Weekly Review — June 10, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: All In My Eye, December 1853]

Senator Barack Obama, having amassed more than the 2,118 delegates needed to secure a majority, was acknowledged as the Democratic presidential nominee and claimed victory before a crowd of almost 20,000 people in St. Paul, Minnesota, knocking knuckles with his wife, Michelle, in a gesture known as “dap.” “It thrilled a lot of black folks,” said author Ta-Nehisi Coates. “He wears his cultural blackness all over the place. Barack is like Black Folks 2.0.”New York TimesWashington PostEarlier that evening, Senator John McCain delivered a speech to a crowd of a few hundred in Kenner, Louisiana, in which he tried to rebuff Obama’s charges that a McCain presidency would be a continuation of Bush policies. “That’s not change we can believe in,” said McCain repeatedly. Pundits were surprised by McCain’s clumsy rhetoric, by his lack of teleprompter skills, and by the fact that he stood in front of an ugly green backdrop. “Content better than delivery,” said Karl Rove. “John McCain,” said Mort Kondracke of “Roll Call,” “sounded old.”New York TimesTalking Points MemoA messenger delivered a handwritten note from McCain to Obama’s Chicago offices inviting the Democratic presidential nominee to a series of Goldwater-Kennedy-style debates. Bill Burton, an aide to Obama, told the messenger, “You know, you could have just emailed this.”PoliticoHillary Clinton announced that she was “suspending” her campaign,New York Timesand Yves Saint Laurent, who popularized pants for women, died at age 71. “My small job as a couturier,” Saint Laurent once said, “is to make clothes that reflect our times. Iâ??m convinced women want to wear pants.”New York Times

Unemployment rose half a percentage point to 5.5 percent, the largest one-month increase since 1986. Oil prices surged by more than $11 a barrel to a new high of $138.54, and the stock market suffered a 3 percent drop. New York TimesOfficials in Tanzania reported that witch doctors were harvesting the hair, bones, and skins of albinos to make wealth potions,New York Timesand scientists who darkened the breast feathers of male barn swallows with magic marker found that the males attracted more females, lost weight, and exuded more testosterone. “It’s like you walk down the street and you’re driving a Rolls Royce and people notice,” said lead researcher Rebecca Safran. “Your physiology accommodates this.”Florida TodayThe United Nations held a three-day emergency food summit; the director of the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization condemned U.S. subsidies for biofuel, saying that they deprived people of food in order to “satisfy a thirst for fuel for vehicles.”GuardianWashington PostFor the third year in a row, the consumption of oranges in Britain declined because people were too busy to peel the rind off the fruit. The Daily Mail

V. S. Naipaul, the 2001 Nobel Laureate in Literature, declared that there are “no more great writers.”The IndependentDerek Walcott, who won the Nobel in 1992, read a new poem, entitled “The Mongoose,” that viciously attacks Naipaul’s personality and his writing. “I have been bitten,” the poem begins, “I must avoid infection/Or else I’ll be as dead as Naipaul’s fiction.”GuardianMore than two dozen vandals who hosted a party inside Robert Frost’s former home were ordered to take a class on his poetry, taught by Frost’s biographer. “This is where Frost is relevant,” Jay Parini said to the class, speaking about Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” “You come to a path in the woods where you can say, ‘Shall I go to this party and get drunk out of my mind?’ Everything in life is choices.”CNNA housing development in South Carolina was offering to any customers who purchased one of its $1 million homes a $400,000 home for free. “We thought,” said developer Dawn Berry, “‘Why does it just have to be on Pop Tarts and restaurants?'”Los Angeles TimesThe family of a former chemist for Procter & Gamble who designed the Pringles potato-chip can buried a portion of his ashes in a Pringles can,Cincinnati Enguirerand Haley, an eight-year-old Indiana girl who had emergency surgery after eating more than 10 magnets and 20 steel balls, said she swallowed the pieces because they “looked like candy.” Her parents said they were confused about how she could have done such thing because “she gets A’s and B’s.”CBS NewsScientists located the part of the brain responsible for understanding sarcasm.New York Times

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

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