Like President Bush, I first crushed out on Gregory when he popped up in the White House pressroom, the unbeatable whack-a-mole of the administration’s nightmares. Bush affectionately called him Stretch, which is the most likable thing he’s done in eight years. Aside from the PDA that spills over from the gay bars in my neighborhood, I’ve never seen a man more in love with another man. Not just regular love, but serious romantic comedy love, the chemistry of opposites that begins as antipathy and blossoms into enduring ardor. I believe Bush felt the same anticipatory excitement as I did whenever Gregory’s lanky folding ruler body would begin to unfurl. Admittedly, I was most likely a bit more turned on by the questions, but I believe we both melted a bit at Gregory’s boyish, Curious George-like face, topped by that mop of gray hair glued down into a style I refer to as “Corporate Temp Warhol.”
I love that Gregory is fun, and I love even more that he’s funny. And not just by reputation, but on record. YouTube is chockablock with Gregory good times. His vaguely stoned phone interview with Don Imus from India; his hilarious appearance on Leno where he does a spot-on Bush impression; and, most famously (and already known all too well by the other Gregory lovers) his very groovy, very public boogie down to Mary J. Blige on the Today show. My favorite nerdy white man totally feeling my favorite strong black woman? Two words: mega-swoon.
more from The Daily Beast here.
In the mainstream Zionist narrative—which includes liberal supporters—the State of Israel is the realization of legitimate Jewish nationalism. That project, having been sanctioned by the international community through both the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (awarded to Great Britain with the understanding that the British would carry out their commitment described in the famous Balfour Declaration) and the UN partition resolution, was rejected by the Arab world. Because of this violent rejection, Israel has been forced to maintain a strong military and fight many wars as well as remain vigilant against constant terrorist attacks from its enemies. The liberal version here will admit that the settlement enterprise in the West Bank and Gaza was a mistake, and that often the Israeli government acts unwisely and unjustly. But the basic parameters of the narrative remain.
On the Palestinian side (which includes many Jews who fall outside the mainstream Zionist camp), the fundamental theme is that Zionist settlement in Palestine was a colonial enterprise, which flourished behind the guns of a major world power that did not have the right to dispose of this land, and that in order to erect an exclusivist Jewish state, the Zionists, once they achieved sufficient power, threw out most of the indigenous population and treated those that remained as second-class citizens. By and large, the Zionist enterprise is seen as similar to the European colonization of North America and Australia.
These are obviously broad-stroke descriptions, but they will do for now. With regard to these conflicting historical narratives, I have two points to make: first, there is a fact of the matter about their relative accuracy, and second, that it matters.
more from Boston Review here.
From The Abbeville Manual of Style:
Malcolm Gladwell is one of the world’s best-selling authors and most prominent public intellectuals, having risen to superstardom on the basis of such volumes as The Tipping Point and Blink. He is a skilled and entertaining writer, exemplifying the modern New Yorker “house style” for journalism with its combination of solid research, amused detachment, and quirky anecdotes in the Ken Burns mold. Tragically, Gladwell is also often very wrong. His work, famous for its forays into sociology, social psychology, market research, and other trendy disciplines, is a testament to both the exciting possibilities and the intellectual limitations of those fields. His penchant for what might be called pop statistical analysis sometimes leads to elegant, well-supported, and counterintuitive conclusions, but just as often recalls the man who couldn’t possibly have drowned in that river because its average depth was five feet.
We bring all this up in large part because of an article called “Late Bloomers” that he wrote for last month’s New Yorker.
Joseph Bottum in The Weekly Standard:
During a brief remission in his wife’s cancer, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist V.S.Naipaul casually explained to a journalist that he had always been “a great prostitute man,” mongering among the whores from the early days of his marriage. The publicity that followed from the remark “consumed” his wife, he later admitted to his biographer, Patrick French. “She had all the relapses and everything after that. She suffered. It could be said that I killed her. . . . I feel a little bit that way.” Unfortunately, he didn’t feel “that way” enough to think it inappropriate to move into his house, the day after he cremated his wife, his new mistress, a Pakistani journalist he’d just met (and would, in short order, marry).
Even before the whoring revelations, Naipaul’s first wife, a middle-class woman named Patricia Hale whom he’d met while he was a student on scholarship to England, had known about a prior mistress–but only because Naipaul himself decided one day to tell her, explaining the violent acts he enjoyed with the woman, some of them memorialized in photographs he brought along to aid the explanation. The woman’s name was Margaret Gooding, and Naipaul met her in 1972 in Buenos Aires. French’s new biography of Naipaul, The World Is What It Is, quotes extensively from her letters: unbearable scrawls that read like clinical case studies drawn from the pages of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. She begs, moans, despairs, and pleads for Naipaul’s “cruel sexual desires.” She calls him her “god,” her “black master.” Her multiple abortions of his children sicken her, but she offers them up to him as proof of her love and abasement.
And all this sex stuff is only the beginning.
(Picture: Sir Vidia and Lady Naipaul in 2003. Naipaul married Nadira Khannum Alvi shortly after Pat died).
Mark Rowlands in The Telegraph:
When Brenin was a young wolf, his favourite game was to steal cushions off the sofa or the armchair. If I was in another room, perhaps working in my study, he would appear at the door, cushion in mouth, and, when he knew I had seen him, he would tear off through the house, through the living-room, the kitchen and then out into the garden, with me in hot pursuit. The game was one of chase and could go on for quite a while. I had already trained him to drop things – so I could have ordered him to drop the cushion at any time. But I didn’t have the heart; and, anyway, the game was much more fun. And so he would charge around the garden, ears back, tail tucked low and eyes shining with excitement, while I thundered around ineffectively behind him. Until he was about three months old, Brenin was quite easy to catch – and so I just pretended he was too quick for me. But the pretence gradually shaded into reality. Soon he was throwing me little shimmies – feinting to go one way while actually going the other. When I caught on to this trick, the shimmies would become double shimmies. Eventually the game was played in a confused blur of feint, double feint and triple feint – feints nested within feints. Of course, this sidestepping practice worked wonders for my rugby skills. I had always based my game on the idea of running over people rather than around them. This worked well in Britain, where I grew up, but not as well in the US, where the people are generally much bigger and have been raised playing American football, where the tackling is ferocious. They are, however, much easier to confuse and, with all this instruction from Brenin, I became a twinkle-toed, sidestepping demon of the south-eastern United States.
I should perhaps myself note, however, the way that curiously, while the two artists have been engaged in entirely different artistic enterprises—undergirded, they would argue, by entirely opposite readings of history—many of Hockney’s and Irwin’s core concerns have come to seem, to me at any rate, almost entirely identical: the emphasis, for instance, on the critique of photography, the countervailing celebration of the human quality of looking and experience, the focus on the centrality of the observer, the vitality of the periphery, the interpenetrations of art and science, the dialogue of immanence.
Hockney recently embarked on an extended series of lush landscape paintings documenting the changing seasons in the beloved eastern Yorkshire of his youth. And, granted, what could possibly seem more retrograde from Irwin’s point of view? (“You get me all wrong,” Irwin once said to me with regard to Hockney, before concluding, witheringly, “I’ve always thought him a first-rate practitioner.”) But what in turn is one to make of Hockney’s recent characterization to me of those deliriously colorful nature studies, devoid of any human presence, as figure paintings? Figure, I asked him, taking the bait, what figure? There’s no figure in these paintings. “You,” Hockney replied triumphantly, “you, the viewer, are the figure.” And one can’t imagine Irwin’s having parsed things any plainer.
more from The Believer here.
Bill Maher hoped to use science to paint religion as a neurological disorder, but the researchers in his film Religulous hold a more complex picture of why we have faith.
Nathan Schneider in Seed Magazine:
Robert Burton’s 17th century treatise, The Anatomy of Melancholy, treats psychological disorders as a religious problem. Depression, Burton believed, is an expression of original sin. Three centuries later, Freud reversed the diagnosis entirely by calling religion a symptom of mental dysfunction. Now, a growing number of scientists are studying why we are religious with modern research methods from a range of disciplines. For some interpreters, such as philosopher Daniel Dennett and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, science reveals religious beliefs to be malignant memes gnawing their way through believers’ brains, diseases needing to be cured. Yet for many of the researchers closest to this work, the recognition that religion has biological roots only makes it harder to talk about severing it from ourselves.