Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Latest Tribune article:
On restaurants and feedback. The first line of the story was meant to be a headline, reads kind of cheesy as part of the article. Also, I think I should have given greater play to the function of positive feedback. But I guess the overall point comes across.,0,3343425.story
Previous Trib articles
Architecture Watch:
The new hybrid bowl renovation of Soldier Field is not only ugly, says Blair Kamin--it's cause for the stadium to be taken off the list of National Historic Landmarks.,0,4832110.story
Previous A.W.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Number of the Day: 5.4 trillion
Odds, to one, of winning Britain's Lotto lottery twice. Electrician Mike McDermott did by playing the same five numbers and bonus ball, within a span of four months, "earning" him nearly half a million American dollars' worth of earnings (£121,157, then £194,501). Odds of winning once are 2,330,636 to one, according to London's Daily Telegraph
Previous Number
Quote of the Day:
"The contemplative life is often miserable. You should do more, think less and not watch yourself living."
Nicholas-Sebastien Chamfort
I disagree, but point taken--I spend too much time philosophizing from the comfort of my apartment, perched high above downtown Chicago's liveliest bar district. Then again, where's the wisdom in aimless living?
(both items seen at G&M's S.S.)
Another e-mail update from my friend in Richmond:
(Here was the first)
Architecture Watch
Westin HotelThe redevelopment of Times Square has finally produced a building worth talking about: the new Westin Hotel on Eighth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets. And people are talking about it for a welcome reason. The Westin has raised a flag over the issue of taste. Translation: many people find it ugly. Hideous. The very embodiment of beauty's evil twin.
Previous A.W.
Weekend reading:
Well-written analysis of the rhetoric of Ari Fleischer, from Slate and The New Republic, on file:

And, also on file, a fine description of white-collar prison life from the NY Times:
"White-Collar Criminal? Pack Lightly for Prison"

Previous Sunday Clippings
I'm the freelance questioner for the Trib's Just Asking, the stuffy paper's lame stab at populism. Actually, the experience, however superficial, can be enlightening: the next column, about which TV show people say they never miss, unearthed all sorts of surprising responses, from Good Morning Miami to My Wife and Kids to Charlie Rose. A more diverse assortment than the narrow scope of newspaper TV reviews suggest is important. Also refreshing earlier this summer to be asking people about whether the economic downturn--bathed as it was in ink about panic--was affecting their plans. Most said not really.

Speaking of populism, I'm still trying to deconstruct this quote from historian Jacques Julliard:
Elitism is democracy without the people. Populism is the people without democracy.
Does he mean that the representative elite operate the machinery of democracy detached from the people? And that populism, as with the Charlton Heston's and Ralph Nader's of the world, is the attempt to operate democracy without the machinery? Any ideas?

Other Trib polls: this great spoof of the BCS:,0,2688065.story
Etymology Today from M-W: vatic \VAT-ik\
: prophetic, oracular

Ex: Andy's years of experience bird-watching have given him a vatic ability to name the precise day each bird will appear in the spring.

Some people say only thin lines separate poetry, prophecy, and madness. We don't know if that's generally true, but it is in the case of "vatic." The adjective derives directly from the Latin word "vates," meaning "seer" or "prophet." But that Latin root is in turn distantly related to an Old English word for "poetry," an Old High German word for "madness," and an Old Irish word for "seer" or "poet."

Fun Words: loathsome, cajolery, dossier
Previous E.T.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

A good friend of mine when we were both in Grand Rapids checks in from Richmond, with his own take on the sniper, the investigation, and the culprit. Posted at my file site:
Thought of the day: Postmodern awe for absolute truth
What is truth? Pilate wanted to know (v.38). Don't we all. Truth, says, Neal Plantinga, is our traction on reality. In the past year or two, I've become increasingly aware of how much what we consider to be truth is a social construct, and how the ways we come to believe this or that truth are socially influenced. (Why do we dress as we do? Buy what we do? Believe what we do? Our answers reflect values about what is good and true. I'm not saying we're drones, only that we look to our cultural context for cues on these matters more than we'd like to admit. See first footnote below). And this is where postmodernists make modernists unhappy--since everyone has a different social context, "truth" varies from person to person, according to postmodernists. It's relative. That's a hard thing for a Christian like me to say--in the Bible, truth doesn't seem so wishy washy; it's ironclad. Modernists complain that this mocks the sanctity of truth--if truth is different for everyone, then there really is no truth. What's the use of something being true if it only applies to one out of six billion people? Truth is worth cents.

But as someone who takes both his postmodernism and his Christianity seriously, I've come to a different conclusion--it is the relativists who have the greatest awe for truth. Hear me out. The arrogant modernist says not only is truth absolute--but he or she can declare what that truth is. For a mere mortal, conditioned by cultural context, to declare what absolute truth is (i.e. there is a God, capitalism is good, human nature is this or that) is startlingly arrogant. Truth is larger, deeper, truer than one finite person can grasp. You can regard the sun, but only from 93 billion miles away, and only for two thirds of any given day. The sun is larger, hotter, more complex, more vast than you can appreciate. The postmodernist says, truth is larger than what can be filtered through the brain and soul of one person. Yes, there is absolute truth (OK, I guess I break with many postmodernists to say that), but how each of us gets a sniff of this truth is relative to our cultural contexts. So we have moments in our lives and aspects of our thinking that coincide with what that Truth is, but other times we think we do and are mistaken (an innocent man is declared guilty, Osama bin Laden believes God is sending him memos, colonial Americans believe Africans are sub-human, and so forth). Postmodernism counters the swagger of modernism with some humility. Truth is bigger than me, and does not waver even as I do as I learn, have new experiences, and continue to be shaped by my cultural context. So multiculturalism is no surrender, but a new victory for human humility. For me to try to appreciate how someone else in another part of the world, or on the South Side of Chicago, sees the world and forms belief about it is not a rejection of absolute truth, it is an affirmation of how great truth is that it stretches its wings over us both.

Footnote one: Here's what I mean about truth being culturally conditioned. In my cultural context--growing up white, American, religious, closed-minded community that kept its emotions tightly in check and viewed the outside world with suspicion--I was influenced to believe and value the following: people are generally good or bad, not a complex combination of both, the Bible can generally be systematically interpreted, cohesive communities are good (rather than fostering gossip, groupthink, assumptions substituted for thought), the Republican party is righteous, family is a more important calling than society, America was a uniquely ordained country, movies with sex were evil, strong-willed women were a dangerous aberration from the passive wife devoted primarily to family duties. My beliefs have changed as my cultural context and values have changed (from moderate right to mostly far left, from suburban resident to urban resident, from cultural conformist to cultural critic, from closed to open minded. Capitalism is fundamentally unjust, men and women should balance work and home life as equally as possible, culture is worth immersing yourself in with a discerning eye, society may be a more important calling than family, emotion is almost as important as intellect, stories are worth as much or more study than doctrine, since stories are how Christ chose to communicate, communities should be participated in with skepticism, and so on. College was a time for me to re-invent the wheel.

Footnote two: I won't deny that I am in the minority of postmodernists (actually, everyone is in the minority of postmodernists, a term that by definition defies the formation of a cohesive group) by declaring that there is absolute truth. For one thing, everyone operates as though there is absolute truth whether they admit it or not (most of my fellow liberals try to demand social justice while rejecting any notion that the principle of justice is absolute, a trick that requires considerable agility). For another, nihilism is the credo of postmodernism every bit as much as industrial, utopian optimism (progress, people!) was the credo of modernism. All of life is a wash, there is no meaning, why strive for truth--these are the cries of the postmodernist, who despairs of believing in anything. In postmodern art this is portrayed as edgy, bold, inventive, but in fact it is merely a bit lazy. Anyone can be an aimless grump. What is truly inventive is to try to form and articulate definite beliefs in the midst of the soup of postmodernism. To say that truth still exists after all this de-constructing of modernism--that is worth more admiration than nihilism.

Earlier thought: The contextual problem with wisdom
Previous thought: Why news should be imaginative
History&Today from

A nondescript limestone box, looted from a Jerusalem cave and held secretly in a private collection in Israel, carries an inscription that could be the earliest known archaeological reference to Jesus, according to new research released yesterday. The box, an ossuary used at the time of Jesus to hold bones of the deceased that dates to about 60 A.D., has almost no ornamentation except for a simple Aramaic inscription: Ya 'a kov bar Yosef a khui Yeshua -- "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Andre Lemaire, a French philologist and epigrapher who is the first scholar known to have studied the box, believes the inscription refers to Jesus of Nazareth.

Previous H&T
Places&Culture File from
NY Times

Life, they say, is a journey. But who would think to take it on a cruise ship? Billed by its Norwegian owners as the world's first and only residence at sea, The World, a 12-deck, 43,000-ton, 644-foot passenger ship, arrived here today -- a floating condominium with apartments, not cabins, ranging in price from more than $2 million to more than $7 million. St. John's is one of 140 ports in 40 countries that the vessel is to visit in its inaugural year, the start of a perpetual circumnavigation of the globe -- a home away from home away from home. The World was launched in March, sailing from Oslo, and is scheduled to arrive in New York [last month]. Residents are on the average in their middle 50's, and generally self-made, first-generation wealthy. The World is a concept that Howard Hughes would have loved: exile reinvented, a life in comfortable circumstances that cosset but also constantly change, leaving a wake but never a trail. More than a few on board could have been Mr. Hugheses of another generation -- their determined isolation as deep as the mid-Atlantic.

THE Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein liked to parody the modernist styles of his day. So it's altogether appropriate that five years after his death, he has given the new Times Square, with its sci-fi glass towers and Tomorrowland electronic signs, a monumental mural that harks back to a bygone future -- the future as it was evisioned in the machine age. Even the helmeted head of Buck Rogers, that Depression-era space traveler, appears in "Times Square Subway Mural," a 6-foot-high, 53-foot-long panel that revisits the history of New York transportation. Made of porcelain enamel on steel, it has been hung in the mezzanine of the Times Square subway station, now being refurbished, between the shuttle to Grand Central Terminal and the northern entrance to the IRT platforms. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which commissioned the piece and will unveil it on Thursday, may rightly see the work as an emblem of a revitalized, forward-looking Times Square. But it's also a Lichtenstein sendup of modernist visions of the future.

Previous P&C
Technology&Culture from
NY Times

If these are lean times for corporate information technology purchasers, what is the situation for nonprofit groups that need new hardware or software? Surprisingly good, as it turns out. Despite the moribund information technology economy, the nonprofit sector may actually be benefiting from the slump — as companies like Microsoft see donations as a way of helping keep their products in widespread use, and as large numbers of otherwise unemployed hardware and software professionals demonstrate a new willingness to take jobs in the nonprofit community.

More than 61 million households in the United States will book travel online this year, according to Forrester Research, a technology consultant. They will spend roughly $20 billion on those bookings, or 10 percent of the travel industry total. At $13.2 billion, airline bookings make up by far the greatest share of that figure, but hotel bookings are growing fastest. And those numbers will arc ever higher; Forrester expects online hotel bookings to more than double over the next four years...While numbers help show the current state of the industry, they fail to convey the multitude of subtle and not-so-subtle behavioral shifts the Web has brought to consumers — and foisted on travel suppliers and travel agents.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Latest Tribune article: on baseball Web sites. It went to press the day before the Twins collapsed in Game 5, so it was a little behind the times by the time in ran on Monday. But Twins Geek says he'll keep up his site during the offseason.

Previous Trib articles
• Places&Culture File from
NY Times

Across Japan these days, by the first or second grade, elementary school students commonly talk out of turn and wrestle with one another in class. By fourth grade, they are using obscene language, often directed at the teacher or written on the blackboard. And by sixth grade, a growing generation of preteenage rebels has begun walking in and out of classrooms at will, mocking the authority of adults and even attacking teachers who try to restrain them. "When I was posted to this school in April last year, the sixth graders were so disorderly that teachers couldn't start classes," said Masakuni Kaneshima, 57, the principal of an elementary school in Kunitachi, a Tokyo suburb. … A plague of similar troubles have many Japanese asking whatever happened to their country's school system, not long ago the envy of much of the world for its reputation for producing not just wave after wave of high-achieving children, but of conspicuously well-behaved children, as well.

Jim Bosche awoke at 3:30 a.m. in his fourth-floor downtown loft one day last spring to find a white-hot light flooding through his bedroom blinds, the kind of intense beam seen in depictions of alien abduction. Fifteen feet outside his window, a man in a cherry picker was shining a spotlight directly into his bedroom to provide reflected light for the filming of a movie based on the British mini-series "The Singing Detective." ... Until four years ago, when the first few long-vacant commercial buildings in historic downtown were converted to residences, Hollywood studios and production companies had almost free rein in filming, especially at night and on weekends, when the area emptied of workers. But now the downtown core, a 24-square-block zone that has portrayed other cities in countless films and television shows, has about 2,000 residents, and some are complaining loudly about inconsiderate crew members, monopolized parking, traffic jams and the noise and lights of night filming.

Previous P&C
History&Today from
NY Times
Conspiracy theories surround a prominent assassination from the tumultous 60's. Nope, not JFK. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis has just opened an exhibit call "Lingering Questions" to raise doubts about the official story that James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King Jr.

The King family believes that Mr. Ray, who died of liver disease in 1998, was not the killer. Dexter King, Dr. King's son, visited Mr. Ray on his deathbed. The government killed my father, Dexter King told him, not you. ... Several display boards compare leading conspiracy theories with the conclusions of the investigations that have been held over the years. ... One display board suggests that the Memphis Police Department might have been involved in Dr. King's murder because police officers cleared away part of the crime scene within hours of the shooting.

Previous H&T
Etymology Today from M-W: widdershins \WIH-der-shinz\ (adv.)
: in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction
: counterclockwise

"He turned to his right, knowing that it is unlucky to walk about a church widdershins." (Dorothy Sayers, _The Nine Tailors_)

Legend holds that demons always approached the devil widdershins. Not surprisingly, such a path was considered evil and unlucky. By the mid-1500s, English speakers had adopted "widdershins" (from the Middle High German "wider," meaning "back, against," and "sinnen," meaning "to travel") for anything following a path opposite to the direction the sun travels across the sky (that is, counterclockwise). But in its earliest known uses "widdershins" was far less malignant; it was used simply to describe a case of bad hair in which unruly locks stood on end or fell the wrong way.
Previous E.T.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Latest Trib article: On tips and taxes for Tempo:,0,5379630.story

Oh...never mind: The Bush administration read my Freep article (bridge for sale!) and spoke anonymously to the NY Times today about its postwar plans. Still a tough job, and we're still cheapskates.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

I'm technically off the Tribune's payroll, so I get to write for two papers at once as long as they don't compete in the Chicago market.

Chicago Tribune: Internet column on The Memory Hole and The Smoking Gun.,0,4719686.story

Detroit Free Press: Op-ed on Bush's narrow (absent?) postwar vision for Iraq

Much was trimmed, as you can see, including this paragraph:

Now we're backing down from a promise Bush made to the visiting Karzai last month to chip in $80 million for a transcontinental highway, the possible new backbone of a revived Afghanistan economy. Instead, the Office of Management and Budget suggests taking $20 million slated for Afghan village development and women's centers and spending it on the road. "In the singular logic of OMB chief Mitch Daniels," The New Republic wrote, "in order to reconstruct Afghanistan the U.S. government would have to cut funding for the reconstruction of Afghanistan."

Here's that TNR piece.

Previous Freep op-ed
Thought of the day: the imaginative mandate of the media
When the Tribune launches Red Eye next month, we' ll have an idea of whether the media grasps this problem with itself: where is the innovative middle ground between trying too little to connect with audiences—the lazy thinking of the "news cycle"—and trying too hard the wrong way—the cynicism of seeing yourself as a "consumer product"? The tired old Trib wants to connect with a younger audience, and will no doubt try to do it by pandering to them, ignoring what young readers find boring and fixating on entertainment and lifestyle news.

The question that should be on writers’ minds, as they write for a startup, an established paper, or, in my odd case today, two major dailies at once, is this: What will be worth reading in two weeks? What combines the important with the interesting, instead of choosing between one or the other? What extends us beyond ourselves and to a bigger world or bigger ideas, and what falls into the wide category of predictable ideas, clichéd writing, constricted thinking? As James Fallows says, the media fixate on “2 percent of what’s interesting” in the world. Take a look at the current "news cycle." Weeks and months from now, tired talk of Iraq and midterm elections will seem like tripe—we'll likely have invaded Iraq and left it to be a mess of ethnic infighting, while Congressional Democrats and Republicans, as usual, will be narrowly divided and sniping at each other, and the American public, as usual, won’t give a rip which is in power because they’re so blame hard to tell apart. And yet these topics, clearly fascinating to reporters, dominate the front pages.

Journalists should ask themselves, what’s worth writing about today? What will usefully challenge readers, extend them beyond the weird bubble of the mass media’s small culture? How do you capture the important as interesting, rather than the other way around? The media has the tools and the power to be bigger and do better. As Steve Lopez says, and this is linked to my new credo at left, a newspaper should have blood pumping through it--it should feel and sound human, with well-written, poignant stories that cut to the human heart of the world. One of the oldest forms of human communication is using storytelling to convey personal and social meaning. Spare us the lame salesmanship of "news you can use."

Previous Thought: the problem with wisdom
On a lighter note about the media's cliches, here is a years-old forward I've wanted to post for a while, it captures the personalities of these media pretty well. (Of course, this was written before Sept.11, 2001, so it now may seem a bit much. But if you don't laugh you'll cry.)

How the Media Would Handle the End of the World

--> USA Today: WE'RE DEAD.
--> Wall Street Journal: Dow Jones Plummets as World Ends.
--> National Enquirer: O.J. and Nicole, Together Again.
--> Inc. Magazine: 10 Ways You Can Profit From the Apocalypse.
--> Rolling Stone: The Grateful Dead Reunion Tour.
--> Sports Illustrated: Game Over.
--> Lady's Home Journal: Lose 10 Pounds by Judgment Day with Our New "Armageddon" Diet!
--> TV Guide: Death and Damnation: Nielson Ratings Soar!
--> Discover Magazine: How will the extinction of all life as we know it affect the way we view the cosmos?
--> Microsoft Systems Journal: Netscape Loses Market Share.
--> Microsoft's Web Site: If you don't experience the rapture, DOWNLOAD software patch RAPT777.EXE.
--> America OnLine: System temporarily down. Try calling back in 15 minutes.
--> Money Magazine: Mortgage rates and Property values hit all time low

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

The cheese-ifying of the Bible continues with the big Veggie Tales movie. But they are freaking funny. This story is by Rob Elder, a sharp young writer I met at the Tribune this summer.

Behind the nondescript doors of the makeshift Big Idea animation studio in a rehabbed Lombard Woolworth building, talking vegetables rule. Now, they are trying to expand their reign to movie theaters nationwide. Big Idea, led by "VeggieTales" castmates Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, sold $30 million of its computer-animated, Judeo-Christian-based videos in the late 1990s. This weekend, like the computer-animated "Toy Story" and "Antz" before them, "VeggieTales'" cast of salad ingredients is trying to storm Hollywood with "Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie." It's a huge leap to try to play in the same league as Disney and Dreamworks, but three weeks before the opening (it was being shown on 900 screens this weekend and in two weeks will expand its reach), Big Idea CEO Phil Vischer seems calm inside the Midwest's largest animation studio, which is now reaching a fever pitch of activity.
Thought of the day: the need for, and problem with, wisdom
What is wisdom? God knows we need it; we're so overworked, overstressed, over-entertained, and generally overwhelmed by the forces of life today that we neglect wisdom and exist in a bland state of existence in which reason and contemplation take a back seat to the "virtues" of efficiency, speed, wealth, and the other strange things that drive us. As Quentin Schultze says, we value efficiency over wisdom, and digital ephemera over ages of recorded thought, at our peril. And I agree. To reach back and connect to monks, missionaries, artists and authors who have gone before, who lived in different worlds from ours and yet speak to us with the power of their thought, is powerful indeed. It jolts us out of our Velveeta-bland, hypnotic consumptive lives and confronts us with a larger context.

But who is wise? And what do we do with their frailties? For example, Augustine was one of the most spiritually brilliant people who ever lived. His wisdom has endured and shaped the souls of thinkers for centuries. But Augustine thought women were inferior beings. Aquinas thought women were deformed men. Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia, describes black people as a form of animal. On a less serious, but sincere note, many of the people I admire are nonetheless Republicans. So the question is, where does time-transcendent wisdom end and folly begin? How do we reconcile the fact that these paragons of wisdom uttered, sometimes in the same breath or book, statements that seem absurd or insane to the least educated person today? And what does it say about wisdom that it can exist, coherently in the mind of an author, so proximate to such folly? And if their folly is due to the blinders of their cultural contexts, is their wisdom independent from their cultural contexts?

People go to college to yawn through class periods and get a degree so they can make more money; wisdom isn't part of the equation. I tried to avoid that routine and actually engage with the wisdom being introduced, to expand my mind, to focus on something other than the money. But one of the most disillusioning realizations of college for me was that wisdom is fleeting, uncertain, and inconsistent in a broken and confusing world. Aquinas is prophet one moment, pig the next. My professors whom I revered as speaking a higher truth were also, at times, misguided, misinformed, misunderstanding. And what is the standard by which I tried to sort out the gold from the chaff--my own agreeableness? My own cultural context which filters reality according to arbitrary standards (i.e. what is beautiful, what is normal, what is good)? Should I try to improve on both the wisdom and mistakes of the past, or be frustrated that I will be prone to similar, old and new, mistakes? More sobering is the fact that while I think religion offers wisdom and reason to a broken world no matter how silly our secular institutions say it is, still religion has led people to do foolish things--to discriminate, to judge, to kill--and not coincidentally, but directly. For the moment I've left it at this: wisdom is like a pinata--we swipe at it repeatedly, not always sure of what we're swiping at, and sometimes, unexpectedly, we strike it, the satisfaction of which compensates for the empty feeling we have much of the rest of the time when we miss.

Related earlier thought: How can we change the world until we see it the same way?
Related earlier thought: It's harder to respect the wise when they don't roll up their sleeves
Previous Thought: Is life urgent?
Sunday Clippings from the Tribune, The New Republic, and my accumulated pile of each from the summer:
Previous Sunday Clippings

The media contine to beat up on Arkansas Sen. Tim Hutchinson for his hypocrisy on family values, which, as I've written before, is warranted and morbidly satisfying:

During a recent campaign debate, Sen. Tim Hutchinson found himself answering a question on an unusual topic--not health care or education, but his sudden divorce from his wife of 29 years and subsequent marriage to a former aide. It was "the greatest failing of my life," Hutchinson (R-Ark.) said, as he stood somberly before the crowd in the Hendrix College auditorium in Conway, Ark. "I disappointed an awful lot of people. I let a lot of people down. And I apologized to those who expected better of me." In some states, a senator's presumed liaison with a senior aide and his resulting divorce might not matter, but Arkansas is different. People identify themselves by where they were born, who their relatives are and what church they attend.

New fine arts venues are being unveiled across Chicago's neighborhoods with help from a group not widely known as patrons of the arts--Chicago aldermen. Across from Waldo Cooney's Pizza and Tony's Liquors in Beverly, the neighborhood arts council and Ald. Virginia Rugai (19th) recently premiered a new 40,000-square-foot arts center on the former site of an abandoned gas station. The $10 million building, aided by $2.5 million in city donations, has an art gallery, a gift shop to showcase local artisans, a cafe and the scene-stealer--a 420-seat theater with a stage big enough to accommodate Cirque de Soleil. In South Shore, at the former site of a corrugated-steel distributorship, the eta Creative Arts Foundation has broken ground on a $12 million performance arts center that, with the help of Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and about $3 million in city pledges, will feature a 550-seat theater to be connected by a glassed-in footbridge to a current theater across the street.

When he ran for president, George W. Bush declared that "the best way to ensure a strong, growing, and vibrant agricultural sector is through a more market-driven approach." But just as Bush has abandoned his avowed capitalist purity to endorse new subsidies for the energy industry and tariffs for steel, he is now preparing to greatly expand government subsidies for agriculture. These recent deviations from free-market orthodoxy have been dramatic enough that it's tempting to conclude the president has no coherent economic philosophy at all. But that isn't quite true. A clear pattern has lately emerged: When intervention in the market would benefit a wide range of Americans--say, a substantive patients' bill of rights or a prescription-drug plan--Bush opposes it. Ditto for an intervention that would actually make the economy run more smoothly--as in the case of reforms to the accounting industry. Indeed, it seems only when a market intervention lacks a compelling economic rationale and helps the few at the expense of the many--as in the steel, energy, and agriculture decisions--that the president sets aside his free-market principles. Call it "uncompassionate unconservatism."

Previous Sunday Clippings

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Sports&Culture File from
NY Times

Thirteen-year-old Lucile Neden, for example, who is half-Canadian, said she was branded a "garçon manqué," a pejorative version of "tomboy." "When the kids at my school heard I played soccer, they laughed," she said. "At first, I fought them, then I ignored them. Now I keep quiet about it. They're all sexist, macho. They think all girls have to do girly stuff like dance. But I just love the ball! I love it!" She rides the Métro clear across Paris to practice at the Association Sportive du Bon Conseil, a sports club much like a neighborhood YMCA. It features one of the city's few girls' teams — 13 girls from 8 to 13, some of whom have never before kicked a ball. The club, in the chic Seventh Arrondissement, created the girls' team seven years ago after an American family lobbied for it. ... Unlike boys of the same age, the girls have to train — and play — on a field half the size of a regulation soccer field, and with seven instead of 11 players. The explanation is that there are not enough girls to sustain larger teams, and not enough good fields to accommodate them. (France has nothing like Title IX, the 30-year-old American law that prohibits sex discrimination in education by institutions receiving federal funds.)

Previous S&C
Urban Issues Watch:
Previous U.I.W.
If I'm not mistaken, this is Chicago's real-life antecedent to the hospital on E.R., which the Tribune says is being replaced (the hospital, not the show)
Thought of the Day: Is life urgent?
How urgent is life? "Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow," as the procrastinator's credo declares. The problem with people today is that they scurry about with no firm purpose, no broader vision, no sense of peace and balance in their lives. Fewer and fewer roses are getting stopped for and smelled. But what about goals? You gotta have them, right? Aren't they a casualty of my nihilistic generation, which deems nothing worth striving for, idealizing, hoping for?

I'm not nihilistic, but I do wonder how timelines work. I want to be a better writer--more passionate, more poignant--I want to do less newspaper fluff and more soul-piercing pondering. I have 10 important areas in which to improve as a writer. I want to be more intellectual in my work, and yet regain the smoother writing voice I had as a sportswriter in college. I need to write with more metaphors and irony. I want to write my book. (Oh, and top of that, I want to roll up my sleeves and become an activist for public housing and other social causes, partly to prevent becoming an ivory tower hermit.)

What I can't figure out is, do I have 30 years to do all this, or 3 months? Should I spread it out over the forthcoming decades as I mentally project my life? I have to be reasonable and live with as-yet untackled lifelong goals. But at the same time, I have to seize the day and not let dreams wither. I could be back in the workplace within weeks or months, and then I'll feel affixed to the career ladder, so focused on the narrow duties of the day that the larger dreams slip away. A friend of mine and his wife just got pregnant. I wonder how I'll live with unfinished business (as petty as it will seem by comparison) if and when that blessing arrives in my life. In a blend of providence and coincidence, I've achieved, at age 23, many of the goals I set for myself in college--live in Chicago, write about society for a major publication, get married to a smart, beautiful woman, write my book, which I hope to start this month. The dizzying and surprising pace with which this has all happened has me (elated, yes, but) confused about how life works. Is it a sign to keep my foot on the gas, or a sign that what I thought for so long was important, and assumed would consume my first 10 or 20 years out of college, was miscalculated? It's not carpe diem, it's carpe vitam--seize the life.

Footnote: In the New Testament Martha comes unglued (v. 38-42) when Mary sits with Jesus instead of helping her get the food ready in the kitchen. I see this as a validation of feminism--a woman's destiny is not necessarily in the kitchen, no matter the social custom. But the broader point is Jesus' priorities--he's more interested in our company than our casseroles, the attention of our minds than the work of our hands. A pertinent point about priorities in today's overworked capitalist society (see this too) (which is again why I think it's so odd America calls itself a Christian nation--the economic machinery it so religiously developed is corroding our souls...but that's a thought for another day). We pour ourselves into our work, but we're nothing if we don't pour ourselves into people (as with Paul's clanging cymbal warning of 1 Cor. 13). So my goals, dreams, ambitions, as inspiring as they may be to me, are cold and dead without love, without Christ, without an equally zealous commitment to, unlike Martha, leave some things uncooked.

Earlier thought: Would we be better off if everybody voted? Or, as this week's Onion suggests, would that make us geeks? Seriously, the more I think about it, the more I think it's the responsibility of politicians to communicate something worth our responding to.

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