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At first glance, the Study Area presented as a junkyard, but one in which people were living. Tents of various vintage were observed. In addition, the following materials had been used to construct dwellings within the Study Area: Plyboard. Blue plastic tarp material. Tree limbs. Lengths of string, wire, and rope. Large wooden cable spools. Shopping carts. Construction pallets. A piece of inverted signage reading: lt. governor bustamante, working for families. Rocks, bags of dirt, and an office chair had been used to secure a tin roof. The yard of one house boasted a number of well-tended houseplants, including several cacti. This house also had a white metal screen door neatly mounted into its frame and an American flag flying above it on a tilted pole. At a nearby house, dozens of branches from an artificial Christmas tree had been inserted at regular intervals into the siding, decoratively….Based on a pre-Study survey of existing media information, the Principle Researcher (PR) had expected the tent city to be populated by middle-class individuals recently made homeless by the economic downturn, beaten but not destroyed, a kindly Steinbeckian gathering of stoic types, possibly playing guitars, who would welcome the PR, gratified that someone had come to document their plight. The PR left the Study Area and drove around Fresno for several hours, seeking a more Steinbeckian tent city. Although promising pockets of poverty were observed, no Steinbeckian tent city was found.–“Tent City, U.S.A.,” George Saunders, GQ
North Korean agrarian nostalgia: “the village where she grew up, just beyond the smokestacks of Ch’ongjin, was not such a bad place in the seventies and eighties”;
sending the Vietnamese to Antarctica
The unfolding generational pattern in Star Wars would predict that the full story will begin with the youth of Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi and end with the coming to maturity of the as yet unborn child. Star Wars offers itself as a tessera, a deliberate fragment designed to lead us on. Conjecture about the whole may be unnecessary; Time magazine tells us that the sequence will look something like this:
I II Fall of the republic and the rise of the empire III IV A New Hope } V The Empire Strikes Back Skywalker VI Revenge of the Jedi VII VIII Rebuilding of the republic IX
Young girls in disturbing Halloween costumes;
student in Georgia harassed, forced from school because his clothes not manly enough (“I don’t consider myself a cross-dresser. This is just who I am.”);
don’t tell anyone you home-school the kids
Will Obama’s administration end up as a remake of Jimmy Carter’s? Carter started out with his own take on the “audacity of hope”: let’s lose our “inordinate fear of communism.” Toward the end of his term—the Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan—he recanted. “That action had made a more dramatic change” in his view of their true goals “than anything they have done in the previous time I have been in office.” Two hundred and fifty days into his first term, it is now reasonably clear that Mr. Obama is heading in the same direction—if he continues to walk the road paved with good intentions. The man who knows better than most how to calculate and corral power at home, who beat the mighty Hillary machine and snipped away John McCain, does not seem to appreciate the game nations play. In that game, nice guys don’t win. –“The Age of Nice, or Politics as Psychiatry,” Josef Joffe, Commentary
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”