round of the kind of government dis-involvement of the 1970s and 1980s that created the very problem of homelessness as we know it today.
In my brief remarks I said, as I had before, that I can't separate this initiative from the work of Martin Luther King Jr. King said, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Similarly, Philip Mangano, the head of the federal interagency council on homelessness, has said, "Spare change is not enough. . . . We need real change."