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An example of how insidious policies can create insidious habits implying insidious ideas is found President Obama’s first speech before Congress. In it he echoed ideas he often advocated in his campaign, specifically, a rejection of self-ownership and acceptance of self-sacrifice. “I know the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why, if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure you can afford a higher education,” Obama said….It is easy to see the economic absurdity of such schemes. Americans pay high direct taxes into government coffers. Further, their purchasing power is reduced through indirect taxes in the form of government regulations that drive up the price of goods and services. The government then allows individuals to ransom back some of their earned income in exchange for doing service for the government. And for many of these services, program participants receive some form of federal compensation, that is, more money taken out of taxpayer pockets. –“The Servile Citizen,” Edward Hudgins, The New Individualist
1980 was an insane time, at least for me: drugs were spiraling up, romance was spiraling down, and melodrama was abundant. I had gotten a job in the mailroom of a prominent literary journal, a job that permitted me to arrive at noon—since my co-worker had to leave early to attend music lessons—and then not return after taking the mailbag to the post office, which I usually contrived to do before four o’clock. I was not serious. I was fucking around heavily, not writing, pretending to be a musician but not managing to practice. I walked around in a daze of self-kidding. Late one night in early summer I was perhaps on my way to or from a party, probably high, when I happened to pass the 24-hour copy shop on Mercer Street just south of Eighth. I glanced in briefly—it was the place where I had put together my zine, and I knew most of the employees. A few doors south I felt a hand on my shoulder. Once again I didn’t recognize him. I’ve never been good with faces, but this time there was an additional reason. Carluccio had grown, broadened, darkened—he was very nearly a different person altogether. He led me back to the copy shop, where he was collating and folding stacks of sheets laid out in a row. He finished assembling one, stapled it, signed it, and handed it to me. We must have made some sort of conversation, but I remember none of it. I didn’t even remember the chapbook until days later, when I picked my jacket up off the floor next to the bed and discovered it sticking out of the side pocket. –“Hooliganism and Literature,” Luc Sante, Guernica
More by Luc Sante in Harper’s Magazine (subs)
What we know about love in the times that preceded ours we have learned from proverb, myth and literature, and that knowledge remains, to this day, somewhat spotty. Love may be blind, a baptism and many splendored. A red, red rose or a wild plant born of a wet night; unlucky at cards; the course that never did run smooth; done with the compass, done with the chart! A labor we lose. The lineage of love is provisional and perhaps discontinuous: if the reign of love commenced with Adam and Eve soon after the dawn of the world, then the textual traces of their union were many years out of date by the time the Book of Genesis arrived a few centuries before the common era. Did Adam profess undying love to Eve before the serpent stole her heart? Perhaps not, but how are we to know? –“A Fine Romance: On Christina Nehring,” Miriam Markowitz, The Nation
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.”