Weekly Review — May 20, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Storks, 1864]

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake centered in Sichuan Province, China, left 50,000 dead and 5,000,000 homeless. Outside Beichuan Middle School, where 1,000 students and teachers died, parents waited for the bodies of their children to be pulled from the rubble, lighting a single firecracker each time a body was found. A married couple lay under their workers’ dormitory for 28 hours, their limbs crushed and entwined. “I tried bending my neck against the wall to kill myself,” said the husband after being rescued. Three minutes of silence and three days of mourning were observed throughout the nation, and the Olympic Torch relay was suspended. “Other people who know their relatives have died can call this a memorial day or a funeral,” said a farmer named Wang Hongchen, who wandered the ruins shouting his son’s name, “but not me yet.” Predictions of a powerful new earthquake sent tens of thousands of Chengdu residents rushing to the streets in panic.Telegraph.co.ukNytimes.comNytimes.comReuters via NYTimes.comA three-day period of mourning was also declared for 130,000 dead or missing victims of the cyclone in Myanmar, where the country’s military junta, under protest by the United Nations, continued to turn away much foreign aid.The New York TimesAs oil prices reached $127 a barrel, President George W. Bush pleaded with Saudi Arabia to increase pumping, but was rebuffed; he also told Middle Eastern leaders that their economies would not be successful until they gave women equal opportunities. “This is a matter of morality,” he said, “and basic math.”The New York TimesA 19-year-old college freshman was elected mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma. “Right now I’m between girlfriends,” said John Tyler Hammons, who is president of both the Young Republicans and the Young Democrats at his university. “I’m looking to fill that position.”MSNBC.comCherie Blair revealed that her husband, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, had announced her miscarriage to the press in order to deter speculation about an early invasion of Iraq,.Telegraph.co.ukand perennial U.S. presidential candidate Alan Keyes declared that he represents, “in political terms, the abortion. You’re invited in, but they kill you.”Wonkette.com

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said that Karl Rove had a week to appear before the committee. “Someoneâ??s got to kick his ass,” said Conyers.Politico.comHouse Republicans began using a new slogan, “the change you deserve,” which turned out to be the slogan of the antidepressant Effexor.FoxNews.comThe California Supreme Court struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, surprising legal experts because six of the seven judges are Republican,.CNN.comand the Vatican’s chief astronomer said that it’s not a contradiction of faith to believe in aliens and that we may have intelligent, God-created “extraterrestrial brothers.”BBCnews.comMorehouse College in Atlanta named its first white valedictorian. “I support him and his mission to be successful in life,” said a junior. “I just kind of wish he had done it at a different institution.”CNN.comThe invasion of tasteless Chinese truffles threatened the primacy of the European Perigord black truffle,BBCnews.comand billions of hairy, reddish-brown “crazy Rasberry ants” (named for a local exterminator) were swarming through the greater Houston area. “They have nowhere to go, just running crazy wild,” said one resident. “You know what it’s like to sit down on the commode with crazy ants running everywhere?” Chron.comU.S. Air Force pilots were testing the Advanced Mission Extender Device, the result of a $5 million program to replace unhygienic “piddle packs” with a system that converts urine into a gel.CNN.comLos Angeles was considering whether to turn its raw sewage into drinking water.The New York Times

Robert Rauschenberg died at the age of 82,The New York Timesand the former head of UCLA’s cadaver program was indicted for selling over $1 million in body parts.CNN.comNatascha Kampusch, who prior to the recent emergence of the Josef Fritzl case was the most famous Austrian to have been imprisoned in a cellar sex dungeon, felt compelled to buy her once-captor’s house so that it wouldn’t be torn down or vandalized.Guardian.co.ukThe Pentagon announced that it will build a permanent 40-acre detention complex in Afghanistan to replace crumbling Bagram prison. “This place,” explained a military official regarding Bagram, “was not made to keep people there indefinitely.”The New York TimesCurators at the Museum of Modern Art pulled the incubator plug on a tiny coat made of living mouse stem cells after it grew too fast,The New York Timesand scientists at Cornell University created the first genetically modified human embryo.Russia TodayAt an NRA convention in Kentucky, Mike Huckabee made a joke after hearing a noise off-stage. “That was Barack Obama,” he said. “Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.”The HillA poem written by Obama in 1981 was discovered and republished:

Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Rushing water
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.The New York Times

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
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