Shirin Ebadi, in The New York Times Magazine.
The judge had granted us just 10 days to read the entire dossier, thousands of pages. That would be our only access to the investigation’s findings, our only chance to build our case. The disarray of the investigation, the attempts to cover up the state’s hand and the mysterious prison suicide of a lead suspect compounded our difÞculty in learning the truth. The stakes could not have been higher. It was the Þrst time that the Islamic republic acknowledged it had murdered its critics — it said that a rogue squad within the Ministry of Intelligence was responsible — and that a trial would be convened to hold the perpetrators accountable…
After surveying the sheer volume of files, stacks up to our heads, we realized that we would have to read them concurrently and, therefore, except for one of us, out of order. The other lawyers allowed me to start at the beginning, so each page I hurriedly turned, my eyes were the first to see…
Around noon, our energy þagged, and we called to the young soldier in the hall for some tea. The moment the tea arrived, we bent our heads down again. I had reached a page more detailed, and more narrative, than any previous section, and I slowed down to focus. It was the transcript of a conversation between a government minister and a member of the death squad during the worst wave of killings. When my eyes Þrst fell on the sentence that would haunt me for years to come, I thought I had misread. I blinked once, but it stared back at me from the page: “The next person to be killed is Shirin Ebadi.” Me.
Speaking of muzak, Daniel Barenboim begins a much needed campaign against it, in his second Reith Lecture. The first is very interesting.
There have been many definitions of music which to my mind have only described a subjective reaction to it. The only really precise one to me is the one by Ferruccio Busoni, the great Italian pianist and composer, who said that music is sonorous air. It says everything and it says nothing. Of course, appropriate moment to quote Neitszche, who said that life without music would be a mistake.
And now we come to the first question – why? Why is music so important? Why is music something more than something very agreeable or exciting to listen to? Something that, through its sheer power, and eloquence, gives us formidable weapons to forget our existence and the chores of daily life. My contention is that this is of course possible, and is practised by millions of people who like to come home after a long day at the office, put their feet up, if possible have the luxury of somebody giving them a drink while they do that, and put on the record and forget all the problems of the day. But my contention is that music has another weapon that it delivers to us, if we want to take it, and that is one through which we can learn a lot about ourselves, about our society, about the human being, about politics, about society, about anything that you choose to do. I can only speak from that point of view in a very personal way, because I learn more about living from music than about how to make a living out of music.
You can listen to/watch the lecture here. Four more lectures will follow, including the second against muzak.
On the eve of elections, Sabina Guzzanti, the Italian political satirist and filmmaker, who made the acclaimed documentary Viva Zapatero, about censorship in Berlusconi’s Italy, has posted some sketches in English, satirizing the political troubles of Berlusconi and Blair, on her blog.
Chris Bertram over at Crooked Timber directs us to this article on the state of affairs in Italy, on the eve of elections, in Sign and Sight.
Currently there are only three weak points: the economy, the judiciary and the electorate. The economy, of all things, is the Achilles’ heel of the prime businessman. His own companies’ profits have tripled during this parliament, but the country is going to the dogs. Italy has wilted year after year and now has the worst statistics in Europe. Growth 0.0 percent.
Second comes the judiciary, Frattini’s department. For five years the judicial system has faced the sharpest attacks and most blatant “reforms”. These days the minister of justice – currently a road engineer from the Lega Nord, or Northern League – can accuse judges of “gross misjudgement” and subject them to disciplinary punishments. He has the power to move cases to courts where he believes the judges to be more obliging. International legal assistance has been decisively restricted to impede investigations against Berlusconi’s business empire. Prosecutors investigating the Mafia lose their bodyguards, as a cost-cutting measure of course. And the prime minister himself can slander and defame judges and state prosecutors week in week out. But all that is nothing compared to the so-called judicial reform of 2005, which amounted to a “victory of the thieves” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) – silently tolerated by Frattini and the European institutions.
In the Italian legal system cases drag on endlessly and most never come to a conclusion. A World Bank report of 2004 on the efficiency of the legal system put Italy in 135th place – second last, just ahead of Guatemala. The main reason is that the limitation period for crimes continues to run after a trial has opened, and even after a verdict has been passed, right up until the final day of the final instance. Consequently lawyers try to prolong legal proceedings as long as possible. In 2004 alone 210,000 cases fell under the statute of limitations. The perfect scenario for well-off defendants to get away scot-free. Berlusconi himself has profited this way several times.
A “HOWL” photograph, taken at the Virginia Military Institute in 1991 by Gordon Ball: a row of uniformed cadets, their heads shaved, each with an identical blank notebook, each holding a copy of the City Lights Books Pocket Poets Series edition of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems,” published in San Francisco in 1956, subject to an obscenity trial soon after, cleared by Judge Clayton Horn in a ringing affirmation of individual liberty and creative expression — and a flag of revolt, a blow against conformity, a hallowed relic, ever since.
The picture is all irony. What are these presumed soldiers of Moloch — the demon of money and power summoned in the second part of “Howl” to devour the soul rebels of the epic first section, unless, somehow, they can escape to fight another day — supposed to make of Ginsberg’s celebration of a tiny band of comrades determined to free America from itself? Of his paeans to men who “screamed with joy” as they were penetrated by other men, to heroin and marijuana, to suicide and madness? Who knows what the cadets made of “Howl” — in the picture, they look bored. Another assignment to get through.
more from Griel Marcus at the NY Times Book Review here.
There is no such thing as conversation,” Dame Rebecca West imperiously announced in The Harsh Voice (1935). “It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.”
West’s decree hasn’t stopped an exaltation of scholars from reifying the activity in recent years, even beatifying it as a saintly artifact of human culture.
Last year the Jewish Museum in New York mounted a stellar exhibition entitled “Jewish Women and Their Salons: The Power of Conversation” (with a catalog of the same name by Emily D. Bilski and Emily Braun, published by Yale University Press). It explained how Jewish women from the 19th century on, like their 18th-century French predecessors once mocked by Molière as les précieuses, used fiercely engaged salon conversation as a liberation from intellectual and social constraints elsewhere.
more from The Chronicle Review here.
From Scientific American:
In the ongoing war on cancer, researchers have enlisted a new series of soldiers: roots and vegetables. New findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research show that a grocery list of vegetables including ginger, hot peppers and cauliflower show promise as cancer-combating agents.
Pharmacologist Shivendra Singh of the University of Pittsburgh and his colleagues showed that a chemical released when cruciferous vegetables–such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage–are chewed helps control human prostate tumors grafted into mice. Phenethyl-isothiocyanate, or PEITC, prompted the prostate cancer cells to kill themselves in a process called apoptosis. By the end of a 31-day treatment cycle, treated mice had tumors nearly two times smaller than their counterparts.
Finally, at the same meeting, obstetrician J. Rebecca Liu of the University of Michigan and her colleagues reported that ginger powder, roughly the same as that sold in supermarkets, killed ovarian cancer cells in vitro both by triggering apoptosis and inducing them to cannibalize themselves, a phenomenon known as autophagy.
More here. Also see my Rx column on Spicing Cancer Treatment.
Lisa Friedman in the LA Daily News:
Post-9-11 security rules aimed at stopping terrorists from entering America are keeping artists, musicians and others out as well, renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma told a congressional committee Tuesday.
With a growing number of foreign artists canceling their U.S. performances – last week Britain’s Halle Orchestra called off its American tour citing prohibitive visa fees and requirements – Ma said America is in danger of losing meaningful cultural exchanges.
“Bringing foreign musicians to this country and sending our performers to visit them is crucial,” Ma, a U.S. citizen born in France to Chinese parents, told the House Government Reform Committee.
“(But) the high cost and lengthy timeline make these programs difficult to execute,” he said.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, visitors from Mexico City can expect to wait more than four months to get a consulate interview for a temporary business visa. Visitors from throughout India face waits as long as 100 to 160 days. The delays in large part are the result of requirements Congress imposed upon the State Department after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
David Owen in The New Yorker:
If you blindfolded Dana McKelvey and led her into a retail store, a restaurant, a doctor’s office, or a bank, she could tell fairly quickly whether the music playing in the background was Muzak. You may think that you would be able to tell, too, but unless your job is creating Muzak programs, as McKelvey’s is, you probably wouldn’t. The syrupy orchestral “elevator music” that most people associate with the company scarcely exists anymore. Muzak sells about a hundred prepackaged programs and several hundred customized ones, and only one—“Environmental”—truly fits the stereotype. It consists of “contemporary instrumental versions of popular songs,” and it is no longer terribly popular anywhere, except in Japan. (“The Japanese think they love it, but they actually don’t,” a former Muzak executive told me. “They’ll get over it soon.”) All of Muzak’s other programs are drawn from the company’s huge digital inventory, called the Well, which contains more than 1.5 million commercially recorded songs, representing dozens of genres and subgenres—acid jazz, heavy metal, shag, neo-soul, contemporary Italian—and is growing at the rate of twenty thousand songs a month.
A recent New York Times editorial used the GenX “so“, as in “that was sonot relevant”. Over at Language Log, Arnold Zwicky considers the implications.
New York Times editorial, “The Amnesty Trap”, 4/5/06, p. A22:
All it [the Martinez-Hagel compromise bill on immigration] would do is give a face-saving assurance to hard-liners that immigrants would suffer adequately for their green cards and allow Republicans to reassure suspicious constituents: this is so not amnesty.
Ah, GenX so! How in style is that?
GenX so — so-called because it seems to have first appeared in the speech of Generation Xers (in the 80s, with the movie Heathers as a major boost for its spread) — is recognizable in speech by its characteristic high-rising-falling intonation (which distinguishes it from ordinary intensifying so, even when the intensifier is accented), but can be detected in writing only through its syntactic context: clear cases of GenX so occur in contexts that otherwise are not available for intensifiers — with dates and similar time expressions (“That is, like, so 1980s”, “It was so two years ago”), proper nouns and pronouns (“This is so Iceland”, “It’s so you”), absolute adjectives (“You are so dead!”), negatives (“It’s so not entertaining”, “A pizza delivery man who can’t find a campus address is so not my problem”), and VPs (“We so don’t have a song”, “Parker so wanted to be included”, “I am so hitting you with the September issue of Vogue!”). There are cases — like the title of this posting — that aren’t so easy to classify, but the Times editorial’s so is a solid example of a GenX use, with a negative.
In case you missed it, Lindsay Beyerstein has an interesting post on diets.
If diets don’t work, why do people keep using them? We often hear that people want “quick fixes” instead of lifestyle transformations. That doesn’t really explain the popularity of diets. Most diets make the dieter feel miserable. In fact, I’ve been driven to writing this post because of the incessant chatter of my dieting cube mates. They can scarcely talk about anything else. They can’t think straight. They are irritable. They are spending huge amounts of money on books and prepackaged meals. Most of them aren’t even losing weight.
My coworkers don’t really “need” to lose that much weight, even by their own standards. In theory, if they could just end every day 70 calories in the red, they’d all be at their goal weights by bikini/Speedo season. So, why aren’t these people more attracted to slower, more gradual weight-loss regimens?
I submit the answer is epistemological rather than physiological. People go on diets because don’t have reliable, detailed information about their own energy balance on a day-to-day basis. We’ve all read that an extra apple per day could translate into a 10-pound weight gain in a year. By the same token, switching from sugar to sweetener in your coffee would be expected to produce a 10-lb weight loss in the same period.
From National Geographic:
He is one of the most reviled men in history. But was Judas only obeying his master’s wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss? That’s what a newly revealed ancient Christian text says. After being lost for nearly 1,700 years, the Gospel of Judas was recently restored, authenticated, and translated.
The Bible’s New Testament Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—depict Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, as a traitor. In biblical accounts Judas gives up Jesus Christ to his opponents, who later crucify the founder of Christianity. The Gospel of Judas, however, portrays him as acting at Jesus’ request.