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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:
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.
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 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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“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.”