Weekly Review — October 5, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Small Family, May 1874]

A Small Family.

President Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, announced in a video that he planned to resign from the White House to run for mayor of Chicago, and called for leadership that is “smart enough to know what government should doâ??and also what it can’t do.” Election lawyers suggested that Emanuel may not be able to run for mayor because he is not a legal resident of Chicago, having rented out his house for 18 months. “I’ve talked to the guy,” said attorney Burt Odelson about Emanuel’s tenant, who has refused to break the lease, “and they’re pissed.”CBSChicago Sun-TimesReports showed that interest groups have spent $80 million so far on the 2010 congressional elections, five times as much as they had at this point in the 2006 midterms. Over half of this was given by donors who did not disclose their identities, and Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic allies 7 to 1; Democrats called for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate. BloombergThe Washington PostThe Washington PostJennifer Frutchy, philanthropic advisor to billionaire Peter B. Lewis, who gave more than $20 million to the Democrats in the 2004 election, explained that Mr. Lewis was witholding funds this year to concentrate on building progressive infrastructure and marijuana reform. “Thatâ??s just where his head is right now,” she said.NYTA brief television-news clip on a local station in Georgia provoked international speculation that Maureen Tucker, the former drummer of The Velvet Underground, had become a Tea Partier, and scientists found that placing a magnet on your head can temporarily turn you from a right- to a left-handed person.GuardianDaily MailDelaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who once said that homosexuals have an “identity disorder,” was endorsed by her lesbian sister, Jennie. “Blood,” said Jennie, “is thicker than politics.”NYT

The U.S. State Department advised that Americans in Europe be vigilant due to an unspecified terrorist threat.NYTAfghan President Hamid Karzai wept about bombs and suicide attacks during a televised speech at a high school. “I’m worried, oh people, I’m worried,” he said about his three-year-old son. “God forbid Mirwais should be forced to leave Afghanistan.”BBC South AsiaTwo new audio recordings said to be from Osama bin Laden urged help for victims of climate change, and two members of the Nigerian group MEND, which has been destroying oil pipelines, kidnapping petroleum company workers, and fighting government troops since 2006, were suspected of organizing a car bombing that killed twelve people on the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from Britain.NYTBBCNYTA man drove a cement truck on which was written “â?¬1,000,000 on golf balls” into the gates of Leinster House, the national parliament of Ireland, and several Lehman Brothers signs were sold for tens of thousands of dollars each at an auction organized by PricewaterhouseCoopers as part of an effort to repay creditors.NYTA French vintner awoke to find his entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, worth $20,000, had been stolen. “Between winegrowers there’s a kind of solidarity,” the vintner said, “but 2010 is a bad year and it fosters jealousies.”Observer

A psychiatrist permitted the 33 Chilean miners trapped more than 2,300 feet underground to watch “Troy,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “The Mask,” but no intense dramas.The Globe and the MailActor Tony Curtis, born Bernard Schwarz, died, aged 85.NYTGoogle Street View expanded its coverage to Antarctica, and an ice-themed water park in the United Arab Emirates, conceived as a haven for penguins displaced by global warming, triggered complaints from local fishermen, who preferred the beach that had been there. PopsciGuardianA troop of large black-faced langur monkeys were deployed by Delhi authorities to scare away smaller simians from the Commonwealth Games Village.”We don’t know who is in charge,” complained Sandeep Dikshit, a member of Indian Parliament, whose mother, Sheila Dikshit, oversees one of the agencies responsible for preparations of the Games.NYTAn official photograph of Kim Jong-Un, the newly appointed four-star general and most likely successor to the Communist dynasty in North Korea, attracted comments about the young man’s obesity, and a British food production company was ordered to pay $27,000 after a man making sandwiches found a dead mouse, minus its tail, in a loaf of bread. “As I was feeling ill I couldn’t face eating anything myself,” said Stephen Forse of Kidlington, Oxfordshire. “I sat with the children as they ate theirs.”BBCTelegraphBBC News

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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

But somebody has slipped. The school is putting on the musical South Pacific, and there are not enough roles for the girls, and she is as tall as or taller than the boys, and so they have done what is unthinkable in this striving 1980s town, in this place where the men do the driving and the women make their mouths into perfect Os to apply lipstick in the rearview. For the musical, they have made her a boy.

No, she thinks. They have allowed her to be a boy.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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