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An exchange from last night in Tampa, where, after an eternity of keeping Mitt Romney at arm’s length, the G.O.P finally nominated him as its standard-bearer against Barack Obama. As always, there was a feather-preening roll call, during which each state introduced itself and cast its votes.
Jack: Kevin, don’t you wish sometimes that when the states introduced themselves, they’d dispense with the Chamber of Commerce pablum?
Florida, “the Lightning Capital of the World,” where more people are injured by God’s wrath than all the other states combined! The state that specifically outlaws sex with porcupines, and whose governor is the World Weekly News’s Bat Boy, casts all its votes for the next President of the United States, Mitt Romney!
Kevin: Nevada, the bankruptcy state, where the mustang is not only a wild horse but a job-creating brothel, setting of more pawnshop reality-shows than any other state in the nation, the proud adopted home of Bugsy Siegel and Virginia Hill, throws all in for Mitt Romney!
Jack: Maine—the producer of 90 percent of America’s toothpicks and the home of Joshua Chamberlain, the last Civil War soldier to die of his wounds (in 1914, at the age of eighty-six), whose residents are still required by law to carry shotguns to church in the event of Indian attacks, and the state that brags it has more French speakers than any other state, lance fièrement toutes ses voix pour Mitt Romney.
Kevin: Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis, the Confederate holdout that abolished slavery in 1995 (that’s right, 1995, look it up!). Mississippi, the home of more churches per capita than any other state, and the inventor of the soft toilet seat (like we said, look it up), proudly casts all of its votes for Jefferson Davis IV.
More from Kevin Baker:
Appreciation — June 26, 2014, 8:00 am
From Johnny Cash to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
New York Revisited — June 19, 2014, 8:00 am
And how it foretold the 2008 financial crisis
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.”