Redheaded Ramblings: Sheila A-stray  

"This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am." -- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Talk to me

1. Email me
2. Click here to sign my book
3. Blogroll Me

Never forget

The Black Day Memorial


Day by Day cartoon strip

On my bedside table

I will bear witness, 1942 - 1945 The Diaries of Victor Klemperer


Diary Fridays

November, 1998
November 19, 1995
October 13, 1985
February, 1995
September 14, 1997
December 30, 1996
September, 1999
September 14, 1996
July 4, 1990
April 3-4, 1982
April 20, 1982

Focus on:

War with Armenia, 1991
Azeri Culture
Hatred and suspicion
Ancient history
Desert nomads
Turkmen cultural identity
IMRO, terrorist group
Competing claims
The Young Turks
20th century wars
Collapse of USSR
The people
Breakaway regions
Geography as destiny
The famine
The people
20th century
Havel's speech, 1990
The spirit of Prague
The people
Samarqand, Tamerlane
Bukhara 1
Bukhara 2
Bukhara 3, Tashkent
The Aral Sea
Uzbekistan today

War bloggers

The Command Post
Amish Tech Support
a small victory
An Unsealed Room
Andrew Sullivan
Jane Galt
Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant
The Blogs of War
Damien Penny
Dean Esmay
Steven Den Beste
Eject! Eject! Eject!
The Greatest Jeneration
Hawk Girl
Inappropriate Response
Isn't a Pundit
Juan Gato
Kimberly Swygert's Number 2 Pencil
Little Green Footballs
Little Tiny Lies
Matt Welch Warblog
One Hand Clapping
Patio Pundit
Pejman Pundit
The Politburo
Power Line
Rachel Lucas
John Hawkins - Right Wing News
Sgt. Hook
Tim Blair
The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Vodka Pundit
The Volokh Conspiracy
Where is Raed? ... May 7: He's back!...


Candy Boots
Disaffected Muslim
Hasan Pix
Iranian Girl Blog
The Kitchen Cabinet
Rossi Rant
Uncertainty Blog

New York City

NYC Bloggers
6:01 a.m.
NY Yoga Girl
Erin the Giggle Chick

Catholic blogs

nota bene
Just your average Catholic guy
Catholic blog for lovers
Sursum Corda
Amy Weilborn

A chorus of voices

Peggy Noonan
Goldberg File
Charles Krauthammer
Dave Barry
Mark Steyn
Tom Friedman
Victor Davis Hanson
Christopher Hitchens
James Lileks' Newhouse column
Daniel Pipes

Daily Readings

New American Bible

Fun stuff

James Berardinelli
Cainer's horoscopes
Brezsny's horoscopes
The Internet Movie Database
VERY COOL online periodic table
The Onion


Arts & Letters Daily
Bold Type
Boston Review
Contemporary Poetry Review
The Atlantic
The New Yorker
The New York Review of Books
Nobel Laureates in Literature
Brainy Quotes
Poetry Blog

The bigger picture

CIA World Factbook
The Claremont Institute
City Journal
Policy Review
The New Criterion
Commentary Magazine
Foreign Policy Magazine
Media Research Center
World History
World Religions
7 Wonders of the Ancient World
Lonely Planet
Useless Knowledge
The New Republic

Your basic and not-so-basic news

Drudge Report
Jewish World Review
National Post
New York Daily News
The New York Times
Voice of America
Washington Post
The Weekly Standard

Friends, Family

The Darkling Plain, featuring MOI
Siobhan O'Malley
My mother's paintings
Yes, Dear starring Mike O'Malley
The Pat McCurdy Web Page Thing
Barefoot kitchen witch


The media is wondering why they have received so little credit for capturing the sniper. Well, let me tell you something, media: Great job in the 24/7 hysteria-mongering coverage. Great job in speculating, and putting on "experts" who continuously told us that the sniper was an angry white male. Really. That was awesome. I have one problem though: halfway across the world there was a hostage situation which appears to have implications for all of us, and it BARELY was mentioned by you all. CNN's top broadcasts were not mentioning the Chechen rebel takeover of the theater at all. I flipped from channel to channel to channel, hoping to get a teeny bit of information about what is going on in the WORLD, not just in Montgomery County...especially once the sniper was caught! Get over yourselves. The media is basically in a service industry job. Like all the other service industry jobs out there, it has a relatively thankless aspect to it. You provide a service. That's it. Read PhotoDude's comments on the matter.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/26/2002 08:40:00 AM

Saturday, October 26, 2002  


A quick note on the book below. It is phenomenal, and I am always recommending it to people. I recommended it to my friend Allison one night. We were out at a loud crazy bar, and I was screaming the title laboriously into her ear. "WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES!!" Later in the night, she said, "Oh, wait a minute...What was the name of that book you recommended earlier? 'Please Forgive Me But I'm About to be Killed In front of My Mother'??"

  contact Sheila Link: 10/26/2002 08:15:00 AM



The utopian premise of the Genocide Convention had been that a moral imperative to prevent efforts to exterminate whole peoples should be the overriding interest animating the action of an international community of autonomous states. This is a radical notion, fundamentally at odds, as so much of the internationalist experiment has proven to be, with the principle of sovereignty. States have never acted for purely disinterested humanitarian reasons; the novel idea was that the protection of humanity was in every state's interest, and it was well understood in the aftermath of World War II that action against genocide would require a willingness to use force and to risk the lives of one's own. The belief was that the price to the world of such a risk would not be as great as the price of inaction. But whose world were the drafters of the Genocide Convention -- and the refugee conventions, which soon followed -- thinking of?

--Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Familes: Stories from Rwanda

  contact Sheila Link: 10/26/2002 08:12:00 AM

Farewell, Richard Harris.

Oh, you will be missed. Only you could turn the dialogue in your one scene in Gladiator into something sounding like Shakespeare. I don't think they make actors like Harris anymore.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/25/2002 05:17:00 PM

Friday, October 25, 2002  


A Chechen timeline, for those of you as gripped by events in Moscow as I am. I am praying that this will not turn into a bloodbath.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/25/2002 03:08:00 PM


Here's the story of the moment. I have tears in my eyes. Beautiful. Thank you, sir.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/25/2002 03:04:00 PM


Addendum to the Top 10 Moments in Baseball discussion:

My father just shot me an email with the following message: "Brendan is completely wrong. The greatest feat in baseball, never to be duplicated is Johnny Vander Meer's two consecutive no hitters."

Anyone else out there have anything to contribute?

  contact Sheila Link: 10/25/2002 11:41:00 AM



To fly into Moscow at the end of 1989 is to enter a world dominated by the proliferating, unbridled word. After years of the gag, of silence, and of censorship, the dams are bursting, and stormy, powerful, ubiquitous torrents of words are flooding over everything. The Russian intelligentsia is once again (or, rather, for the first time) in its element -- endless, indefatigable, firece, frantic discussion. How they love this, how good this makes them feel! Wherever someone announces some discussion, immeasurable crowds immediately gather. The subject of the discussion can be anything, but of course the preferred theme is the past. So what about Lenin, what about Trotsky, what about Bucharin? And the poets are as important as the politicians. Did Mandelshtam die in the camps of hunger or as a result of an epidemic? Who is responsible for the suicide of Tsvetayeva? These matters are debated for hours on end, till dawn.

But even more time is spent in front of television sets, watching broadcasts of the sessions of the Supreme Soviet that go on night and day. Several factors contributed simultaneously to this explosion of political passions. First, politics at the highest rungs of power was surrounded here for centuries by an airtight, almost mystical secrecy. The rulers decided about the life or death of people, and yet these people were never able to see the rulers with their own eyes. And then, suddenly, here they are, the rulers, getting angry, their ties askew waving their arms around, picking their ears. Second, as they follow the deliberations of their highest popular assembly, Russians for the first time have the sense of participating in something important.

And finally -- perestroika coincided with the explosion of television in this country. Television gave to perestroika a dimension that no other event in the history of the Imperium had ever had.

--Ryszard Kapuscinski, Imperium, 1994

  contact Sheila Link: 10/25/2002 09:05:00 AM


Let me just say one last thing and then I will give it a rest: Saudi Arabia should have been on that axis of evil list. (Can an axis only be three things, though?) Our fear of alienating the oil kings is catching up with us now. The Bush administration is missing an enormous opportunity: dealing with American dependence on oil, and love affair with huge gas guzzling cars. How free would we be if we did not have to kiss the Saudi ass? But Bush is an oil man. He's from an oil family. I don't think we'll see any massive energy policy passed soon. And that's a shame.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/24/2002 03:23:00 PM

Thursday, October 24, 2002  


I mention the anecdote below only because I do believe that, at this moment, there are citizens in countries like Iraq, Pakistan, Iran...who were thrilled that President Bush made the huge leap into calling it like he saw it. I can imagine these people, basically held hostage by their own leaders...wondering why somebody, somewhere, doesn't come to their rescue. And then along comes this American cowboy, perhaps not the brightest bulb on the tree, perhaps not with the subtlest rhetorical manner, perhaps without the "I feel your pain" energy coming from another US President who shall remain nameless...but how amazing, how incredible: Bush speaks the truth. He calls evil where he sees it. He rejects the double-standard for Arab societies, which has been public policy for decades. (As in: As long as you keep supplying the oil, we won't lecture you on your horrific human rights abuses. The Arab citizens living under these regimes are, rightly, confused by our duplicitousness. Why do we feel okay with lecturing to China about Tienamen Square, and turn a blind eye to what is going on in Saudi Arabia? The US must not care about the quality of life for millions of Arabs...)

So the Iranians and the Iraqis huddled by their little contraband radios, straining to hear through the static...and heard a US President say the words "axis of evil". To describe the terrible regimes under which they struggle to live lives of dignity and meaning.

This was an ecstatic and thrilling moment of recognition for these people. Think what you want about Ronald Reagan. But to hear an American president scream, "Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev", to hear an American president declare, "Russia is an Evil Empire" gave millions of people, crushed under communism, hope and courage to go on. Hope that perhaps absolution would come, after all. Also, comfort that sombody out there actually did feel their pain. Feel their pain enough to get angry about it, and demand change.

I'm not just making this stuff up off the top of my head. Read this.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/24/2002 01:55:00 PM


I want to share an anecdote from Robert Kaplan's book Balkan Ghosts. It has been on my mind these days, during all this debating about the upcoming possible war in Iraq. When President Bush made his famous inflammatory "axis of evil" speech, many people on the left sent up a huge protest about it. It was that word "evil" was also the naming of was too cowboy-ish, it was aggressive, it was arrogant. (Never mind the aggression and arrogance of nearly every Arab leader in the world...Bush's aggression was seen as WORSE because he is American, he is from the hated West.)

Kaplan describes a conversation he has with a bunch of people from Romania, in the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Romania was one of the Eastern European countries most damaged and devastated by communism. Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator, did not promote communism; he promoted Stalinism, communism's monstrous cousin. Ceausescu spent his decades in power terrorizing and starving the populace, cutting them off completely from the outside world, and constructing a massive personality cult around himself. Time basically stopped for the Romanians, when the communists took power in their country.

Listen to Kaplan's description of talking with these people about what it was like from the inside:

A man entered and sat down to eat with us: middle-aged, rotund, with bulging arteries on his forehead and neck. He wore wide suspenders. His face was flushed and his breath smelled of alcohol. Masticating loudly, he began lecturing me in an almost operatic fashion, thrusting his jaw out like Mussolini. Mircea translated.

"It is all the fault of Roosevelt. Everything here," waving his hand. "He sold Romania out at Yalta. Otherwise Romania would be like France today."

"What he says is true," Mircea added, suddenly a bit angry. "Because of Roosevelt, that God-damn cripple, we suffered for forty-five years."

"Roosevelt was near death's door at Yalta; he died a few weeks later," I started to explain. "The agreement he negotiated with Stalin called for free elections in Eastern Europe. It wasn't his fault that the Red Army's presence in these countries made the agreement unenforceable. Blame Stalin, blame Hitler for beginning the war in the first place. But don't blame Roosevelt."

"Roosevelt, he was the traitor," the man in suspenders said, practically spitting at me.

"And now we are being sold out again," said Mircea. "This Bush, we don't trust him. Only Reagan was good for us."

At the mention of "Reagan," everyone around the wooden table -- the mayor's wife, the man in suspenders, Mircea, Ioanna -- all stopped eating and nodded their heads in a sort of approving benediction. You couldn't argue with these people who had been through so much and who could imagine the world only from their own narrow, dark vantage point.

"The 'evil empire.' I remember hearing Reagan's speech on the VOA Romanian broadcast," Mircea said. The others nodded their heads and kept looking at me. "He was the only one of your presidents to speak the truth."

  contact Sheila Link: 10/24/2002 01:43:00 PM


My sister Siobhan and I sat at the bar at Dempsey's last night, watching the opening ceremony of Game 4 at the World Series. It is surreal, I must say, to be living in New York City and to NOT have the Yankees be in the Series. That being said, I am a Red Sox fan, although not to the obsessive level of some of my other family members.

I was shocked by how emotional I got watching this opening ceremony, of the Top 10 Moments in Baseball. With Billy Crystal, Andy Garcia, and Ray Liotta acting as announcers. My heart expanded like the Grinch's, seeing Jackie Robinson's granddaughter, sitting there, beaming. And Hank Aaron's wife...and Mark McGuire's father...(It was all about the proud relatives.) Also, to see Pete Rose acknowledged, after years of infamy and scorn. His ovation was, perhaps, the longest and fiercest. Billy Crystal, who started to try to interrupt the cheering and move on with the ceremony, suddenly stopped himself, and said, "That's okay. Let him hear you." And the ovation just went on and on and on.

I was kind of a blubbery mess, I have to admit.

I was horrified, though, that Carlton Fisk's famous homerun in 1975 was not on the list. That seems like one of the most famous baseball moments of all time. We used to act it out on the playground in grade school.

Siobhan was pissed that Cal Ripken's most-consecutive-games record was #1. "It's a stupid record anyway. They kept putting him in the game, and he was BAD, but they kept putting him in so he could beat the record."

I asked my brother Brendan once what he felt was the most amazing record held in baseball. He said immedately, "Nolan Ryan. Nobody will ever do that again."

  contact Sheila Link: 10/24/2002 01:19:00 PM


Mainstream media is basically not reporting the events occurring in Iran. Which is curious, since what we are seeing here is another popular revolution. The mullahs are completely out of touch with what is going on, and although they continue to exert tremendous power, handing down ridiculous rules and regulations, the Iranians are rebelling. Every day during the spring and summer of this year, there were massive marches and demonstrations in Iran, screaming for more democracy, a free press, respect for human rights. Isn't this story huge? Isn't it amazing that none of this is trickling down to us? Why the silence from the New York Times and other major newspapers on the incredible upheaval? There is a chance here, a possibility, for a new experiment in the Middle East: an Islamic democracy. The conditions are prime in Iran for this to happen. They want this, they are screaming for this. They are confused and baffled as to why these seismic shifts are basically being ignored in the Western media. Michael Ledeen has been relentless on this issue, pumping out article after article, describing what is going on in Iran. He closes every single article he writes, with a plea to our government, to our state department: "Faster, please."

  contact Sheila Link: 10/24/2002 12:59:00 PM


O look, look in the mirror?
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.

--W.H. Auden, "As I Walked Out One Evening"

  contact Sheila Link: 10/24/2002 08:23:00 AM


Well, my sister Jean just read my blog and had to add some more What's Up Doc quotes to the selection. Once the movie gets in your blood, it never goes away.

"I am Hugh."
"You are me?"
"No. I am Hugh."
"Sssstop saying that. Make him stop saying that."

"I want my bike back!"
"I'll give you your bike back. I'll give you a broken back if you don't be quiet."

"Well, there's not much to see really. We're inside a Chinese dragon."

"Ah, you made me smash my lifesavers."

"My fiance Miss Sleep is still burning. I mean, Miss Burns is still sleeping."

"What kind of wine are you serving at Table One?"

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 01:10:00 PM

Wednesday, October 23, 2002  


So Lizzie Grubman is going to jail. She's been shopping for sweat suits at TJ Maxx, and preparing for jail by taking kickboxing classes. I hate everything that this woman represents. The most abhorrent quote in this article to me is from her publicist: "This is a very difficult time for Lizzie." Well, Lizzie, it's been a very difficult time as well for two of my coworkers who were in the crowd you ran over. One of them still walks with a cane. No kickboxing classes for her.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 12:33:00 PM


On a lighter note:

Years ago, my brother Brendan heard a radio interview with Umberto Eco. It is hard to explain, in writing, the humor Brendan found in this interview. Basically, it had to do with Eco's long-winded post-structuralist post-modern convoluted sentence structure. Brendan does an absolutely hilarious (to me) imitation of Umberto Eco. No sentence can be too long. If Brendan ever feels that his Eco is getting too clear, he veers the sentence off into another direction. Brendan calls his version of Umberto Eco "Umero Nuno". He laments the fact that this is not the sort of humor destined to go over well at your local stand-up comedy open mike. Brendan said, "Unless Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul happen to show up at Caroline's one night...I don't think anyone would get it." Which is a hilarious comment, in and of itself.

However, for those of you out there who have any knowledge of exactly how Umberto Eco expresses himself, I present to you an email I just received from his counterpart: Umero Nuno:

"Ahem. When the ramifications unfold at a leisurely pace, the juxtaposition of the dialectic and the infrastructure of storytelling itself can assert energy simultaneously with equal exactitude and prodigiosity. However, this causes a conflict between the outcome of the overarching dramaturgical leanings that can manifest themselves in myriad ways:

A: a tendency towards regimenting the inner lives of the superego's alter ego to such a degree that a discrepancy can occur between the dream and vocalized aesthetic

2: superfluous virtuosity bordering on schizophrenia,

9: the gleaming vanity of tumblers filled with the red wine of Bolibia, the country of the imagination of my youth,

and firstly, the battle amongst medieval robber barons who will relinquish only one word at a time to me, no matter what that word may be or what relevance to my storyline, characters, or even native language it has."

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 12:17:00 PM


On my way to work this morning, I saw a dead body. I emerged from Port Authority, and began to walk south...immediately noticing the chaotic congregation of firetrucks, police cars, and ambulances amassed at the corner of 8th Avenue and 40th Street. I felt the familiar tightening in my stomach, as I walked by. Gearing up for the worst. Then I saw the body on the pavement. The body clearly had been hit by a truck, so this person was completely mangled. With guts and brains spilling across the street. This was terrible to see. Terrible. I have never seen anything like that, and it has shaken me up considerably. I continued on to work, overwhelmed, in tears. I have only cliches in my mind, but they are no less true for being cliches. Life is precious. Life is short. Life is beautiful. Life is a mystery. The red messy organs I saw on the pavement, when put together, work in unison...and a human BEING is the result. A complex human being. This is a miracle. But how precious it is all is, how fragile. With one swipe of a truck, it all is snatched away. The whole thing made me sad.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 11:58:00 AM


VodkaPundit compares civilization to a pretty girl in a short skirt walking to her car after last call. "Civilization remains a fragile, vulnerable, precious thing. And like a pretty girl in a short skirt walking to her car after last call, civilization must sometimes keep her keys splayed out between her knuckles, just in case." An interesting analogy, which he follows out to its logical end.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 11:50:00 AM


I received a very amusing email from a good friend and old roommate of mine, whose name is Jim (aka Jimmy Sweetheart). I sent him a link to this blog for him to check out, and he promptly wrote me back. The funniest quote in the email was: "It makes me so happy to hear that you still indulge in your Manson fascination. It somehow validates my collection of Andrew Cuanan biographies."

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 10:18:00 AM


Hopeful and moving story in today's New York Times about Saddam Hussein opening the gates of the prisons, releasing political prisoners and other criminals. Amazingly, people are protesting. Not the release of the prisoners, but the gulag state itself. People whose family members disappeared into Hussein's terrifying iron-fisted gulag twenty years ago have been gathering to protest the regime. This is unbelievable. A quote: "Iraqis said they knew of no previous occasion, in Baghdad, when people had taken to the streets to march on a government building, and then had persisted in protests even after secret police fired automatic rifles into the air, as they did today."

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 10:07:00 AM

Again, it's a bit long...I will intersperse the long quotes of the day with shorter ones...but whatever. If the subject matter doesn't interest you, then skip it! By all means!

"I thought, too, of Arnold Toynbee's rumination about the collapse of Assyria, which foreshadows the political eruptions that may occur in the region in the early 21st century.

Toynbee writes: 'The disaster in which the Assyrian military power met its end in 614-610 B.C. was one of the completest yet known to history ... A community which had been in existence for over two thousand years and had been playing an ever more dominant part in South-Western Asia for a period of some two-and-a-half centuries, was blotted out almost completely.' Indeed, only two hundred years after Assyria's collapse, Xenophon's Greek mercenaries, retreating from Persia and passing the Assyrian states of Calah and Nineveh, 'were struck,' writes Toynbee, 'with astonishment, not so much at the massiveness of the fortifications ... as at the spectacle of such vast works of man lying uninhabited.' What is even more astonishing is that while Assyria had dominated the Near East for ages, Xenophon, an educated Greek general, knew almost nothing about it: 'The very name of Assyria is unknown to him,' Toynbee writes.

How was that possible?

Assyria was rediscovered only through archaeology and epigraphy. The Assyrian war machine was one of history's most terrifying, 'continuously overhauled, renovated and reinforced right down to the day of its destruction,' in Toynbee's words. It had collided bloodily with Babylon (in Iraq), Elam (in Iran), and Egypt, and produced some of history's first megalomaniacs in the persons of Ashurnasirpal II, the ninth century B.C. tyrant whose statues reveal 'no smile, no piety, almost no humanity'; Tiglath-Pileser III, the eighth century B.C. father of mass deportations; and Sennacherib, who in 689 B.C. destroyed Babylon, comparing himself to a 'hurricane'. Assyria's rulers razed Damascus and Samaria (in the West Bank), Sidon in Lebanon, Susa in Iran, and Memphis and Thebes in Egypt. They filled the pages of the Old Testament's book of Prophets with terror. By the time the Assyrian capital of Nineveh (near Mosul, in northern Iraq) was conquered by a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians in 612 B.C., only Tyre, in Lebanon, and Jerusalem remained unscathed. Yet when Nineveh fell, Assyria disintegrated into dust; almost nothing of its civilization remained. Even its language, Akkadian, was swiftly replaced by Aramaic. Toynbee calls Assyria '"a corpse in armor," whose frame was held erect only by the massiveness of the military accoutrements' that smothered and killed the body of the Assyrian state.

History is replete with 'corpses in armor': Sparta, Alexander's Macedonia, the Ottoman empire, and, of course, Nazi Germany, to name a few, even if none of them and their languages were so thoroughly obliterated as Assyria. Toynbee notes that Alexander's conquest of the Near East was repeated almost a thousand years later by that of the Moslem Arab armies after the Prophet Muhammad's death. 'In this Arab act of brigandage ... twelve years of conquest were followed by twenty-four years of fratricidal strife,' leaving the Arabs forever bedeviled by divisions. The theme is always the same: Highly militarized and centralized states and empires, so indomitable in one decade or generation, hack themselves to pieces or are themselves conquered in another.

The story of Assyria, which bestrode present-day Syria and Iraq, is hauntingly appropriate to the dilemma of early-twenty-first-century Middle East. Assyrian militarism grew out of the need to protect the inhabitants of the Syrian desert and Mesopotamia from the hostile mountain people in Anatolia and Kurdistan to the north and Iran to the east, and from the pharaohs of Egypt to the southwest. But such extensive militarization created a brittle Assyrian political culture, not unlike the heavily mobilized, dictatorial states now occupying the Syrian desert and Mesopotamia, as well as elsewhere in the Arab world where institutions, except for the military and security services, are weak or nonexistent.

From previous visits, I knew that Iraq, and to a lesser extent Syria, were places where beneath the barren carapace of the regime every associational link except the extended family and clan had been brutally eliminated, leaving precarious voids. Would Syria and Iraq distintegrate given enough hammer blows? Would even Turkey -- despite its vibrancy, and with a seemingly stable blend of democracy and military dictatorship -- devolve into something unrecognizable? Turkish flags flew outside the Museum of Anatolian Civilization as if the Turkish republic drew legitimacy from the record of great empires on its soil. But the objects inside told another lesson: that no system of states is secure, and that ancient history may be as good a guide to the destiny of the Middle East as current media reports. Perhaps more so.

--Robert Kaplan, Eastward to Tartary, 2000

  contact Sheila Link: 10/23/2002 10:00:00 AM


Fantastic piece in the Washington Post by Christopher Hitchens called So Long, Fellow Travelers. Man, can this dude write. A couple of quotes from the piece to whet your whistle, but you should definitely read the whole thing:

I haven't seen an anti-war meeting all this year at which you could even guess at the existence of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition to Saddam, an opposition that was fighting for "regime change" when both Republicans and Democrats were fawning over Baghdad as a profitable client and geopolitical ally. Not only does the "peace" movement ignore the anti-Saddam civilian opposition, it sends missions to console the Ba'athists in their isolation, and speaks of the invader of Kuwait and Iran and the butcher of Kurdistan as if he were the victim and George W. Bush the aggressor ... Now, however, the same people are all frenzied about an American-led "attack on the Muslim world." Are the Kurds not Muslims? Is the new Afghan government not Mulsim? Will not the next Iraqi government be Muslim also? This meaningless demagogy among the peaceniks can only be explained by a masochistic refusal to admit that our own civil society has any merit, or by a nostalgia for Stalinism that I can sometimes actually taste as well as smell.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 02:05:00 PM

Tuesday, October 22, 2002  


Last night I introduced my roommate and dear friend Jen to the lunacy that is the movie What's Up, Doc, generally acknowledged to be one of the funniest movies ever made. My parents let my brother Brendan and I stay up late to see this movie when we were kids, and I distinctly remember that during the whole Chinese-dragon-out-of-control sequence, he and I were literally rolling about on the floor with laughter, clutching our stomachs.

Since then I have seen it countless times, and can basically recite the entire movie. My sister Jean is in the What's Up Doc club, as are my high school friends Meredith and Beth...My friend Mitchell and I have actually watched the movie together for the sole purpose of reciting the entire thing in unison, an activity far too obnoxious to involve anyone else.

"Oh, we're just testing a little theory that Howard has about vocal reverberation under spinal pressure."
"Vocal reverberation under spinal pressure?"
"Yeah, you know. VRUSP."

"Don't call her Burnsy."

"Don't count, Eunice. I hate it when you count."

"How much do I owe you?"
"Well, how much is it without the Bufferin?"

"I'm a doctor."
"Of what?"
"Can you fix a hi-fi?"
"No, sir."
"Then SHUT UP."

"You vill tell her that you are there to make passionate love to her."
"Couldn't I just kill her?"

Clearly, this sort of behavior is only amusing to others in the same club, so I had to hold myself back last night, and let Jen experience the movie on her own.

The guffaws of laughter coming from her rocking chair, especially during the ENDLESS chase scene through the streets of San Francisco, which goes on for half an hour and has to be seen to be believed, did my heart good. There was a part of me afraid that she would watch the movie stone-faced and I would feel like an idiot.

Where the hell is Kenneth Mars? He has to be one of the funniest men alive.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 01:18:00 PM


Today's gospel has Jesus telling his disciples to 'be like servants who await their master's return, ready to open immediately when he knocks'. Jesus says that the master who comes home and finds his servants vigilant, will then turn around and serve those who normally serve him. The thought of this moves me. Especially the thought of always being ready, to open a door the second someone knocks on it. Vigilance has its own reward. It may not be immediate, or come in exactly the form one expects, but the reward does come. Half the time I am so busy being bitter and pissed off and worried about things, that people are knocking on my door (metaphorically, of course) and I am shrieking, "Oh, just LEAVE ME ALONE." Food for thought.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 12:52:00 PM


The cover story of the latest Newsweek is an exclusive excerpt of Kurt Cobain's diaries which are going to be published next month. Hello. YET ANOTHER event to wait for feverishly and anxiously. Well, today is the release date of the new Foo Fighters CD, so I can go buy it today, listen to it, and cross it off my list. Here's my favorite excerpt from the excerpt:

"I like punk rock. I like girls with weird eyes. I like drugs. (But my Body and Mind won't allow me to take them). I like passion. I like playing my cards wrong. I like vinyl. I like to feel guilty for being a white, American male. I love to sleep. I like to taunt small, barking dogs in parked cars. I like to make people feel happy and superior in their reaction towards my appearance. I like to have strong opinions with nothing to back them up with besides my primal sincerity. I like sincerity. I lack sincerity ... I like to complain and do nothing to make things better. I like to blame my parents generation for coming so close to social change then giving up after a few successful efforts by the media & Government to deface the movement by using Mansons and other Hippie representatives as propaganda examples on how they were nothing but unpatriotic, communist, satanic, inhuman diseases, and in turn the baby boomers become the ultimate, conforming, Yuppie hypocrites a generation has ever produced."

Okay, Kurt. Here we are now. Entertain us.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 08:51:00 AM


Another great new laugh-out-loud piece by Lileks today, about how politicized our educational system has become. Apparently, there's a new "Pledge of Allegiance" out there, which many schools are now using. It is based on "the rhythm" of the old Pledge. It starts like this:

I pledge allegiance to our Earth,
(the planet on which we live).
And to fresh air, pure water, healthy dirt,
life-giving plants and all the animals!

Lileks' deconstruction of what, exactly, is wrong with this pledge is priceless. And he closes with this: "I had planetary consciousness as a child. I knew where everything was, more or less. We had a globe at home, and I half-believed that countries were actually colored red or blue or yellow. I used to love to look at that globe, at atlases, at the entries in the World book, in the wonderfully detailed maps that came with Grandpa’s National Geographics. But I had a clear hierarchy: family, Fargo, North Dakota, USA. After that it became indistinct, and that’s a good thing. Otherwise when I went to France I would have expected I could vote in the Parisian election. Why not? I’m a citizen of this Earth."

I love Lileks. Check it out.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 08:30:00 AM


Last night, I sat down and watched Connie Chung on CNN. Or I tried to watch Connie. I was actually too busy talking back to the television, making exclamations like: "Oh, come ON!" or "GET ON WITH IT" to actually do much watching. I have a couple of gripes with the whole thing...So let me try to organize my thoughts.

First of all, CNN's graphics and voice-overs seemed more over the top to me than MSNBC's or CNBC's. I know they are all over the top, but CNN's seemed to slide into "Unsolved Mysteries" land. They clearly hired an actor with a scary ominous voice, to say stuff like: "There's a sniper on the loose..." "Can they catch him before he KILLS AGAIN???" Scary music...ominous voices...blood-red graphics.

Now look. This is a terrifying situation...and as of now, it looks like someone else has been shot down in Maryland. No doubt, this is a terrifying situation. But it infuriates me that CNN would consciously pump up the hysteria. I know this is a cliched point, and many people have said it better than me, but I thought the show last night was complete camp. People are DYING, CNN. Get over your orgasmic blood-red ominous excitement, and just tell us what the hell happened. I mean, I imagine the art department's discussions over how the graphics should look: "We need something really scary..." "We should use a bright red make people think of all the bloody bodies scattered throughout Maryland..." "Oh, and you know what? We should hire an actor with a really creepy voice to introduce the segment..." "How 'bout that guy who does the voiceovers for horror films? Wonder if he's available..."

One other thing I noticed: Connie was talking to a reporter on the scene, getting the scoop. The reporter did her thing, reported the latest (the unclear garbled phone call, Chief Moose asking the killer to call back...Chief Moose now USING the media to get the message out, when 3 days ago he was scolding the media for interfering with the case)...and then Connie began to say one thing, corrected herself, and rephrased the question. This one little mix-up is a perfect example of why I can't stand the news.

Connie said: "So, is it your belief that...I mean, do your sources tell you that---" and then she went on with her question

I do not CARE to hear any more speculation. I do not care to hear a reporter's "belief" about who the sniper is, what he is up to, where he will strike next...Is it your BELIEF?? Just tell me what the hell happened. Gimme the stats, and then go to a damn commercial break without drowning the TV screen in blood red splashes. I think that slip was very sloppy of Connie...but it is definitely a sign of the times.

I'm not old enough to remember Walter Cronkite, but a part of me yearns for news like THAT, like I see in old footage. A crumpled serious-looking guy at a desk, papers in front of him, telling us the news. And that's it.

I don't need the news to tell me what to FEEL. I am a person who can figure out how to do that all on my own. I need the news for the NEWS. A novel idea.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 08:17:00 AM


"It was Stalin who tried once and for all to destroy the old Moscow, the one that today can be seen only in the illustrations of Milkhail Pilayev.

All dictators, irrespective of epoch or country, have one common trait: they know everything, are experts on everything. The thoughts of Qadaffi and Ceausescu, Idi Amin and Alfredo Stroessner--there is no end to the profundities and wisdom. Stalin was expert on history, economics, poetry, and linguistics. As it turned out, he was also expert on architecture. In 1934 -- which means, between one ghastly purge and the next, even more horrifying, one -- he commissioned a plan for the rebuilding of Moscow. He devoted to it, as was piously written, much time and attention. The new Moscow was to manifest in its appearance the following traits of the epoch: triumph, power, monumentality, might, seriousness, massiveness, invincibility (according to E.V. Sidorin, Voprosy Filosofii, 12/1988). They set energetically to work. Explosives, pickaxes, and bulldozers went into motion. Entire neighborhoods were razed, churches and palaces blown up. Tens of thousands of people were expelled from beautiful, bourgeois apartments -- into tents, into slums. Old Moscow vanished from the face of the earth, and in its place arose heavy and monotonous, although powerful, edifices -- symbols of the new authority. Fortunately, as was often the case under real socialism, disorder, laziness, and a lack of tools saved a part of the city from final destruction."
--Ryszard Kapuscinski, Imperium

  contact Sheila Link: 10/22/2002 07:56:00 AM


An interesting piece in The New York Times about the changing of the guards at The New Yorker... a new fiction editor (you need to be registered with the Times to read this, sorry) taking over for Bill Buford. What will it all mean?? Who the heck is this Deborah Treisman? I like the one quote in the article from a literary agent, in re: Mr. Buford's non-response to most submissions: "Sending stuff to him was like sending stuff to outer space." There are also the typical complaints listed here that Buford favored male writers...with readers going through back issues of the magazine and obsessively tallying up the gender representation. My God, people, don't you have anything better to do? Did you actually READ the pieces and judge them on their merit, rather than just take note of the sex of the author? I was relieved to see Ms. Treisman's comments on this issue: "We publish the best work we receive." Enough said. Time will tell...

  contact Sheila Link: 10/21/2002 02:13:00 PM

Monday, October 21, 2002  


Lileks is back...thank goodness. I have been at sea without the daily bleat. He opens today's bleat with a suggestion for the beleaguered Sheriff Moose.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/21/2002 02:00:00 PM


My beautiful younger sister Siobhan has released a CD called "Permanent Markers". All original songs...with lyrics you cannot get out of your head. I am so proud of her! Her style is a Sheryl Crow-ish Dixie-Chick-ish amalgam, with her own personal stamp. If you would like to order "Permanent Markers", please write Siobhan an email ( telling her how many CDs you would like, and your address. Send a $10 check (per CD) to the address below:
Siobhan O'Malley
39-42 51 St.
Woodside, NY 11377
Bookings: 212 946 5676

  contact Sheila Link: 10/21/2002 01:41:00 PM


On a personal note:

I am a 34 year old woman, but this does not stop me from behaving, at times, like a shrieking Beatle-maniac fainting and weeping at the Ed Sullivan Show. I am the best "fan" in the world. My loyalty knows no bounds. If you hook me once, then I am usually hooked forever, even if you never repeat the brilliance which hooked me in the first place. Margaret Atwood is a prime example. Her books in the 1980s were IT for me. I read them compulsively, over and over and over again. Bodily Harm, in particular. Her books scared me, thrilled me, compelled me. Well...I am sorry, but Ms. Atwood has crashed off the rails and has not written a book which has kept my interest in almost 10 years. Alias Grace was a BIG FAT YAWN. And The Assassin's Tale was essentially unreadable. Gimme a break, Mags. That was TERRIBLE. But my point is: because she was once my favorite author, and I loved the experience of reading her earlier books, I continue to hold out hope. I continue to buy her crappy boring books, hoping that I will again recognize the terrifying fabulous voice of the Margaret Atwood I fell in love with in college.

The same is true in regards to Tori Amos. Oh, Tori, Tori...what has happened? Why do you bore me so?? Who, EXACTLY, do you think your audience is? What person would listen to your latest CDs and think the music was cool and fun? It would have to be a person who didn't get out much. Or someone constantly PMS-ing. Tori's first album was basically in my walkman for an entire year. I could not get enough, and my taste for her music raged on unabated like a fever. But since Little Earthquakes, it seems like Tori has continuously been having some sort of New Age breakdown, interspersed with Medean rage...which is all very interesting, but the music keeps SUCKING. I want the rocking emotional Tori of days gone by. I want her to make the hair on my neck rise up again. ENOUGH with being creative and precious and innovative. Just do what you did back then, please.

But again, my point is: Tori is coming out with a new album on October 29, and of course I will buy it, because I live in hope that the "old" Tori will return. My belief is waning, but like I said: I am the best fan in the world.

All of this being said: 2 things are happening in the next couple of weeks which I can BARELY WAIT for. (This does not sound grammatically correct...forgive).

1. The Foo Fighters new album is coming out tomorrow. I am practically in tears with impatience. It seems so unfair that I have had to wait so long for a new CD from them.
2. Eminem's movie, 8 Mile. I am FREAKING OUT. I am 12 years old. I basically feel that my personality is dissolving and fragmenting, while I wait for it to open. I will stand in line with a crowd (in the pouring rain if I have to!) on November 9, to see this film. November 9 seems way too far away.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/21/2002 11:48:00 AM

(Okay, it's a bit long, but whatever. It's worth it.)

"Certainly, moral arguments in support of democracy were aired at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, but they were tempered by the kind of historical and social analysis we now abjure. 'The Constitution of the United States was written by fifty-five men -- and one ghost,' writes retired Army Lieutenant Genera Dave R. Palmer in 1794: America, Its Army, and the Birth of the Nation (1994). The ghost was that of Oliver Cromwell, the archetypal man on horseback who, in the course of defending Parliament against the monarchy in the mid-seventeenth century, devised a tyranny worse than any that had ever existed under the English Kings. The Founders were terrified of a badly educated populace that could be duped by a Cromwell, and of a system that could allow too much power to fall into one person's hands. That is why they constructed a system that filtered the whims of the masses through an elected body and dispersed power by dividing the government into three branches.

The ghosts of today we ignore -- like the lesson offered by Rwanda, where the parliamentary system the West promoted was a factor in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis by Hutu militias. In 1992, responding partly to pressure from Western governments, the Rwandan regime established a multiparty system and transformed itself into a coalition government. The new political parties became masks for ethnic groups that organized murderous militias, and the coalition nature of the new government helped to prepare the context for the events that led to the genocide in 1994. Evil individuals were certainly responsible for the mass murder. But they operated within a fatally flawed system, which our own ethnocentric hubris helped to construct. Indeed, our often moralistic attempts to impose Western parliamentary systems on other countries are not dissimilar to the attempts of nineteenth-century Western colonialists -- many of whom were equally idealistic -- to replace well-functioning chieftaincy and tribal patronage systems with foreign administrative practices.

The demise of the Soviet Union was no reason for us to pressure Rwanda and other countries to form political parties -- though that is what our post-Cold War foreign policy has been largely about, even in parts of the world that the Cold War barely touched. The Eastern European countries liberated in 1989 already had, in varying degrees, the historical and social preconditions for both democracy and advanced industrial life: bourgeois traditions, exposure to the Western Enlightenment, high literacy rates, low birth rates, and so on. The post-Cold War effort to bring democracy to those countries has been reasonable. What is less reasonable is to put a gun to the head of the peoples of the developing world and say, in effect, 'Behave as if you had experienced the Western Enlightenment to the degree that Poland and the Czech Republic did. Behave as if ninety-five percent of your population were literate. Behave as if you had no bloody ethnic or regional disputes.'

States have never been formed by elections. Geography, settlement patterns, the rise of literate bourgeoisie, and, tragically, ethnic cleansing have formed states. Greece, for instance, is a stable democracy partly because earlier in the century it carried out a relatively benign form of ethnic cleansing -- in the form of refugee transfers -- which created a monoethnic society. Nonetheless, it took several decades of economic development for Greece finally to put its coups behind it. Democracy often weakens states by necessitating ineffectual compromises and fragile coalition governments in societies were bureaucratic institutions never functioned well to begin with. Because democracy neither forms states nor strengthens them initially, multiparty systems are best suited to nations that already have efficient bureaucracies and a middle class that pays income tax, and where primary issues such as borders and power sharing have already been resolved, leaving politicians free to bicker about the budget and other secondary matters."
-- Robert Kaplan, "Was Democracy Just a Moment?", The Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1997

The italics in the above paragraph are mine.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/21/2002 10:52:00 AM

Quote of the day:
"It is, I think, true to say that the [British] intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool. When Hitler invaded Russia, the offiials of the MOI issued "as background" a warning that Russia might be expected to collapse in six weeks. On the other hand the Communists regarded every phase of the war as a Russian victory, even when the Russians were driven back almost to the Caspian Sea and had lost several million prisoners. There is no need to multiply instances. The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also. There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when "our" side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one knows that it is exactly the same crime as one has condemned in some other case, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified -- still one cannot feel that it is wrong. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function."
--George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism", May 1945

I have been re-reading all of Orwell's World War II essays and must echo the inimitable Christopher Hitchens: Now, more than ever, Orwell matters.

  contact Sheila Link: 10/20/2002 03:15:00 PM

Sunday, October 20, 2002  
Powered By Blogger TM