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David Remnick: Look, this is a very important distinction to make and a very important point about Obama. Part of Obama’s brilliance and part of his appeal as a campaigner is his ability to echo and summon and help us remember what we think of as prophetic voices in American history—King, the Civil Rights movement in general. But he is not a prophetic figure. He is not a civil rights activist. He is an electoral politician. The pressures on him, the requirements on him are different from someone on the outside putting pressure on power: He is power itself. So when he wins, preposterously, a Nobel Peace Prize, he knows politically that—he has just sent 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, he has to give a speech in Oslo that takes account of this irony. –“Birnbaum v. David Remnick,” Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
Keaton, Chaplin, and Chan?
Gatorade’s manifest destiny is leaving the hung-over behind;
bald Taiwanese travelers rejoice! Xiamen welcomes you
Later that night, most of the members of the media loaded in a van and headed for O’Kelly’s. Designed like every other pre-manufactured Irish bar you’ve ever been in—cheap dark wood paneling, throwback Guinness advertisements—O’Kelly’s takes the forced collegiality of Guantanamo and compresses it even further. The room is filled with people who just hours ago were at each others’ throats: Reporters, JAG officers, human rights observers, civilian defense attorneys. The only ones who couldn’t make it out for a drink are the detainees. –“JTF-GTMO: Exclusionary Rules,” Graydon Gordian, The Awl
Many Latin American writers have given up on Latin America. That is not an unhealthy move. Once it was “the duty” of intellectuals to focus on their immediate surroundings, in order to allow people elsewhere to see the sorrowful state of things at home. In the 90s, young stars, part of the movement known as McOndo—which rejected magical realism and supported the kind of urban realism spread by the Internet—and of El Crack—a movement in Mexican literature that shook up the nationalist premises of earlier generations—did not accept that responsibility. Why couldn’t their books be about making the atomic bomb or the end of the Soviet Union? There has been a de-Latin Americanization of the Latin American writer: Taking a position about Latin American politics is out. The escritor de moda, the fashionable auteur, meets his or her fans at Starbucks, spends hours at the gym, vacations in the Bahamas, and teaches at American universities. –“The Novelists and the Dictators,” Ilan Stavans, The Chronicle of Higher Education
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
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.”