Mark Danner in the New York Times Magazine:
Today marks four years of war. Four years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. troops ruled unchallenged in Japan and Germany. During those 48 months, Americans created an unmatched machine of war and decisively defeated two great enemies.
How are we to judge the global war on terror four years on? In this war, the president had warned, “Americans should not expect one battle but a lengthy campaign.” We could expect no “surrender ceremony on a deck of a battleship,” and indeed, apart from the president’s abortive attempt on the U.S.S. Lincoln to declare victory in Iraq, there has been none. Failing such rituals of capitulation, by what “metric” – as the generals say – can we measure the progress of the global war on terror?
Sarah Crown in The Guardian:
Given the heavyweight status of almost every one of the authors on the 17-strong longlist, this year’s Booker judges were always going to struggle to stir up controversy at the shortlist stage. But by leaving off Ian McEwan they’ve managed to do just that.
Saturday, McEwan’s tale of an extraordinary day in the life of brain surgeon Henry Perowne, has widely been seen as a shoo-in for the shortlist from the date of its publication. And he was joint favourite with Julian Barnes at the longlist stage to take home the gong for the second time. Instead, he has become the shortlist’s most high-profile casualty – although with previous winners Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee also failing to make the cut, he is in very good company.
Christian Caryl in the New York Review of Books:
Suicide bombing is increasingly becoming the weapon of choice for a new kind of global insurgency. The terrorized grope for explanations. It is hardly a surprise that many of us assume that suicide terrorists are religious zealots whose irrational fanaticism makes them seek death. Or perhaps, we think, they are depressed people who have nothing to live for, refugees from the ranks of the impoverished or ignorant. Yet the reality is far more complex, and, it should be said, far less comforting.
A day after the attacks of 9/11/01, I sent an email to my family and some friends. In retrospect, it was a sentimental thing, and I suppose I did it more for catharsis than anything else. Someone forwarded it to others and it soon became one of those things that got very wide circulation on the internet, and I got hundreds of emails from people thanking me for my “nice words”. It was even published here and there and translated into various languages, etc. It was apparently read in church services and at political meetings. I don’t think it was a particularly great thing, I think I just said something very quickly while everyone else was still speechless with shock. Well, here we are four years later with another American city in shock and pain, and here, if you want to see it, is the email I had sent that day:
As time elapses, I am more clearly able to identify and articulate what it is that has been making me so sad about this attack. It is this: some cities do not belong to any particular country but are treasures for all people; cosmopolitan and international by nature, they are the repositories of our shared world culture and artistic production, testaments to what is common and binding among diverse peoples, and sources of creative energy. They come to stand for our notions of community and brotherhood. New York has been by far the most magnificent of these world treasures, and it still is today. Here, on every block you will meet people from forty different countries. Here you can speak Urdu with the cab drivers, and Korean at the grocery store. Here, bhangra rhythms and classical sitar mix with calypso and Finnish ambient chants. Here is where mosques and synagogues are separated by no green-lines. Here is where Rodney King’s wish has mostly come true: we do get along. This city is the least provincial; no nationalism flourishes here. It is the most potent fountainhead of intellectual and artistic endeavor. What this mindless attack has done is desecrate and damage the ideals of international community that this city not only symbolizes, but instantiates as fact and lovely example. And it is this desecration which is so devastatingly heart-breaking.
I recall two things: one, the pleasure and awe with which my mother took in the incomparably stunning view from the 110th floor observation deck of the World Trade Center on a visit from Pakistan in 1974. And two, her reading in Urdu, the words of welcome inscribed in the lobby of that building in over one hundred languages, to all people of the world. Alas, no one shall ever do either again.
[This post is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Ehteshamullah Raja who didn’t make it out of his business meeting at the World Trade Center that day.]
Nicolai Ouroussoff in the New York Times:
There has been no healing, really. Four years have passed since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and the road to recovery at ground zero looks bleaker than ever. A rebuilding effort that was originally cast as a symbolic rising from the ashes has long since turned into a hallucinogenic nightmare: a roller coaster ride of grief, naïveté, recriminations, political jockeying and paranoia.
The Freedom Tower, promoted as an image of the city’s resurrection, has been transformed into a stern fortress – a symbol of a city still in the grip of fear. The World Trade Center memorial has been enveloped by a clutter of memorabilia.
And the promise that culture would play a life-affirming role has proved false now that Gov. George E. Pataki has warned that freedom of expression at ground zero will be strictly controlled. (“We will not tolerate anything on that site that denigrates America, denigrates New York or freedom, or denigrates the sacrifice and courage that the heroes showed on Sept. 11,” he has said.)
Ben Goldacre in The Guardian:
It is my hypothesis that in their choice of stories, and the way they cover them, the media create a parody of science, for their own means. They then attack this parody as if they were critiquing science. This week we take the gloves off and do some serious typing.
Science stories usually fall into three families: wacky stories, scare stories and “breakthrough” stories. Last year the Independent ran a wacky science story that generated an actual editorial: how many science stories get the lead editorial? It was on research by Dr Kevin Warwick, purporting to show that watching Richard and Judy improved IQ test performance (www.badscience.net/?p=84). Needless to say it was unpublished data, and highly questionable.
Wacky stories don’t end there. They never end. Infidelity is genetic, say scientists. Electricity allergy real, says researcher. I’ve been collecting “scientists have found the formula for” stories since last summer, carefully pinning them into glass specimen cases, in preparation for my debut paper on the subject.
Robin has posted about Maya Arulpragasm a few times in the past, including here. As he has noted, her politics seem a little sketchy, what with the seeming romantics around the rather nihilistic tactics of the famed Tamil Tigers. But her music is pretty damned good. Go figure.
Here’s a new interview from The Observer.
‘The Tigers killed two groups off, leaders and kid soldiers included. When it came to my dad’s group he said, “I don’t want to kill off all these boys for the sake of an ideal.” He gave up and walked away, and Eros eventually disintegrated.’
Though she remembers the soldiers in their house, bouncing her on their knee, saying: “Tell me where your dad is,” she remembers little of her father himself. He has been in contact recently but, says Maya, ‘I don’t want to start that relationship and then have to go on tour. I’ve read about what he did and people come out at Tamil conventions to tell me how great he was. But because I was raised by my mum, I got to see behind the scenes of a person like him.’ Far from falling in love with an activist, her mother met her father through an arranged marriage, having been told he was an engineer. ‘Ever since she was a baby she was raised to be the housewife that all Sri Lankan women are meant to be. She couldn’t play out the fantasy ‘cos she didn’t have a husband. Him going away was worse for her. All the women were like, “He didn’t even die? He just left you with two children, what’s wrong with you? Fuck him starting a revolution, he isn’t at home!”‘ When Maya reached womanhood herself, she decided, like Marianne Faithfull reading William Burroughs and deciding to become a drug addict, that, having fallen in love with hip-hop, she was going to move to South Central LA and become a gangsta’s bitch. It was a move both rebellious and reactionary.
“James Lasdun enjoys echoes of Forster in Zadie Smith’s expansive and witty new novel, On Beauty.”
From The Guardian:
Among the many tasks Zadie Smith sets herself in her ambitious, hugely impressive new novel is that of finding a style at once flexible enough to give voice to the multitude of different worlds it contains, and sturdy enough to keep the narrative from disintegrating into a babel of incompatible registers. Its principal family alone, the Belseys, comprises its own little compact multiverse of clashing cultures: the father a white English academic, the mother a black Floridian hospital administrator, one son a budding Jesus freak, the other a would-be rapper and street hustler, the daughter a specimen of US student culture at its most rampagingly overdriven. Still more worlds open up beyond them as their lives unravel out through the genteel Massachusetts college town to which they have been transplanted: Haitian immigrants, hip-hop poets, New England liberal intelligentsia, reactionary black conservatives …
David L. Chandler in New Scientist:
Solar systems may continue to exist around stars that have reached the end of their lifetimes, flared up and collapsed. New evidence shows that asteroids and dust discs, and perhaps even planets, may circle white dwarf stars, the burned-out remnants of stars that have already undergone their all-consuming red-giant phase.
This suggests that, for our solar system too, there is a possibility of life after the presumed death of the inner planets – when the Sun expands to such a bloated size that it envelops the orbit of the Earth and beyond. But it may be a grinding sort of life.
The new findings, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, are based on high-resolution spectroscopic imaging of the white dwarf GD 362, made with the Gemini North, IRTF and Magellan telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. These observations showed an unexpected excess of infrared in the light of the star, as well as a huge abundance of calcium – the second-highest ever seen from a white dwarf.
“Her bold experiment to teach Iowa third graders about racial prejudice divided townspeople and thrust her onto the national stage. Decades later, Jane Elliott’s students say the ordeal changed them for good.”
Stephen G. Bloom reports on the enduring legacy of Elliott’s work in Smithsonian Magazine:
One of the most astonishing exercises ever conducted in an American classroom first took place in 1968 in a third-grade classroom in Riceville, Iowa. Now, almost four decades later, teacher Jane Elliott’s experiment still matters—to the grown children with whom she experimented, to the people of Riceville, population 840, who all but ran her out of town, and to thousands of people around the world who have also participated in an exercise based on the experiment. It is sometimes cited as a landmark of social science. The textbook publisher McGraw-Hill has listed her on a timeline of key educators, along with Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Horace Mann, Booker T. Washington, Maria Montessori and 23 others. Yet what Elliott did continues to stir controversy. One scholar asserts that it is “Orwellian” and teaches whites “self-contempt.” A columnist at a Denver newspaper called it “evil.”
More here. [Thanks to Shiko Behar.]
Fans of Bollywood will have little difficulty recognizing Aishwarya Rai (known affectionately as ‘Ash’). That she is the most stunningly, mesmerizingly beautiful human being inhabiting the planet today is self evident and not a worthy question of debate. But how to keep up with her on a day to day basis? How to get the latest photos and tidbits of gossip? Well, a good place to start is Aishwaryarai.com. They claim to offer “the best resource for fans.” OK, but the pictures gallery still isn’t online and that makes me very angry (and they’ve yet to respond to my logical, pleading, beautiful, sweeping, impetuous, yet thoughtful emails and print letters).
IMDb has, of course, the facts. And it turns out that she has nine, count em nine films in various stages of pre-production. Jackson Heights, here I come.
Aishwaryaworld.com claims to be the only “authorized and official” website but tends toward the corny. It does, however, include tasty morsels like her own personal philosophy that “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” A tad trite you insinuate? Well, screw you overly sophisticated 3Quarks reader. Next time a radiant goddess illuminates all of our lives I’ll make sure she reads lots of Schopenhauer and Radhakrishnan first so she can utter things more profound and depressing. Get over yourself.
Personally, I’m rather fond of the Aishwarya section of the Paper Doll Heaven website. There, you can dress Aishwarya up in various outfits of your own choosing. It’s a lot of fun and there are some nice looks. I recommend mixing and matching.
Nothing, however, can beat Bollywhat.com for some interesting dish, especially when it comes to the latest on that rather bothersome ex-boyfriend Salman Khan. He worries me.
That’s it for now. I part with these words, anyone who does not like Devdas is a person who I’m not sure is fully a person.
Several years ago a book showed up on my doorstep. It has become a book that I can never fully enter into yet can never definitively put down; one might say this book and I have a troubled relationship. Its title is In the Ghetto of Warsaw, and it consists of 137 black-and-white photos, printed on exactly the kind of heavy matte paper I like, taken by a 43-year-old German sergeant named Heinrich Jöst. In September of 1941, Jöst spent a day off—his birthday—strolling through the ghetto photographing its abject, emaciated, typhoid-ridden prisoners. (He canceled his birthday party that night.) I was mesmerized—and repelled, and grieved—by these photos, and I still am. I was furious that Jöst had taken them, and grateful that he had.
more at the Boston Review here.
Lindsay Beyertein of Majikthise is in Louisiana blogging the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
“After spending the night in the Ford Excursion, we cleared the military checkpoint without incident. The city was deserted except for military, police, and EMS. Flocks of emergency vehicles sped past with their with their lights flashing and their sirens off. The battleship Iwo Jima sat at anchor.
The Convention Center was truly horrifying: A sea of filthy orange-upolstered institutional chairs. Blocks and blocks of chairs set out on the sidewalk. Mountains of trash. Abandoned supplies rotting in the sun — cases of muffins, an entire crate of coffee creamers upended, dirty needles, unopened bottles of sparkling cider that looked like champagne, rhinestone earings still in their packages, a tiny Spiderman flip-flop, water bottles full of urine, strollers, several barbeques… The 82nd Airborne was on the scene in their red berets. Black Hawk helicopters were taking off and landing across the parking lot.”