Saturday, April 30, 2005

Friday, April 29, 2005

Don't cross L.A. County.

Please. Another bogus "historical" claim to send us further down a dangerous road.

UPDATE: In related news, a Cupertino teacher claimed that he'd been denied his first amendment right to teach the "history" of the "Christian" founding of our country. He lost in federal district court. Opinion available at How Appealing.

Good news story

Jeff Pomerantz has the key links on the dramatic rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker. But he doesn't have the audio. (Thanks Russ.)

More from the Sign Museum

Why am I so fascinated with all this Googie kitsch? (Well, it is more interesting than filling out orders for textbooks for the fall.) This image from the American Sign Museum's "On the road" section is yet another ghost ad, another "metaphor for survival."

Signs of the American Century

The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati is officially opening. Take the virtual tour (RealPlayer available). "[T]he first in the nation devoted exclusively to signs."

"Devotion" seems like an understatement.

"Soul Notes": Reprise

CDs are now available for the original cast studio recording of Creighton Irons' fabulous musical "Soul Notes." "Amazing," "fabulous," etc. seem lame words to describe Creighton's talent as a composer (and ear-trained pianist), his passion for his subject material (race), and his ability to pull this remkable student cast together to bring the story to life.

Whenever you have a spare 30 minutes, treat yourself to the RealAudio video of highlights from the show that was taped at a Johnston Center preview.

Creighton is graduating soon from UNC, but he has taken time out from a busy schedule to take on the musical programming for the May 8 celebration of the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Blvd. He's done a great job with that too.

Congratulations, Creighton! When I first saw you perform at Phillips Middle School as the Cowardly Lion I knew you had promise, but you're exceeding expectations.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dream tour tonight

The Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission's annual community project, "Dream," is on display at eight venues around town. Tonight, all of them are staying open till 9 p.m. to give folks an opportunity to take a dream tour. (The exhibit runs through May 27.)

Andrew Ross' nifty online gallery will get you in the mood.

What would Jesus eat?

Fish and healthy grains (light on the starch).

Not all scholars seem to agree, however. (Via Kottke.)

But what would Jesus say to a contemporary man about how much his size really matters? Not to worry, concludes religion writer Jeff Sharlett, as long as they guy's a good head of household.

New urban blues

Convinced that Democrats swarm to transit-oriented developments like moths to a flame, turf-minded Republican congressman Tom Davis is taking steps to downsize such a project planned in his northern Virginia district. Oh by the way, he supported TODs when he was chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

A "new form of redlining" indeed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Just follow these links.

All I wanted to do in my lost post was to refer you to Marty Lederman's great discussion of a debate between John Yoo and Columbia professor Jeremy Waldron, as we mark the first anniversary of the Abu Ghraib photos. That's it, torture: the story that refuses, against all odds, to die. "When we lose our sense of outrage, something else is lost as well," says the Heretik.

UPDATE 4/28: Jack Balkin reprints Sen. Kennedy's powerful speech on this subject, juxtaposing it (comic relief? unfortuantely not) with Limbaugh's response.


Sadly, a recent National Defense Strategy policy contained this remarkable statement: "Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism." Who could have imagined that our government would ever describe "judicial processes" as a challenge to our national security-much less mention it in the same breath as terrorism? Such statements do not reflect traditional conservative values, and they are clearly inconsistent with the ideals that America has always stood for here and around the world.

. . .

Never before has torture been a Republican versus Democrat issue. Instead, it's always been an issue of broad consensus and ideals, reflecting the fundamental values of the nation, and the ideals of the world.

. . .

9/11 didn't nullify this consensus. We did not resolve as a nation to set aside our values and the Constitution after those vicious attacks. We did not decide as a nation to stoop to the level of the terrorists, and those who did deserve to be held fully accountable.

And the NYT reports that the Army is issuing a new training manual.

I need Bloggy!

Sure could have used some reliable help today. Blogger was not my friend. I lost the most amazing post . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Broken highways, broken dreams

I couldn't tell you the plot of Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins, it's been so long. But the one image I remember from this dystopic, slightly hallucinatory novel, published in 1971 and set in the near future, is that of an interstate highway with grass growing up in it. Could never happen, in my innocence I must have thought, and that must be why I remember it so vividly.

Alas, it could happen.

Congested highways, overflowing sewers and corroding bridges are constant reminders of the looming crisis that jeopardizes our nation's prosperity and our quality of life.

That's the cheerful beginning of the 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure. Hopes for improvement in water and wastewater treatment are going down the drain. Transit generally has gone from bad to worse.

But all the rusting bridges and seeping sewers in the world fail to strike me as quite as sad as this once-upon-a-time.

Believe it.

Elizabeth Kolbert talks about her series in The New Yorker on global warming.

I think there is a surprisingly large—you might even say frighteningly large—gap between the scientific community and the lay community’s opinions on global warming. . . . I spoke to many very sober-minded, coolly analytical scientists who, in essence, warned of the end of the world as we know it. I think there are a few reasons why their message hasn’t really got out. One is that scientists tend, as a group, to interact more with each other than with the general public. Another is that there has been a very well-financed disinformation campaign designed to convince people that there is still scientific disagreement about the problem, when . . . there really is quite broad agreement. And third, the climate operates on its own timetable. It will take several decades for the warming that is already inevitable to be felt. People tend to focus on the here and now. The problem is that, once global warming is something that most people can feel in the course of their daily lives, it will be too late to prevent much larger, potentially catastrophic changes.

The first installment is online, and I presume the others will be too eventually.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Email worse than marijuana, study says

The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey of befuddled volunteers.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Looking backward, not forward, at WTC

From up close, it's a construction site. But step back a little: there's more going on than meets the eye at the ground zero. It's not just physical forces that are shaping the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. Early ideas for transforming the site in ways that would promote social justice, the environment, and vibrant new civic initiatives, already compromised by economic realities, have taken another turn. The proposed performing arts center is not to be, reports Ada Louise Huxtable:

The final betrayal of the plan for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site--the news two weeks ago that the performing-arts center has been dropped from the $500 million fund-raising campaign for the memorial and museum--was consigned to an inner arts page of a Saturday edition of the newspaper of record, where weekend stories go to die. Picked up by an astute reporter, Robin Pogrebin, the latest development in the downward slide of the ideals and aspirations embraced for Ground Zero was buried in the hoopla of the announcement of the fund-raising committee.

The death of the dream has come slowly, in bits and pieces, not as a sudden cataclysmic event. It has not been a casualty of the more obvious debate over whether the replacement of the lost 10 million square feet of commercial space demanded by the developer is an economic necessity or the defilement of the land where so many died. This has been a subtler, more insidious sabotage, through the progressive downgrading and evisceration of the cultural components of Daniel Libeskind's competition-winning design.

. . .

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has just issued a detailed report on how carefully it has listened to the public in the disposition of its funds. Clearly, some voices have been louder than others. The most vocal and best represented are those calling for restricting the fund raising to "9/11 related" elements of the plan. That is an abdication of the need to temper an unrelenting drive for commercial maximization of the site with something more than an aching emptiness at its heart. The slurry wall is now a relic, its relevance as history and metaphor replaced by an enormous competition-winning void within the Twin Towers' footprints, a memorial so vast few accurately understand its size.

Because the entitlements of loss and grief are the third rail of the rebuilding effort, no one has challenged the subversion of the aims and intent of the plan. The parts that speak of hope and the future have not been able to survive the pressure for a singleminded commitment to the tragic past.

Ten steps to better places

More good advice for Lots 2 & 5.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A movie category you might not have known you appreciated

Ever thought about the "planning movie"? Think Blade Runner, Amelie, Edward Scissorhands, Pleasantville, Citizen Kane, American Beauty, The Truman Show. A planning movie "should not just be set in a particular locale but must demonstrate the influence of the built environment on its characters." We're left on our own to discern the "instincts and hidden goals of planners."


Accuser in Wendy's case becomes the accused. Turns out she skipped a step: cooking the evidence.

"Don't trust anyone under 65."

Professor Sanford Levinson seems to be recommending term limits for popes and federal judges.

The long arm of the salon

On display through July 10 at the Jewish Museum in New York is a multimedia exhibit on "The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and Their Salons." Gertrude Stein is at home here. So are other women less familiar. Writing in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Tom Teicholz captures the breadth of it:

[T]he show is a fascinating exhibit on 14 influential Jewish women from the 18th, 19th and 20th century who created salons where people of different classes and artists of all stripes, could sponsor, discuss and support new art and social change. Henriette Herz and Rahel Vargahen's salons in 1780s Berlin nurtured the new romantic movement, while Fanny Mendelssohn's music salon welcomed Nicola Paganini, Clara Schumann and also premiered new works including her own compositions. Genevieve Straus in Paris was the close friend and inspiration of Marcel Proust (she was the model for the Duchess de Guermantes), while Gertrude Stein launched modernism in her salon (imagine being in the room when Stein said, "Picasso, meet Matisse"). [Salka] Viertel is featured . . . , her Santa Monica home the locus where Bertol Brecht could mingle with the Great Garbo, Thomas Mann and Eisenstein on the beach.

To step into these re-created parlors is to begin to understand the way the lines of culture, art, politics, and class have over the centuries intersected and overlapped, sometimes clashing but more often resulting in surprising, inventive collaborations. As Brook Mason writes in the Financial Times,

What is astonishing is the degree to which this group of heroines, themselves largely uneducated, nurtured extraordinary talents, premiered new works, documented their personal milieus and established an egalitarian social tradition, during eras riddled with class division.

By stroke of luck, we happened on to this exhibit fairly early into our New York trip, little knowing that these women would follow us as we traveled further around the city. At the Met, we saw Picasso's painting of Stein as well as more works by Florentine Stettheimer, who, with her two New York sisters, entertained Marcel Duchamp, Marsden Hartley, Alfred Stieglitz, and others on the modern art scene. When we heard the Emerson String Quartet play a number that Felix Mendelssohn wrote in memory of his dead sister Fanny, a musician in her own right, we could imagine being in her drawing room, and we knew that she died an untimely death while rehearsing for one of her Sunday afternoon performances.

With just hours left before the plane, wireless-less in Bryant park, reduced to reading a book, I came up against it again--the salon culture. The book, Arc of Justice, is about a race riot, the killing it provoked, and the ensuing trial, all happening in 1925 Detroit. The trouble came about when a black family moved into a white neighborhood. (In the same year, the NAACP was taking its first challenge to race-based restrictive covenants to the Supreme Court, but it was not until 1948 that they got a clear victory.) Clarence Darrow, just resting up from the Scopes trial, is called in for the defense. By way of his Chicago background we learn,

Late-nineteenth-century Chicago had its share of sin, doled out in dingy working-class saloons and first-class sporting clubs, steaming Turkish baths and smoke-filled gambling dens. Mostly, though, Chicago had the throbbing energy of a great industrial center; where the natural bounty of the West met the manufacturing might of the East and the two were transferred in a massive tangle of railroad lines. Just sixteen years removed from the cataclysmic Great Fire, Chicago had become "the heart of the nation," has Frank Norris said, "brutal in its ambition, arrogant in the new-found knowledge of its giant strength, prodigal of its wealth, infinite in its desires." It was teeming with people, a million in 1890, almost 80 percent of them immigrants or their progeny. It roiled with class conflict, the byproduct of industrialists' relentless drive for profit. And it absolutely seethed with ideas. Social Darwinism, populism, progressivism, socialism: Darrow raced through them all, an intellectual drunkard on a decade-long binge. Eventually, he found his place not in any of the city's political circles but rather in the slightly seedy salons of the artistic avant-garde [see Kenneth Rexroth], where the iconoclasm of his father's generation was being updated for the Machine Age. It proved a perfect fit.

Eventually Darrow moved into a co-op "tucked in among the immigrant slums of Chicago's west side, and created his own bohemian salon filled with writers, painters, and assorted hangers-on." He even thought of leaving the law to take up writing. He didn't, of course, but the influence of the company he kept in Chicago is surely apparent in the passion that he devoted to the argument in a Detroit courtroom in the second of the two trials of The People v. Sweet:

By now, Darrow had been speaking for more than six hours, and those who knew him best thought him too drained to continue. "Twice he almost concluded," said a friend, "and then, as if some deep instinct warned him that he had not yet said quite all--that perhaps he had left uncovered in the minds of those men before him some tiny point upon which might hinge that kind, splended young colored chap's whole future--he would go on." He recounted the horrors of slavery, just as he had in the first trial--ancestors trapped by slavers, the Middle Passage with its clank of chains and stench of death, generations spent in the sun-baked fields making other men rich--and as he spoke, the spirit of his beloved abolitionists seemed to surge through him. "Now that is their history," he said, every bit his father's son. "These people are the children of slavery. If the race that we belong to owes anything to any human being, or to any power in this Universe, they owe it to these black men. Above all other men, they owe an obligation and a duty to these black men which can never be repaid. I never see one of them that I do not feel I ought to pay part of the debt of my race--and if you gentlemen feel as you should feel in this case, your emotions will be like mine."

And he stretched his arms out toward the jury box, palms lifted upward in a gesture he often used, and offered redemption, thin and frail as it was. "I do not believe in the law of hate," he said. "I may not be true to my ideals always, but I believe in the law of love, and I believe you can do nothing with hatred. I would like to see a time when many loves his fellow man, and forgets his color or his creed. We will never be civilized until that time comes. I know the Negro race has a long road to go. I believe the life of a Negro has been a life full of tragedy, of injustice, of oppression. The law has made him equal--but man has not. . . . I know there is a long road ahead of him, before he can take the place which I believe he should take. I know that before him there is suffering, tribulation, and death among the blacks, and perhaps among the whites. I am sorry. I would do what I can to avert it. I would advise patience; I would advise toleration; I would advise understanding. I would advise all those things which are necessary for men who live together. . . . This is all. I ask you, gentlemen, on behalf of this defendant, on behalf of the helpless ones who turn to you, and more than that--on behalf of this great state, and this great city which must face this problem, and face it fairly--I ask you in the name of progress and the human race, to return a verdict of not guilty in this case!"

Prof. Douglas Linder at the Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City has a great web page on Darrow, which includes background and transcript excerpts from both of the Sweet trials. Somewhere in there might be a good topic for a paper in a seminar on the law and rhetoric of the civil rights movement. A seminar's a poor substitute for a salon, but it's as close as I'm likely to get.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wireless (or not) in Bryant Park

So upon Will R's advice (see prior post & comment), on my last morning in Manhattan I walked down to Bryant Park. I wasn't just in search of free wireless. I also wanted to see up close for myself how it works as public space--it is a great success story.

The site of New York's first world's fair, the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1853-54, by the 1970s it had become a good place to buy drugs or get mugged. Then it was redesigned and turned around. It was opened up fully to the streets around it, for as Holly Whyte observed, people want to be in the middle of things. It became populated with hundreds of moveable tables and chairs, inviting people to make their own seating arrangements, to create their own space. (Some of these tables and chairs have migrated to the steps of the public library, for people want to be in the middle of things, even at the risk of being tripped over.) The gardens and lawn are now lush and well-maintained. And there is free wireless, sponsored by Google! Or so it says.

People were everywhere in the park, and they looked happy. But I wasn't so happy. When I tried to log on, I got a Verizon home page asking my ID. Assuming that either Will was mistaken or something had changed, I didn't argue. I now realize it was probably relevant that I was sitting on the corner of the park across the street from a Verizon office. Possibly the Verizon signal overpowers the Google one for at least a part of the park. I might have been able to free-range into the free range. What's disappointing is that I was so ready to believe it--willing to believe that market forces had won out over the commons here. I don't really know if they have or haven't.

But the park is great. It inspired my comments this afternoon on the WCHL forum where I was on the panel to discuss the Lot 2 & 5 project.

Friday, April 15, 2005

So long, see you next week

From Manhattan: the good news is there's wireless in the Warwick. The bad news is that it's provided by Wayport, proud provider "to hotels, airports, and McDonalds"--at $12 a day.

From Morgan Creek to Roanoke River

Flying up to NYC this morning, reading the New York Times, what fun to see Misty Franklin's name and picture. She's North Carolina's state botanist (did you know we had one?), and she was leading a canoe trip through eastern Carolina swampland. I remember Misty when she was merely working at the North Carolina Botanical Garden helping us keep a lookout on Morgan Creek. Nice going, Misty.

Oh great. Now we have to worry about this.

Scientists say high chance of robot rebellion in next 70 years.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Curioser and curioser

A woman whose manicured fingertip was last seen in an emergency room believes it may have ended up in a fast-food bowl of chili.

New York state of mind

I'm off tomorrow for New York. This is a trip I've been looking forward to for a long time. Our friend Elizabeth Spencer's work "The Light in the Piazza" has been made into a musical, and it's opening at Lincoln Center. (More here.) I'm so happy for her. She has been to the prior versions in Seattle and Chicago and, of course, she'll be in New York. Spencer is a kind of writer's writer, which is not to say she is difficult, but only to say that she's appreciated deeply by the few and not widely enough by the many. This story, which as Paul pointed out was made into a movie, shows one side of her talent, while her political novel The Voice at the Back Door shows quite another.

I haven't been to NYC since before 9/11. We'll always be grateful to Tucker, who talked us into spending fall break up there in 2000, when he was in second grade. He wanted to go to the top of the Statue of Liberty, which we did. I took some nice shots of the World Trade Center from the ferry. We stayed at the graceful old Mayflower (since sold for redevelopent), near the Dakota, on Columbus Circle. It was Columbus Day weekend, as well as what would have been John Lennon's 60th birthday (in the 20th year since his murder), a heady environment for a young Beatles fan. Especially given what's happened since, it was a magical time.

This time, my quandary is how to pack. The weather is chillier than I would have ordered; doesn't really feel like spring. I'll probably go native with a lot of simple, easy black. And as we're wandering about, it would be cool to find a bathroom like this.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Franken 4

Larry Grossberg and his forthcoming book Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, Politics and America's Future. His argument is that kids today are not in nearly as bad a shape as Republicans say they are in order to justify their controlling agenda. Not every school is "a kind of war zone." Kids are safer in public schools today than anywhere else; you have more of a chance of being hit by lightning than being victimized by violence in a school.

A second point is "Kids have a perfect right to be alienated given the way we are treating them." This sounds like an interesting book.

Virginia Postrel is contrasted: one with a real conservative view that says we don't know about the future, so there is not much point in planning for it. Grossberg says she compares the progressive position to the Unabomber. (An aside on him (see third bullet down).)

Just as it's getting really interesting, they're out of time with him! Lanpher says this is why we don't have academic talk radio.

But I'm done. Great to have the show in Chapel Hill! For the rest of it, see Paul and the OP common-taters.

Franken 3

Others are live-blogging including Paul and Ruby and Will. Mark Kleinschmidt, my Town Council colleague, just sat down in front of us. Here's a secret: he says he's nervous! He'll be on shortly with Mike Nelson, mayor of Carrboro.


Guest Barry Saunders. Discussion of Fred Phelps, subject of a recent column. His folks go to funerals of people who have died of AIDS with signs that say "God hates fags." Franken has had the honor of being picketed by them. Saunders talked to them on Monday. Says he felt a compulsion to take a shower afterwards. Not with him, Franken clarifies. They are planning to protest a Durham high school production of "The Laramie Project." They're going to hold up signs that say "God hates fags." They do stay on message says Franken. They are celebrating the pope's second week in hell, Saunders says he was told. The rest of this is too funny to write down.

It's airtime and Mike Nelson isn't here! He's calling in instead. All Franken wants to talk about is their relationship. And the state anti-homosexual agenda. Eventually, Mark gets to talk about the death penalty moratorium (which he believe will pass this time). He was great; they both were.

Mark on

Franken 2

On the N.C. death penalty moratorium effort. Franken: The pope was against the death penalty. I have no problem killing people who have done something really horrible. I have a problem with killing people who are innocent. Also it's just not fairly implemented. It's by race, by poverty, if you're rich you're not going to get executed. But it's not about drawing the line. There is no line. You just can't execute people.

Guest Jerry Meek, new chair of N.C. Democratic Party. The grassroots winner. This is interesting to Franken, obviously. Meek: We are not going to people directly, door to door, in a personal way. We've got to talk in different terms. Repeatedly we are playing on their court. It's fine that we are fighting the presiden'ts cuts in Medicaid but we should be talking about universal health care. We are fighting the ANWR but we should be talking about ridding our dependency on oil.

Franken: After 9/11 how could the president not have called for energy independence. Meek: He's from Texas. Franken: I know the answer, but the point is that it would have been good for our country. Why not raise CAFE standards at least. During 2004 we raised enough money but they did out-organize us locally. Meek: Many parallels between me and Howard Dean, about empowering people at the local level. That is how the Republicans beat us.

Lanpher: What about the Democratic party's problem with hierarchy? Meek: I think it's changed somewhat since my election. We've got to be a bottom-up organization. This is the first time we've had a state chair who doesn't ow anything to the powers that be. Lanpher: what do you mean about emplowerment? Meek: I'm talking about giving people the resources they need at the local level. Franken: I would hear that the Kerry touch was out of touch. I think that'll change with Howard Dean and state leaders like you.

Franken: I'm Jewish, I don't now much about the New Testament, but I've heard that if you cut out everything Jesus said about helping the poor and such like that, you'd have a perfect box for smuggling Rush Lumbaugh's drugs. Why are the Republicans against so many things that, even in Schiavo, she was bulemic, that is a mental health issue. Paul Wellstone co-authored a bill to give parity to mental health care. Bill Frist will not let that on the floor.

Meek: The Republicans have hijacked God. The God I believe in created the earth for every generation to enjoy, not for one generation to destroy. The majority of these folks are going to hell, I know that.

Lanpher: How nice that you know where people are going? Can we get a memo?

Franken: The Republicans accuse of us not having certainty; so we are certain they are going to hell. Remember the end of days are coming very soon, so there's no reason not to exploit everything in the ten or fifteen minutes we have left.

Meek: Good point.

Al Franken

Did he read Ruby's blog? So he starts out trashing Coach K. and says, "I know how to pander, don't I?" Maybe it's just obvious. Not surprisingly, next he remembers Paul Wellstone. His straightperson Katherine Lanpher is here too.

Ten seconds to airtime!

On John Bolton: "Rot at the top can be mulch for the grassroots."

Guests will include Mike & Mark the gay political couple (more later), Larry Grossberg, and Wellstone mentor Joel Schwartz.

Bolton again: a "kiss up and kick down" kind of guy; this is what they said of him at the State Department.

"This country has had a little problem on its intelligence. A little problem on credibility." Bolton wanted to give a speech at Heritage Foundation saying Cuba had a bioterrorism program it was trying to export. "The thing wrong with that was that it didn't. That was a small detail, but there was this top biological and chemical weapons analyst for the State Department who said it wasn't true." Bolton "just winged him," a guy below him.

What the radio audience can't see is Franken's "fighting words" gestures as he plays a Bolton tape on how the UN is meaningless. "This guy hates the UN." It's going to go along party lines, and it's a disgrace. It's not in our national interest.

That's Part 1.

Waiting for the show

OK, that last post was just killing time in the Carolina Union waiting for the Al Franken Show to start. I think the crowd is going to be good for a rainy day. If I were as cool as Ruby I could be posting pictures.

Big dreams

I was a Costco member for a year or two. The deals were great, but somehow I ended up with a lot of stuff that I never knew I couldn't live without. It was great for parties. Now without it, well, it might be said that I don't give enough parties anymore.

But what occurred to me is this possibility: that people drive big SUVs and live in big houses so that they can have some place to put all the stuff they buy at big box stores.

Maybe it's the other way around.

If you take it apart, is it still funny?

And anyway, who says nobody laughs at a cartoon when they're alone in their living room?

(Via kottke.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Did Cole Porter's parents know this?

Maybe not, but it's interesting: today's word of the day is colporteur. A colporteur is

A peddler of religious books.

[From French colporteur (peddler), from col (neck) + porter (to carry), from Latin portare, from the idea of a peddler carrying his wares in a bag hung around his neck. Ultimately from Indo-European root per- (to lead, pass over) that gave us other words such as support, comport, petroleum, sport, passport, Swedish fartlek (a training technique), Norwegian fjord (bay), and Sanskrit parvat (mountain).]

"By then, because a Seventh-Day Adventist colporteur had come into Croscombe selling religious tracts, his parents had joined that Church, and Hardy became a keen member of it." The Rev Bertram Hardy; The Times (London, UK); Mar 27, 2003.

Over at IsThatLegal? (where I was happy to be guest-blogging recently) Eric is alleging a possible colportage where it doesn't belong.

Much ado

Red carpet treatment tomorrow!

Dear Al Franken VIP,

Well, the day has almost arrived! In just one day Al Franken will be in Chapel Hill, hosted by 1360 WCHL, and we are proud to have each one of you included as a VIP for this event. We hope that you all enjoy the broadcast and the surrounding events very much. In order to make the logistics of the broadcast as easy as possible for each one of you, we wanted to share with you some important information. . . .

The Al Franken live show broadcast is from 12-3 PM tomorrow, Wednesday April 13 at the Carolina Union Auditorium. Regular seating is on a first come – first serve basis; however, because each of you are our honored VIPs, you will have guaranteed reserved seating in the front of the Carolina Union Auditorium. Please arrive at the broadcast early, between 11-11:30 AM if possible. Please enter the Carolina Union through the glass doors closest to Raleigh Rd. There will be WCHL staff surrounding the Carolina Union to direct you if you are unable to locate this entrance.

Once you have entered the Carolina Union, you will see several entrances to the Carolina Union Auditorium. WCHL staff will direct you to your VIP entrance where you will receive your VIP nametag and enter the Al Franken broadcast through several velvet ropes and down a red carpet. WCHL staff will lead you to your VIP seats where you can then enjoy the show front and center!

Still time to suggest topics for this conversation.

Bubble, bubble toil and trouble

Dan Gillmor is probably right to worry about a California housing bubble. But this chart aims for a broader perspective. Looks like a house could be a good buy in Augusta, Memphis, or El Paso. The Raleigh area is designated "fair value," but we don't get a fine-grained approach that would separate Chapel Hill from Durham from Cary.

Monday, April 11, 2005

An embarrassment of violets

We've had violets, but this year we have violets, such a plush pile carpet of them that I've taken to the impossible: trying to weed out the other weeds around them (for violets are a weed, though arguably a healthy one).


Sometimes they are white. This is a stand in the roadbed down the street from us.

Voice cover

White violets are said not to be rare, but neither are they all that common. There was a stand of them in Merritt's Pasture once, but we haven't been able to find it in recent years.

Last summer we had a patio built. The first plants to colonize the bare earth around the edges were violets. That experience makes me think that this story might be true:

Tradition has it that the land was cleared of all violets late in the afternoon of the first day of construction. The next morning, when the workers returned, they found that the hearty purple and white violets had bloomed again.

Around the patio is where I'm trying hardest to keep the other weeds out. It's a losing battle, but on days like we've had lately, it's a pleasant enough exercise. Yesterday I saw my first butterfly of the season (a tiger swallowtail).

Relics near and far

Over in High Point, an exhibition including pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls was held over.

Meanwhile: thousands of quick, illegal take-aways, "digital relics" of the pope as he lay in state, unembalmed.

I feel like a relic of another time. If popes there must be, Pope John XXIII and the promise of Vatican II were more to my taste.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Controlled burn

Trying to think of a way to make the next big Tar Heel celebration safer, fire chief Dan Jones came up with this: why not have an official bonfire somewhere on campus? But UNC hasn't warmed to the idea, and the police chief isn't so sure about it either, thinking shades of Texas A&M.

Monday night will be unforgettable, clearly for the thousands who came out to Franklin Street, especially the ones with burns to show for it. Ruby remembers where she was for all three of the championship wins she's experienced as a Chapel Hillian.

I was here for the last win, but April 5, 1993 holds no special memory. Except for noticing that some of my grad school friends were off the deep end about it, I was oblivious to basketball. What's my excuse? About six weeks earlier, I'd had a baby! And a prospectus meeting. A new baby to care for and a whole dissertation to write. Bill Clinton had just been inaugurated, some maniacs had tried to blow up the World Trade Center. A crisis was brewing down in Waco that would soon lead to another kind of inferno. The larger world was distant and incomprehensible, while my small world had a precious intensity. Basketball occupied a vast middle territory where things would have to go on without me.

My "baby" is 12 now (but you could do the math). He and his dad were at the Dean Dome yesterday. This win is seared in all of our memories, and luckily it didn't take the flash of a bonfire to do it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

True blue

Pictures from Ruby of Franklin Street, and more about last night, here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

My hero

I've never seen my spouse in a tux! He must be having a wonderful day out there.

UPDATE: The flâneur ("idle man about town" according to Webster) reports. Still waiting on pictures of the occupied tux.


On Friday night, the UNC Campus Y hosted a "homelessness awareness vigil" in the Pit. Chris Moran of the IFC was there with two of his clients, homeless men. I was there representing the Town Council. The original plan for the vigil was to bring sleeping bags and sleep outside, right there in the Pit. But the threat of rain changed that. James Jolley, the student who asked me to speak, was apologetic: truly homeless people don't have that luxury, he knows.

The rain held off. More students than I might have expected showed up. A group called "Sweater Weather" played some John Lennon, we held votive candles, we spoke, we sat in silence.

After giving the better part of my stump speech on the subject, I read this passage from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye:

Outdoors, we knew, was the real terror of life. The threat of being outdoors surfaced frequently in those days. Every possibility of excess was curtailed with it. If somebody ate too much, he could end up outdoors. People could gamble themselves outdoors, drink themselves outdoors. Sometimes mothers put their sons outdoors, and when that happened, regardless of what the son had done, all sympathy was with him. He was outdoors, and his own flesh had done it. To be put outdoors by a landlord was one thing--unfortunate, but an aspect of life over which you had no control, since you could not control your income. But to be slack enough to put oneself outdoors, or heartless enough to put one's own kin outdoors--that was criminal.

There is a difference between being put out and being put outdoors. If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are outdoors, there is no place to go. The distinction was subtle but final. Outdoors was the end of something, an irrevocable, physical fact, defining and complementing our metaphysical condition. Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the major folds of the garment. Out peripheral existence, however, was something we had learned to deal with--probably because it was abstract. But the concreteness of being outdoors was another matter--like the difference between the concept of death and being, in fact, dead. Dead doesn't change, and outdoors is here to stay.

I was encouraged to see these college students, so many of them, really, outdoors on a damp dreary Friday night, empathetically engaged in thinking about how to tackle homelessness. But there is so much to do. The Bush Administration giveth to the homeless with one hand, but with the other it taketh away:

The cuts to HUD are guaranteed to widen the nation's already increasing economic inequality. While eliminating the HOPE VI program for 2006, the President has also requested Congress to rescind the $143 million it had already approved in the 2005 budget. HOPE VI helps agencies create mixed-income communities by replacing severly distressed public housing and also provides housing assistance for AIDS victims and the disabled. The unspoken mantra of this administration appears to be hardworking, disadvantaged citizens cannot turn to their government for assistance.

In an effort to combat critics, HUD said it would boost funding for homeless assistance to $1.4 billion. This conciliatory gesture, however, is a disservice to the fastest growing segment of the homeless population--families and children. The lack of affordable housing is the greatest cause of homelessness, yet the allocation of this money goes to warehousing people in shelters instead of placing them in more permanent housing. For countless of low-income families who spend half their income on rent, cuts in HUD will make living in previously affordable housing impossible.

A rendering of a HOPE VI project

There seemed to be so much real hope invested in our little votive candles. Where is the national political will to turn that hope into meaningful investments in solutions to this moral dilemma?