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2004 / July | View All Issues |

July 2004

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En el lugar de los abrazos (detail)·

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Letters

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Notebook

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Chasing the pot·

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Harper’s Index

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Readings

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Evident truths·

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Fair and balanced·

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Am ende feierabend (vers. II)·

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The judge rests·

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Outside the box·

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The personal is political·

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The time of killing·

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Restless #2·

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-O-u-r- man in Chile·

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I did it my way·

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Siena·

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Dear diary·

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Acme sounds·

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The boys in the bubble·

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Company Mann·

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Strangely familiar·

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Lowe’s Parking Lot, New Jersey·

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Three pieces for the left hand·

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We are not immune·

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Influenza, SARS, and the collapse of public health

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Small silences·

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Listening for the lessons of nature

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The cousins·

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Blood for oil·

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The only justification that makes sense

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Briefings: at issue in the 2004 election·

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New books

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Reviews

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The novelist and the hangman·

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When horror invades protocol

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Findings

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“In Season 5 of Louie (FX), Louie is a new kind of superhero. Like Wonder Woman, the canonical superhero he most resembles, Louie’s distinctive superpower is love.”
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On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.

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“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
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“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
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“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
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Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.

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