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The Crooked Heart


Friday, April 11, 2003

Moi, Amy, par la grâce de Dieu fini avec mon thèse, je suis fatiguée.
Contrary to the opinion of Google, al-Sahhaf t-shirts are not here. They are here. However, if you can't get there, you can still read about cute porn, consumerism, David Hume and rosemary chicken here.
Auden Appreciation Post 2

This one is for all of you who aren't writing B.A. papers.

Musee Des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W. H. Auden

See the painting that inspired the poem here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Sartoral Standards

The...gentleman...seated next to me in the Regenstein computer lab has a hole in his pants. Actually, this is somewhat inaccurate. What he has is not so much a hole, as a loose flap that exposes the entire back right side of his red and white plaid boxers. Given this, why is he wearing pants at all?

Also, can one definitively conclude that a man wearing a tight, pale pink t-shirt is gay, or is more evidence required?

Matt wants more people to link to his serious posts. Go forth and link.

Will is unconvinced that having the President declare war is less democratic than having Congress do it. However, as he points out,

Every indication is that interest groups and special interests (not the same thing) are more likely to gain purchase in the legislature than to gain the president himself.
While the president is supposed to represent the nation, house members (and to a lesser extent senators) represent smaller groups of constituents, and as such are much more likely to be responsive to concerns of particular interest groups.

The president makes his decisions based upon his estimation of what will be best for the nation as a whole, but congressional representatives should weigh both the needs of the nation and the needs of their local constituents. Thus, if the burdens of an action would fall much harder on one group than the population as a whole, this group would be more likely to have its concerns recognized by a member of Congress than by the President. Thus Congress can better represent the diversity of opinons and interests of the nation. While it is true that Congress can still only decide war or no-war, representatives can also bargain their votes for concessions for hard-hit interests or other such compromises that would make the war a better proposition for the country as a whole.

There is also the potential PR advantage that comes from opponents of the war hearing their concerns addressed on the debate floor. While I'm not convinced that there would have been greater public support for the war if arguments had been made on the floor of the house whether inspections had truly reached the end of their usefulness in Iraq, and thus push this argument only tentatively, I do think that, in general, public debate of important issues is a good thing, and war is definitely an important issue.

Finally, Jess explained why she dislikes the Olsen twins. Only two more days for the rest of you to send me your steamy Olsen fan-fiction.

A man who has read his Machiavelli...

Recently, there has been a big to-do over Chicago Mayor Daley's late-night destruction of the runway at Meigs Field. Critics here, here, here, and here complain about the mayor's high-handed, undemocratic, action, and argue that the security concerns the mayor raised were trumped-up and just an excuse.

Yes, we all know that Richard Daley runs one of the last great American political machines, exploits his position to benefit his cronies, and uses shady tactics to maintain his hold on city politics. And we also all know that Daley has had Meigs Field in his sights long before 9/11. And yes, he acted inappropriately, if not illegally, and the city will probably cough up some money to smooth things over, and one of Daley's friends will probably get the contract to turn Meigs into a park, because this is Chicago and that's how things work.

That said, let's review the facts.

1. Meigs Field is a small airport located on the lakeshore near downtown Chicago.

2. When I say small, I mean small. In 2002, 86,483 passengers went through Midway. In the same time period, 16,959,229 passengers went through Midway and 66,565,952 went through O'Hare. (Statistics here)

3. The land upon which Meigs Field sits is owned by the Chicago Park District. This is because the city originally acquired the land to be a park.

4. It's actually a lousy place for an airport. Visibility and winds are terrible.

5. The only reason that Meigs Field did not become a park long before this is that the oh-so-squeaky-clean former governer and the corporate types who financed his campaigns couldn't stand the thought of having to fly into O'Hare or Midway like everyone else.

I'm not against the wealthy using their money to purchase special priviledges. But in this case, these special priviledges involve the use of public land for the disproportionate benefit of the well-connected. The vast majority of Chicago residents get nothing out of Meigs Field. Quite frankly, in turning Meigs Field into a park, Daley is doing what he does best, and what gets him re-elected with 80% of the popular vote--acting imperiously to push through projects that sometimes horribly misfire (Soldier Field?), but on aggregate make Chicago a friendlier, prettier, all-around nicer place to live.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Magical Realism

The usually-reliable Slate described, in this article, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraq's minister of information, as "magical realist" and provided a link to this website. Will someone please explain to me what reasonable definition of magical realism includes the works of Elizabeth Bishop, Miguel Cervantes, Gustave Flaubert, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, Milan Kundera, D. H. Lawrence, Pablo Neruda, Mary Shelly, and Oscar Wilde?

Please Slate, if you're going to link to these sorts of things, make sure you're linking to a credible site, not an overenthusiastic, underinformed "freelance reader" who doesn't understand that realism, surrealism, absurdism, postmodernism and magical realism are very different literary movements, or that not all authors with Hispanic surnames are magical realists, but who happens to have registered a particularly prime domain name.

Thank you.
Protesting the War

Going back to the dawn of my political consciousness, I remember seeing my first antiwar protest for Gulf War I. I was on a class field trip to UCSB, and at the main entrance to the campus there was a knot of five or six students, some holding up signs, and one blindfolded with a flag print bandana. At that point in my life, my understanding of events was somewhat less nuanced than it is now, but I knew that Iraq had invaded another country and that we, the United States, were not going to let them get away with it, and a few catchy slogans were not going to change my mind. The protesters seemed more like anthropological curiosities than anything else to me--a sign that I was on a real college campus.

(In an unrelated tangent, I also remember going on another field trip to UCSB a year later to hear Ross Perot speak. He had a giant banner asking "Whose $4 trillion is it?" a question he repeated frequently, and to diminishing effect in his rant against government waste. A much more vivid impression was made on me by the student standing nearby, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a naked woman on it. I thought wearing something like that was illegal, and kept waiting for somebody to come by and tell him to take it off, but nobody did, and the rally ended with my understanding of obscenity law seriously altered.)

To my fifth grade mind, protesting still seemed like kind of a fun thing to do. You got to hang out with your friends and wave at passing cars, and at UCSB at least, do all this about fifty feet from the beach in the balmy Santa Barbara sunshine I used to take for granted.

The lot of those college protesters was certainly much more pleasant than that of the four poor souls I saw several days ago at the U of C, standing at the corner of 57th and University under dismal gray skies and a faint, chilly drizzle. They were all well past college age, standing with their heads down, holding brightly colored signs with slogans like "No War" and "Support our Troops, Not the War". If they believed that some sort of Dostoyevskian redemption would come out of their suffering, then their actions made some sort of sense, but I think their actual goal was to convey the message that War Is Bad.

I agree that war is bad. But I also think that rape, torture, oppression, and the murder of civilians are bad too. Perhaps war is worse than all of these. Perhaps our efforts in Iraq won't actually succeed in creating a thug-free democracy for the Iraqi people. There are arguments to be made for these points, arguments I might even find convincing. But these arguments can't be made with large letters on sheets of posterboard.

The protesters succeeded in convincing me that they really, fervently believe that we should not be at war with Iraq--that they believe it enough to stand in the cold, or block traffic, or get arrested to make the point. But for people who think about these things, No War is really no message, and for people who don't think about these things, will it really matter to them if the protestors go away because they were arrested or because the war stopped, so long as their evening commute isn't inconvienenced?

Here's my suggestion to antiwar protesters. Slogans are so last century. But don't despair--it's simple to update your signs. Just add .org (or to your favorite pithy phrase, and the commuters who pass you can go home and find out why you feel compelled to stand in the cold/block traffic/break the law to make your point.

And on a related point...

Daniel Drezner has posted a criticism of the antiwar movement for "[failing] to articulate any coherent message," and as evidence, quoted the following from an online antiwar essay:

"If nothing else, the process leading to war in Iraq revealed an abject failure of our democracy. We claim to be bringing democracy to Iraq, yet the lack of it at home is in evidence everywhere, and is a grave threat to our national well-being and future."

The essay is somewhat lacking in focus, and the main reform the writer seems to be advocating is proportional representation (which, after all, worked so well for the Weimar Republic). But in the process, the author mentions, and then drops, what I think is a valid, substantive complaint. According to our constitution, the power to declare war lies with Congress. However, in the past fifty years, Congress has demonstrated a disturbing trend towards abdicating this responsibility to the president, either through the sort of wholesale grants of power that justify this conflict, or through the twisted logic that once the President has sent troops to fight, Congress must then support them lest it appear unpatriotic. Calling this "an abject failure of our democracy" is a bit exaggerated, but it undeniably moves the will of the people one step further from the decision-making process.

Monday, April 07, 2003

It's 6:30 in the morning, I'm in the library, looking out the window, and there's snow on the ground.

It's April.

What have I done to deserve this?

Sunday, April 06, 2003

More Lazy, Pre-B.A. Blogging

In response to Jess' s recent whining about the Olsen Twins, I've decided to talk about them. Or rather, talk about why the soon-to-be-legal twins have such porn-star potential. Actually, since I'm really supposed to be working on my BA, I'll just link to a paper I wrote last year that I think applies to the Olsen twins too, and until my B.A. is finished (when I promise to move on to more elevated topics), I'll post (or link to) any responses, complaints about, or sexual fantasies involving the Olsen twins (provided that the activities are, in your fantasy, occurring after they turn 18) that you care to send me.

Musings on a transient world.

Amy Lamboley
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