SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
August 28, 9:39 a.m.
Another piece of what Jack likes to call Security Theatre last night in Ybor City:
We were drinking and playing pool with my cousin and her boyfriend at a friendly bikers’ bar called the Dirty Shame around midnight, when suddenly we noticed that outside, one of the roaming herds of brown-shirted police had metamorphosed into a line that was retreating slowly up Seventh Avenue.
My first thought was that they had simply decided to try a new formation during their lonely ramblings—that out in the middle of the peaceful, humid Florida night they were making up cheerleader and marching-band moves to entertain themselves. But no, they were reacting to a real menace—the worst threat Tampa had seen since the March of the Nine Dehydrated Anarchists that afternoon.
One might have thought from their reaction on this, LBJ’s birthday, that the officers were retreating before some snarling, Chicago-style mass of enraged Yippies and Weathermen. Instead, it turned out to be fifty or sixty protesters. Jack thought they might be Ron Paul supporters, several of whom we had seen running around the streets near the security perimeter, holding up signs for their candidate. I thought they tended more to the left, mostly because they were carrying a small, golden, papier-mâché elephant with a chain around its trunk. It wasn’t possible to tell for sure—we could barely hear their halfhearted, uncoordinated chants.
Regardless, the marchers, like the anarchists, were quickly surrounded by a mass of brown-shirted security forces who clearly outnumbered them. Quickly and deftly, the police moved the demonstrators down a side street, away from the dozen or so scattered spectators watching quietly from the sidewalks. As they all marched off together, they struck me as something akin to a historical recreation, a Colonial Williamsburg–style pantomime of protest that referred vaguely back to a misplaced past.
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.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“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.”