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



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AN EXPLANATION

I have a couple of friends who refer to my site as "Sheila Ashtray". I must explain. No, no, no. It is "Sheila Astray". A-stray. I took this from Seamus Heaney's phenomenal poem about the mad king of Ireland: Sweeney ... who went insane and turned into a bird. The name of the epic poem is "Sweeney Astray". Additionally: the URL of my site (which is completely confusing) is "atswimtwobirds.blogspot.com". This is from an unbelievable book, consistently on such lists as "The Best Books of the 20th Century" ... At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O'Brien. If you haven't read it, READ IT. The book reads like an Irish Catcher in the Rye (the first sentence alone makes me laugh out loud), and it also has to do with "Mad King Sweeney".

So there you have it. A confusing explanation:

It is not "Sheila Ashtray". It is "Sheila Astray", and this is a nod to Heaney's poem "Sweeney Astray".

The URL, which has nothing to do with "Redheaded Ramblings" is the title of an Irish novel called At Swim-Two-Birds, which also has, as its theme, King Sweeney.

Got it?

I hope so ... because I sure don't!

  contact Sheila Link: 3/01/2003 11:11:00 AM


Saturday, March 01, 2003  

 
TO YOUR LEFT...

Again: for my new readers: I have archived all of my "Country of the Week" features (so far) in an index-format to your left, in the nav bar, below the archives. Hopefully, if you see something that interests you, (if, for example, you have been dying for years to learn about the "desert nomads" of Turkmenistan but just never found the time) you will be able to find things with relative ease. I have also added navigation to the bottom of these particular posts, so that you can easily go on to the next installment, without having to scroll up and down the page. Please let me know if any of this can be improved, from a user perspective.

It all makes total sense to ME, but then again: I can be borderline autistic when it comes to organizing things I am passionate about.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/01/2003 11:07:00 AM



 
JOHN ADAMS

My reading continues apace. More quotes from this extraordinary book:

-- The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is a natural manure. -- Thomas Jefferson

This was one of the main reasons for the split between Jefferson and Adams, although they also disagreed on the nature of democracy and of government. But Jefferson believed in, and got high off of, a state of almost constant revolution. He found it exhilarating.

Adams had an overwhelming fear of the mob. He thought that the Boston Tea Party was a disgrace. And history has proven Adams to be correct, at least in terms of the French Revolution. It ended up being a debacle. The Reign of Terror and all that... who was it that said (was it Marx) that a revolution always eats its young ... something like that. Well, that did not occur in the American Revolution. But it did in France. The revolution began as a glorious new day, an ushering in of the age of Reason ... and then ... slowly ... the tide began to turn. Nobody was seen as pure enough to actually head up this revolution ... and all of the people who engineered it (Danton, Robespierre, etc.) found themselves held up as traitors and they went to the guillotine. Everybody went to the guillotine. Mass anarchy.

It's nothing to be proud of, France! You celebrate Bastille Day and that says a lot about who you all are! What did Bastille Day actually accomplish?

But back to the book. I am loving reading about the beginnings of our government... how the terms Republican and Democrat came into being ... and what they ACTUALLY meant, way back in the beginning. And also: how the divergence of beliefs in what the role of the central government should be ... are still with us today. Incredible. And yet somehow: our system works. Nobody goes to the guillotine. People disagreed vehemently with John Adams, and thought he wanted a return to monarchy ... but he wasn't drawn and quartered, he wasn't decapitated, his head wasn't paraded around Philadelphia to screaming throngs ... It was a battle of the newspapers, editorials fired off, etc. Much the same as goes on now.

For example: Alexander Hamilton, who was the first Secretary of the Treasury. Listen to what McCullough has to say about Hamilton, and see how this debate about central government continues on today. It's amazing:

As one of the principal authors, along with Madison, of the Federalist Papers, Hamilton ranked as a leading proponent of a strong central government ... Hamilton's assumption plan had first been laid before Congress the previous January, 1790, as part of a large report in which he argued that a sound public credit was essential to economic growth and national unity. He had called for the central government to pay off all federal debt and to assume the debt of the states as well, on the grounds that they had been incurred in the common cause of independence. Boldly, Hamilton argued that such an increase in the national debt would be a blessing, for the greater the responsibility of the central government, the greater its authority.

Um ... can you say Hillary Clinton's Health Plan?

The French Revolution was a turning point for the baby nation of the United States. It divided public opinion.

Jefferson thought that kings everywhere should fall. And if blood was shed, so be it. He said to Abigail Adams that he thought a bloody revolution was a good thing "to clear up the atmosphere". Abigail was horrified. John Adams thought that any sort of mob rule was awful, terrible, doomed to failure and terror.

Jefferson received a copy of Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man, which was a furious response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. In The Rights of Man, Paine attacks Burke, and then goes on to defend human rights, liberty, equality. Adams had said earlier about Thomas Paine that he was one of those people more adept at "pulling things down" than building.

Jefferson passed on The Rights of Man to a printer in Philadelphia, wanting to distribute it throughout the states. He wrote a note to the publisher, saying that he, Jefferson, endorsed the essay as a way to combat "the political heresies that have sprung up among us." The printer went ahead and published The Rights of Man but he also published, on the title page, Jefferson's endorsement (which was only meant to be a private note ... nothing to be broadcast.) Jefferson was not a trouble-maker, at least not openly. He seemed to operate in stealth, in intrigue. But anyway: Jefferson's endorsement was there, for all the world to see. He was Secretary of State at the time ... John Adams was Vice President ... so it caused a huge scandal. Jefferson publicly denied that he meant the comment to be aimed at John Adams, but in private he said that he actually was speaking about Adams.

Adams was very hurt, very offended.

John Quincy Adams, Adams' son, who had very early on displayed the genius for which he would soon be known (he is also known as the most brilliant of any of our presidents ... in terms of brain power. Smarter and quicker even than Bill Clinton), wrote an anonymous op-ed piece addressing the accusation of "political heresies", which Jefferson had thrown about. The points made are phenomenal, and definitely should be heeded by our present-day government, and everybody up on Capitol Hill:

"I am somewhat at a loss to determine what this very respectable gentleman means by political heresies. Does he consider this pamphlet of Mr. Paine's as a canonical book of political scripture? As containing the true doctrine of popular infallibility, from which it would be heretical to depart in one single point? ... I have always understood, sir, that the citizens of these States were possessed of a full and entire freedom of opinion upon all subjects civil as well as religious; they have not yet established any infallible criterion of orthodoxy, either in church or state ... and the only political tenet which they could stigmatize with the name of heresy would be that which should attempt to impose an opinion upon their understandings, upon the single principle of authority."

Brilliant. Noam Chomsky should listen up. So should Pat Buchanan.

Okay, more quotes:

-- "I firmly believe if I live ten years longer, I shall see a division of the Southern and Northern states, unless more candor and less intrigue, of which I have no hope, should prevail." -- Abigail Adams, 1792

Even as the tales of terror started pouring in from France, Jefferson did not give up his hope that that revolution was the TRUE revolution, and that the United States should learn from how the French conducted themselves. Here's a quote, a rather alarming quote, which says it all:

-- "The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest ... rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every continent, and left free, it would be better than it now is." -- Thomas Jefferson

Quotes from the letters of John and Abigail:

-- Years subdue the ardor of passion but in lieu thereof friendship and affection deep-rooted subsists which defies the ravages of time, and whilst the vital flame exists. -- Abigail to John, 1793

-- Your letter is like laudanum. -- John to Abigaili

-- I want to sit down and converse with you, every evening. I sit here alone and brood over possibilities and conjectures. -- Abgail to John

-- You apologize for the length of your letters. They give me more entertainment than all the speeches I hear. There are more good thoughts, fine strokes, and mother wit in them than I hear in the whole week. -- John to Abigail

-- I am warm enough at night, but cannot sleep since I left you." -- John to Abigail

These letters were all written when the two of them were in their 60s.

Ah, and I LOVE this quote. John Adams is talking about how the newspapers have gone out of their minds, and all they do is criticize the administration. They have taken it as their main goal to pull everything down.

-- There must be, however, more employment for the press in favor of the government than there has been, or the sour, angry, peevish, fretful, lying paragraphs which assail it on every side will make an impression on many weak and ignorant people. -- John in a letter to Abigail

AMEN

Here's an extended excerpt about the repercussions of the French Revolution and the terror that followed on the American continent:

What vexed Adams most was Jefferson's "blind spirit of party." In theory, Jefferson deplored parties or faction no less than did Adams or anyone. In practice, however, he was proving remarkably adept at party politics. As always, he avoided open dispute, debate, controversy, or any kind of confrontation, but behind the scenes he was unrelenting and extremely effective. To Jefferson it was a matter of necessity, given his hatred of [Alexander] Hamilton and all that was riding on what he called the "beautiful" revolution in France. To Adams, Jefferson had become a fanatic. There was not a Jacobin in France more devoted to faction, he told Abigail.

Continuing accounts of the chaos and bloodshed in France left both Adamses filled with pity and contempty. The French government was by now fully in the grip of the extreme radicals, and Adams shuddered at the thought. "Danton, Robespierre, Marat, and company are furies," he wrote. "Dragon's teeth have been sown in France and come up monsters."

It was known that the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, philosopher and lover of liberty, one of the first in France to translate the Declaration of Independence, and one of the first, with his mother, to befriend Adams in Paris, had been stoned to death by a mob before his mother's eyes. Louis XVI, stripped of all power, was to go on trial for treason. But Adams was incapable of exulting as others were over the plight of the French monarch. He had no heart for "king-killing," Adams said. Indeed, he was tired of reading all newspapers, he told Abigail on the eve of Washington's second inauguration. "The whole drama of the world is such tragedy that I am weary of the spectacle."


Damn, dude, I couldn't agree more.

Jefferson, on the other hand, thought it was great that Lous XVI was being chased down like a dog... Kings deserved what they got.

Jefferson wrote: Mankind is now enlightened. They can discover that kings are like other men, especially with respect to the commission of crimes and an inordinate thirst for power. Reason and liberty are overspreading the world, nor will progress be impeded until the towering crown shall fall, and the spectre of royalty be broken in pieces, in every part of the globe. Monarchy and aristocracy must be annhiliated, and the rights of the people firmly established.

Lovely sentiments. But the French Revolution began turning on its own.

Also, it reminds me a bit of the whole "the president is not above the law" conversation that happened 5 million years ago, when impeachment charges were brought against Clinton and ... everything was so nasty. What a terrible time. And the Supreme Court ruling that the Paula Jones suit could go on while the President was in office, that the office of the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, did not protect him from civil law suits, while in office. That seems to me to be a TERRIBLE precedent to set.

And the smugness of those who kept saying, "The president is not above the law", blah blah blah ... not giving a SHIT at what the entire debacle looked like to the rest of the world, not caring at all that by tearing Clinton down we were tearing ourselves down ... not recognizing that, regardless of the political party a president represents, he represents US to the world. So we want him to do well ... we don't want him to be humiliated and diminished. How is that good for us? Why would we want that? The zealots on the right hated him so much that they did not frigging care that by humiliating Clinton so badly they made us look like lunatics, soft weak over-reactive lunatics, to the rest of the world, who were watching the whole thing very very very closely.

Those wackos who hated Clinton and who tracked him down for 8 years, and who saw to it that the guy was publicly humiliated, made the office of the Presidency very very very small. Even though Bill Clinton probably wouldn't admit it, the role of President is bigger than HIM, the office is bigger than the man. We all lost sight of that. It was frigging awful. I hated every second of it.

And I basically thought Clinton was a smarmy slimy dishonest scumbag. But still: he is the president of MY country ... and I don't want to see him sweating and squirming and lying because of a BLOWJOB. Let's ask him about why he didn't intervene in Rwanda, let's ask him about the aspirin factory in the Sudan, let's ask him about Mogadishu ... but THAT? By focusing on that, those right-wing-nuts made us all look like jerks.

Back to John Adams.

A funny quote about his role as Vice President:

-- My country in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. -- John to Abigail

And lastly: here is an excerpt from the book, focusing on John Adams' feelings about equality. All men are NOT created equal, in terms of ability. Any jerk-off with two eyes can see that. If I have to move a massive bookcase, I will call up my big burly male friends. I will not call up my 95 pound gymnast friends. If I have to work out my finances, I am not going to call up my starving-poet friend who lives in squalor and counts out his change to buy a cup of coffee. I am going to call up my parents, or an accountant. Additionally: and I want to scream this from the hilltop ... but for now, this blog will be my hilltop: EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DOES NOT MEAN EQUAL OUTCOMES. This is a myth. This is a myth. You put 5 people in a room, all of different backgrounds, give them the same damn test, or whatever, and ... you will get 5 different results. You give 5 people the same task ... the same possibility of a promotion, or a project ... and some, because of higher brain power, or more energy, or whatever, will get the job done faster, with more confidence, with more aplomb. Some people are just quicker than others. Some people's brains process information in a way that helps them with deductive reasoning ... other people (and I KNOW SOME) have no deductive reasoning capabilities at all.

My 5 year old nephew Cashel has more deductive reasoning capacity than some of the adults I know.

Anyway. John Adams was a big believer that we are all equal in God's eyes ... but that we do not all have equal abilities ... and that to state this, unequivocally, would be dishonest.

With Charles [his son] he shared his private views on the current clamor over the subject of equality. "How the present age can boast of this principle as a discovery, as new light and modern knowledge, I know not." The root of equality, Adams said, was the Golden Rule -- "Love your negihbor as yourself." Equality was at the heart of Christianity. When he had written in the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights that "all men are by nature free and equal," he meant "not a physical but a moral equality."

"Common sense was sufficient to determine that it could not mean that all men were equal i n fact, but in right, not all equally tall, strong, wise, handsom, active, but equally men ... the work of the same Artist, children in the same cases entitled to the same justice."


John Adams has become a new hero of mine. Someone to look up to, and to look to for guidance.

Okay, gotta go start my day now. I have two rehearsals today: one for Cannibals (Irish accent), and one for the piece I am doing about Gertrude Bell (English accent). Hope I can keep them all straight.



  contact Sheila Link: 3/01/2003 08:51:00 AM



 
CANNIBALS

The rehearsals for Cannibals, the play I am now doing, are well on their way. Things are starting to come alive. The first few rehearsals, for me, when I am getting the words in my mouth, trying to make them sound like they come from my own brain and not off a piece of paper, are always challenging. I go through it every single time I do a play. I feel like I am under water ... I feel like a big phony. I feel like I am miscast. I feel like nobody else in the cast feels as I do. I feel like everyone has been lying to me all these years, and that I actually am a very bad actress.

I have been through this phase so many times now that I now accept it as a natural part of my process. And it never lasts long ... because I do have extremely good survival instincts and I will find a way to make it work. I trust that now. But for a long time, when I was a younger woman, my swirling doubts and private angst seemed completely real to me ... I believed all of it.

Now I just say to myself: "Ah yes, I am going through THAT phase right now...Today is Wednesday ... it should be over by Friday."

And lo and behold, I am always right.

Cannibals is a lovely piece of writing. It lends itself to actors. It is dramatic, it is funny, it is complex ... The playwright, Lesley Scammell, writes in her own style, definitely, and I know that comparisons are odious, but her writing reminds me of Harold Pinter's writing. She writes in the "pauses", just like Pinter does. Pinter wants to make sure that the actors (and the director) slow the damn thing down, and honor the pauses he has written ... treating the pauses like they are another line of dialogue. This is why when Pinter is done and done well, you, as an audience member, are filled with a sense of tension, of things unsaid, of ... at times ... violence beneath the well-polished English surface.

I'm pissed off at Harold Pinter right now, because of his virulent anti-Americanism (we, who have been so generous to him and his plays) ... but my anger at his political beliefs (which I see to be stupid) does not take away from the fact that The Dumb Waiter is one of my favorite plays. I have worked on it numerous times, and I have never had so much fun. (Yes, I know the two characters are supposed to be men ... but it doesn't really matter. It works as two women too. Two women who are ... hit women? Trained and hired killers? Not sure what they are ... but you know that they are up to no good, waiting in that room for messages to come through the dumb waiter, and they are terrified.) Great play.

In Cannibals I play Mary Agnes, a girl from the west of Ireland. It is not specified which county ... I imagine it as County Sligo or County Mayo. Real country Ireland. Isolated. I have gone off to university (again, it is not specified ... but I imagine that I am going to UCD in Dublin ... because I want to get the hell out of dodge.) And basically, I am playing a very bitter very caustic very single young woman.

This role is going to be a real stretch for me.

(Nudge nudge, wink wink)



  contact Sheila Link: 3/01/2003 08:19:00 AM



 
THE ACQUISITION

So Blogger has now been acquired by Google. Not sure what that will mean yet for all us Bloggers, but it sounds pretty exciting.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/01/2003 08:12:00 AM



 
TO YOUR LEFT...

I have archived all of my "Country of the Week" features (so far) in an index-format to your left, in the nav bar, below the archives. Hopefully, if you see something that interests you, (if, for example, you have been dying for years to learn about the "desert nomads" of Turkmenistan but just never found the time) you will be able to find things with relative ease. I have also added navigation to the bottom of these particular posts, so that you can easily go on to the next installment, without having to scroll up and down the page. Please let me know if any of this can be improved, from a user perspective.

It all makes total sense to ME, but then again: I can be borderline autistic when it comes to organizing things I am passionate about.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 04:06:00 PM


Friday, February 28, 2003  

 
MCSWEENEY'S LITERARY SITE

I enjoy this short piece, posted on the main page of McSweeney's: "Things I realized in 2002".

  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 02:48:00 PM



 
MORE ON FRED ROGERS

"I do think that young children can spot a phony a mile away." -- Fred Rogers

And then this anecdote,which I love (I have tears in my eyes):

An ordained Presbyterian minister, Rogers' command of innocence won him thousands of young fans ... And it also made him the butt of parody by adults like comedian Eddie Murphy, who played his own version of Mister Rogers on "Saturday Night Live."

Rogers knows for a fact that Murphy meant no harm with his humor. In fact, they met once.

"He just put his arms around me and said, 'The real Mister Rogers,' " says Rogers.


The above is from CNN.


  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 02:18:00 PM



 
HOPE IN KABUL

An interesting piece in the Washington Post about the state of affairs in Afghanistan today, as opposed to two years ago. Without a peaceful government, businesses are not willing to invest in Afghanistan, although many have pledged millions of dollars. And so the primary task is to implement a civil society. This is no easy task. Especially when the country is in ruins, and has been in ruins for decades. It was in ruins long before the West came along to defeat the Taliban. The Russians destroyed the country ... in some places for good. Land mines still maim and kill the population, landmines left by the Red Army. We are talking millions and millions and millions of land mines. Until those are found and destroyed, it will be a very difficult task to rebuild the roads, to build new buildings ... The whole landscape is a booby trap of death.

Regardless: some of the stories told in the article are hopeful. Definitely. Small businesses starting up again, owned and operated by Afghans, an entrepreneurial class emerging ... From these seeds democracy could rise.

Sabit Latifa took the savings he had and opened up a private Internet cafe. This one cafe has blossomed into an empire.

"The government and [international aid organizations] won't make Afghans stand on their own feet," [Latifa] said. "Businessmen will do it."

  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 01:47:00 PM



 
TODAY IN HISTORY

After 42 days of the Gulf War, United States-led forces ceased fire at 8 a.m. Kuwait time and Iraq told its army to stop fighting.


  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 12:05:00 PM



 
THE FRISKY FROSTY CONTROVERSY

Okay, so finally there is a picture of the snow-sculpture which has caused such a brou-haha at Harvard ... and continues to cause the brou-haha. It actually is more graphic than I had pictured. It ain't no aroused snowman, that's for sure! The Wall Street Journal has a very good op-ed piece about the whole mess.

A notable quote:

-- For a week, the "phallus-breakers," as the Harvard Crimson called them, refused to come forward, even as debate raged over their modern-day iconoclasm ... Amy Keel, Class of 2004, owned up to "dismantling" the sculpture. And this is where the story turns strange. For we learned that, while Ms. Keel's actions were admirable, her motives were a muddle, a jumble of academic feminism and strained logic.

Her letter argued in earnest that she was justified in defiling the phallus because it was put up "without permission" from the university. "The only thing it did was create an uncomfortable environment for the women of Harvard." Its "only purpose could be to assert male dominance." This leaves one imagining men walking around campus saying, "Gee, that snow sculpture is reassuring. Let's go harass some Radcliffe girls."

But it gets better. "No one," she wrote, "should be subjected to an erect penis without his or her express permission or consent." She was, she said, a victim of "gendered violence": Some Harvard males had tried to intimidate her and her accomplice while they knocked the thing down.

But Ms. Keel doesn't need exotic concepts like "gendered violence" and phallocentricity to justify what she did. Old-fashioned ones like decency will do just fine. The trouble is, by rejecting traditional mores as so much bourgeois conventionalism (to borrow a phrase), Ms. Keel has left herself impotent in the face of real obscenity.


My point, exactly. I think.



  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 11:04:00 AM



 
WOAH ...

"What if [Saddam] fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? ... Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal." - president Bill Clinton, 1998.


  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 10:52:00 AM



 
JOHN ADAMS AND THE CONSTITUTION

John Adams was a fanatic on the separation of powers. He wrote a pamphlet in 1787 entitled "A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America". This is before he became Vice President. He continued to be concerned that the American Revolution would only be good at tearing things down, and fail at building things back up. So that is what he wanted to do: start building. I am going to excerpt at length from McCullough's book about what was in that pamphlet. It is amazing, because Adams was so far-seeing. He was a big-picture man, a long-term man. He knew, in his bones, that our government had to have separate branches ... Now, this had not been done before, at least not in the same way he was proposing. It is completely revolutionary. The planet had never seen anything like it before. This is important to remember.

The people of America now had "the best opportunity and the greatest trust in their hands" that Providence ever ordained to so small a number since Adam and Eve. There must be three parts to government -- executive, legislative, and judicial -- and to achieve balance it was essential that it be a strong executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. On the role of the executive Adams was emphatic:

"If there is one central truth to be collected from the history of all ages, it is this: that the people's rights and liberties, and the democratical mixture in a constitution, can never be preserved without a strong executive, or, in other words, without separating the executive from the legislative power. If the executive power, or any considerable part of it, is left in the hands of an artistocratical or democratical assembly, it will corrupt the legislature as necessarily as rust corrupts iron, or as arsenic poisons the human body; and when the legislature is corrupted, the people are undone."

Nonetheless, the legislature power was "naturally and necessarily sovereign and supreme" over the executive.

In all history, he declared, there was no greater statesman and philosopher than Cicero, whose authority should ever carry great weight, and Cicero's decided opinion in favor of the three branches of government was founded on a reason that was timeless, unchangeable. Were Cicero to return to earth, he would see that the English nation had brought "the great idea" nearly to perfection. The English constitution, Adams declared -- and knowing he would be taken to task for it -- was the ideal. Indeed, "both for the adjustment of the balance and the prevention of its vibrations," it was "the most stupendous fabric of human invention" in all history. Americans should be applauded for imitating it as far as had been done, but also, he stressed, for making certain improvements in the original, especially in rejecting all hereditary positions.

A hereditary monarchy could be a republic, Adams held, as England demonstrated, and hereditary aristocracies could be usefully employed in balanced governments, as in the House of Lords. But Adams adamantly opposed hereditary monarchy and hereditary aristocracy in America, as well as all hereditary titles, honors or distinctions of any kind ...

As he explained to Jefferson, much of what he wrote was in response to the dangers of radical French thought. Specifically he had written in defence (hence the title) against the theories of the philosophe Turgot, who espoused perfect democracy and a single legislature, or as he wrote, "collecting all authority in one center, that of the nation". To Adams this was patent nonsense. A simple, perfect democracy had never yet existed. The whole people were incapable of deciding much of anything, even on the small scale of a village. He had had enough experience with town meetings at home to know that in order for anything to be done certain powers and responsibilities had to be delegated to a moderator, a town clerk, a constable, and, at times, to special committees.

Reliance on a single legislature was a certain road to disaster, for the same reason reliance on a single executive -- king, potentate, president -- was bound to bring ruin and despotism. As the planets were held in their orbits by centripetal and centrifugal forces, "instead of rushing to the sun or flying off in tangents" among the stars, there must, in a just and enduring government, be a balance of forces. Balance, counterpoise, and equilibrium were ideals that he turned to repeatedly. If all power were to be vested in a single legislature, "What was there to restrain it from making tyrannical laws, in order to execute them in a tyrannical manner?"...

Drawing on history and literature, some fifty books altogether, he examined what he called the modern democratic republics (the little Italian commonwealth of San Marino, Biscay in the Basque region of Spain, the Swiss cantons), modern aristocratic republics (Venice, the Netherlands), and the modern monarchical and regal republics (England, Poland); as well as the ancient democratic, aristocratic, and monarchical republics including Carthage, Athens, Sparta, and Rome. There were frequent citations in Latin, Greek, and French, extended use of Swft, Franklin, Dr. Price, Machiavelli, Guicciardini's Historia d'Italia, Montesquieu, Plato, Milton, and Hume, in addition to scattered mentions of Aristotle, Thucydides, Hobbes, La Rochefoucauld, and Rousseau, as well as Joseph Priestley ...

But for all this it remained at heart a lawyer's brief for what he had said in his "Thoughts on Government", and what he had helped establish in practice in the Massachusetts constitution. Where it departed most notably from what he had written before was in its pronouncements on human nature.

To Adams nothing had changed about human nature since the time of the ancients. Inequities within society were inevitable, no matter the political order. Human beings were capable of great good, but also great evil. Thus it had always been and thus it would ever be. He quoted Rousseau's description of "that hideous sight, the human heart," and recounted that even Dr. Priestley had said that such were the weaknesses and folly of men, "their love of domination, selfishness, and depravity" that none could be elevated above others without risk of danger.

How he wished it were not so, Adams wrote. Thucydides had said the source of all evils was "a thirst for power, from rapacious and ambitious passions," and Adams agreed. "Religion, superstition, oaths, education, laws, all give way before passions, interest, and power."

As to the ideal of a nation of equals, such was impossible. "Was there, or will there ever be a nation whose individuals were all equal, in natural and acquired qualities, in virtures, talents, and riches? The answer in all mankind must be the negative."

Even in America where there was "a moral and political equality of rights and duties," there were nonetheless inequalities of wealth, education, family position, and such differences were true of all people in all times. There was inevitably a "natural aristocracy among mankind," those people of virtue and ability who were "the brightest ornaments and the glory" of a nationi, "and may always be made the greatest blessing of society, if it be judiciously managed in the constitution." These were the people who had the capacity to acquire great wealth and make use of political power, and for all they contributed to society, they could thus become the most dangerous element in society, unless they and their interests were consigned to one branch of the legislature, the Senate, and given no executive power. Above all, the executive magistrate must have sufficient power to defend himself, and thus the people, from all the "enterprises" of the natural aristocracy.

Adams believed in "a government of laws not of men" as he had written in his "Thoughts on Government" and in the Massachusetts constitution but, as he stresses now in conclusion, "The executive power is properly the government; the laws are a dead letter until an administration begins to carry them into execution."


It is difficult for me, now, to fully grasp just how far-seeing and prescient all of this really was. But regardless: I thank him.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 09:24:00 AM



 
JOHN ADAMS

I am still slogging away at David McCullough's biography of John Adams. I am normally a very fast reader, but I have only been able to read for about half an hour each day, due to time constraints, etc. So it is slow-going. John Adams is now the Vice President ... and the entire assembly is trying to hammer out what their roles will be, how it will go, what the rules are ... It is exhilarating to think of. The birth of a nation. So here are some quotes:

--These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. Whena mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman. -- Abigail Adams, in a letter to her son, John Quincy Adams

-- I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, artchitecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain. -- John Adams

--"Determined, and unalterably determined, I am." -- John Adams

-- "He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise man, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses." -- Ben Franklin, 1783, about John Adams (in a letter to Robert Livingston)

-- "I only fear that his unquenchable thirst for knowledge may injure his health." -- John Adams on Thomas Jefferson

--The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it ... The parent storms, the child looks on, catcheds the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances ... if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is to be born to live and labor for another ... or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him ... Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever." -- Thomas Jefferson

An excerpt from the narrative of the book:

-- British prejudice toward the French struck Abigail as ludicrous, now that she had lived in France, and made her realize how greatly she disliked prejudice in any form. But then unexpectedly, she was brought up short to find it in herself.

Having read and loved the plays of Shakespeare since childhood, she was thrilled by the chance to see an actual stage production. The great English tragedienne Sarah Siddons ... appeared in Othello, making the transition from Lady Macbeth to Desdemona ... the Adamses were amongthe glittering audiences that filled the Drury Lane ... To Abigail, Mrs. Siddons was brillant ... "interesting beyond any actress I had ever seen."

Yet to read of Desdemona in the arms of a black man was, Abigail found, not the same as seeing it before her eyes. "Othello [played by John Kemble] was represented blacker than any African," she wrote. Whether it was from "the prejudices of education" or from a "natural antipathy", she knew not, "but my whole soul shuddered whenever I saw the sooty heretic Moor touch the fair Desdemona." Othello was "manly, generous, noble" in character, so much that was admirable. Still she could not separate the color from the man. Filled with self-reproach, she affirmed that there was "something estimable" in everyone, "and the liberal mind regards not what nation or climate it springs up in, nor what color or complexion the man is of."
--Exerpt from David McCullough's John Adams

-- "We must not, my friend, be the bubbles of our own liberal sentiments." -- John Adams to Thomas

-- If you are conscious to yourself that you possess more knowledge upon some subject than others of your standing, reflect that you have had greater opportunities of seeing the world, and obtaining a knowledge of mankind than any of your contemporaries. That you have never wanted a book but it has been supplied to you, that your whole time has been spent in the company of men of literature and science. How unpardonable would it have been iin you to have been a blockhead. -- Abigail Adams in a letter to John Quincy Adams, during his first semester at Harvard

In the following quote, John Adams writes to Thomas Jefferson, and defines the main difference between them .. the difference which would forevermore be a bone of contention between these two great complex men:

-- "You are afraid of the one, I, the few. We agree perfectly that the many should have full, fair, and perfect representation [in the House]. You are apprehensive of monarchy; I, of aristocracy. I would therefore have given more power to the President and less to the Senate." -- John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

-- "Gentlemen, I feel a great difficulty how to act. I am Vice President. In this I am nothing,but I may be everything." -- John Adams

Another excerpt from the book:

-- "The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to disunite us," young schoolmaster Adams had written in his percipientletter to Nathan Webb, and to Adams now, as to others, dissolution remained the greatest single threat to the American experiment. "The fate ofthis government," he would write from New York to his former law clerk, William Tudor, "depends absolutely upon raising it above the state governments." The first line of the Constitution made the point, "We, the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Another excerpt:

-- [Adams] was adamantly opposed to the notion espoused by some that in the ideal republican government public officials should serve without pay-- an idea that had been supported by both Franklin and Washington, two of the wealthiest men in the nation. Were a law to be made "that no man should hold an office who had not a private income sufficient for the subsistenceand prospects of himself and his family," Adams had written earlier while in Longon, then the consequence would be that "all offices would be monopolized by the rich; the poor and the middling ranks would be excluded and an aristocratic despotism would immediately follow." He thought public officals should not only be paid, but that their salaries should be commensurate with their responsibilities and necessary expenses."

Another excerpt:

-- ...James Lovell wrote from Massachusetts to tell Adams people were saying he had cast his vote with the President only because "he looked up to the goal". Of course he looked up to it, Adams answered. How could it be otherwise? "I am forced to look up to it, and bound by duty to do so, because there is only one breath of one mortal between me and it."

-- Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not. A young man should weigh well his plans. Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, through every stage of his existence. His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reachof all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character. -- John Adams to his son Thomas

The French revolution breaks out in 1789 ... and causes much discussion on this side of the Atlantic.

-- For Adams, the news from France had the effect of an alarm bell ... He let it be known that while he understood the reasons for the revolution in France -- the oppressive abuses of the government, the overbearing and costly "armies of monks, soldiers and courtiers" --and though he strongly supported the ideals espoused by French patriots, he viewed the situation with dire misgivings. "The French Revolution," he wrote to a Dutch friend, Francis van der Kemp, "will, I hope, produce effects in favor of liberty, equity, and humanity as extensive as this whole globeand as lasting as all time." Yet, he could not help foresee a tragic outcome, in that a single legislative assembly, as chosen by the French, could only mean "great and lasting calamities".

...he had "learned by awful experience to rejoice with trembling." He could not accedpt the idea of enshrining region as a religion, as desired by the philosophes. "I know not what to make of a republic of thirty million atheists."

From experience he knew the kinds of men such upheavals could give rise to, Adams told another correspondent. In revolutions, he warned, "the most fiery spirits and flighty geniuses frequently obtained more influence than men of sense and judgement; and the weakest man may carry foolish measures in opposition to wise ones proposed by the ablest." France was "in great danger". Ahead of anyone in the government, and more clearly than any, Adams foresaw the French Revolution leading to chaos, horror, and ultimate tyranny.

..."Everything will be pulled down..." [Adams wrote to Samuel Adams] "So much seems certain ... But what will be built up? Are there any principles of political architecture? ... Will the struggle in Europe be anything other than a change in impostors?"


Jefferson, as evidenced by his quote listed above (the tree of liberty needing to be watered occasionally with the blood of patriots and tyrants), thought the French Revolution was a great thing, a beautiful thing. This added to the differences between the two men. Incredible: our country would not be the same without John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Together, they were more powerful than they were as individuals. Their differences of opinion continue to be evident today in the political dialogue in this country ... The United States needed BOTH of these men. Equally.

So Jefferson returns from France to Virginia and writes a piece on democracy for the Gazette of the United States. Here's an excerpt from McCullough's book:

-- The Gazette of the United States hadby now carried the text of a formal reply by Jefferson to the welcome he had received from his Virginia neighbors. It was a declaration of his faith in reason and democracy that he had taken great pains over.

"It rests now with ourselves to enjoy in peace and concord the blessings of self-government so long denied to manknind: to show by example the sufficiency of human reason for the care of human affairs and that the will of the majority, the natural law of every society, is the only sure guardian of the rights of man. Perhaps even this may sometimes err, but its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived. Let us then, dear friends, forever bow down to the general reason of society."

But to Adams the "sufficiency" of reason alone for the care of human affairs was by no means clear, and it was exactly the will of the majority, particularly as being exercised in France, that so gravely concerned him. He was certain France had "severe trials" to endure, as he wrote to a friend. The will of the majority, if out of hand, could lead to "horrible ravages", he was sure. "My fundamental maxim of government is never to trust the lamb to the wolf," and in France, he feared, the wolf was now the majority.


What I love so much about John Adams is what a realist he was about human nature, and the imperfectability of man. The French believed in a perfect society, run by reason. They left out human nature. You must never ever leave out human nature.

-- Amidst all their exultations, Americans and Frenchmen should remember that the perfectibility of man is only human and terrestrial perfectibility. Cold will still freeze, and fire will never cease to burn; disease and vice will continue to disorder, and death to terrify mankind. -- John Adams

Now I LOVE the following excerpt. I couldn't agree more:

-- Like Washington and many others, Adams had become increasingly distraught over the rise of political divisiveness, the forming of parties or factions. That political parties were an evil that could bring the ruination of republican government was doctrine he, with others, had long accepted and espoused. "There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other," Adams had observed to a correspondent while at Amsterdam, before the Revolution ended. Yet this was exactly what had happened. The "turbulent maneuvers" of factions, he now wrote privately, could "tie the hands and destroy the influence" of every honest man with a desire to serve the public good. There was "division of sentiments over everything," he told his son-in-law William Smith. "How few aim at the good of the whole, without aiming too much at the prosperity of parts!"

  contact Sheila Link: 2/28/2003 08:05:00 AM



 
MORE PHOTOS FROM HASAN

Poetry ... no other way to describe this photograph

And this one is poetry too (The Muslim banning of representative art -- meaning no faces, no bodies, no paintings of humans -- results in the dizzyingly abstract floor pattern you see here ... I get lost in it. Looking for sense, for something to hold onto ... but it is not meant to be grasped. I am making a huge assumption here. But the word Islam means "submission". The concept of "submission", to me, is made manifest in the patterns on the floor. Submit to it. Or you will be lost.)

Student protesters

He's always watching (check out her fab shoes)

Rebellious teenage girls (oh, I love this picture)

Afghan kids watching TV

Iraqi Kurdish soldier

Afghan women after being liberated: here and here

Afghan refugee children playing

Pilgrims at Mecca

Muslim woman (incredible photo)

Iranian women voting

Snow in Iran (Ayatollah Khomeini said, famously, "There is no fun in Islam." What a drip.)

  contact Sheila Link: 2/27/2003 04:51:00 PM


Thursday, February 27, 2003  

 
A THOUSAND WORDS

Found a weblog of a Persian photographer ... The text is all in Farsi so your guess is as good as mine, but you don't need to understand Farsi in order to appreciate the beauty of the photographs.

The following photo is amazing ... all you need to do is look at it, know that it is a photo of Iranian people, and all kinds of associations will begin to fly.

Adding Hasan to my blogroll.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/27/2003 04:42:00 PM



 
VERY GOOD NEWS

Oprah's Book Club is back, but this time ... she is going to recommend classics. Can I TELL you how much this thrills me? I wasn't a big Oprah's Book Club reader myself, because I always have a reading list a mile long, and pretty much follow my own path. However, I do not underestimate her contribution to the population, in terms of getting people to read. She was an evangelist on the topic, and I always loved her for it. And her books, regardless of what the snobs of the world may think, were good solid novels, by new authors, focusing on topics which Oprah responded to. After all, it was HER book club. I find that thrilling. In the same way that I find the spectacle of 9 year old kids reading Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire, an 800 page book. There are certain adults who won't read a book beyond 175 pages! So this is beyond belief. Very exciting. I, too, am an evangelist on the benefit of READING. And not just reading for information ... but reading for pleasure, as a pasttime, as a way to expand your mind, blah blah. I am baffled by people who don't read.

But now, Oprah is going to focus on the classics. Shakespeare, William Faulkner ... Oh my God. So many people, as unbelievable as it is to me, have not read a Shakespeare play, have all kinds of opinions about "classic" books ... based on their own ignorance and fear. So if Oprah can get her viewers to start reading those books ... now that would be revolutionary. Amazing.

Good for her!



  contact Sheila Link: 2/27/2003 03:16:00 PM



 
IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

I was a "Sesame Street" girl. Plain and simple. "Sesame Street" was my life. I am old enough to have watched the first damn season of it. There is a picture of me, in my little red corduroy jumper, sitting in my little-girl-size chair, watching "Sesame Street". I look completely brainwashed. My face has gone dead with admiration and awe. "Electric Company" was, to my estimation, "too loud". It began, after all, with Rita Moreno shrieking like a banshee: "HEYYY, YOU GUYYYYYYYYYS!" I found that too loud. It was too rowdy. I was not a rowdy child. "Mr. Rogers" was not my scene, either, although I did watch it from time to time.

My sister Siobhan was the "Mr. Rogers" devotee in the house. She, as a 3 year old, referred to him as "Fred". Clearly, they were on a first-name basis. "Fred's on," she would announce, marching towards the television.

She loved him.

We had some of his albums. With classics such as "Fancy" ... I think that's what it was called.

"Boys are fancy on the outside
Girls are fancy on the inside
Everybody's fancy
Everybody's fine
Your body's fancy
And so is mine."

Excuse me?? Can you imagine a child-show host getting away with that NOW? But it wasn't too sophisticated or jaded for a child's taste ... it spoke right into our listening as children. It seemed like information we needed to know ... nothing weird about it at all. And I admit, as a teeny little tot, I would say to myself, at times, with pride, "I'm fancy on the inside." Why did I know this? Because "Fred" told me so.

I thank Mr. Rogers for that!

Here's a beautiful tribute to Mr. Rogers.

Thank you for your contribution, Fred! You have been a part of my consciousness as long as I can remember. A show like that will not come along again.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/27/2003 01:59:00 PM



 
MORE SUZANNE WISE

The following is the first poem of Suzanne Wise I encountered ... and from then on, I was a huge fan. I am sure you will see why.

Lunchtime in the Kingdom of the Subjunctive
A spoon propels itself out of its soup
as a bone sprung free of skin

or a tuning fork
trembling into the background,

then arcing and returning
as a boomerang.

Meanwhile, the glass of milk glides up and out
of your hand, quietly streaking a gloss

of stars through your suddenly glowing hair.
Meanwhile, toast combusts in a golden dust.

Butter drops form clouds that release an ocher rain.
You grow misty-eyed, nostalgic.

This feeling is alleviated by a sense of dread
and instability as the tabletop turns metallic,

tips and revolves as a chain-saw blade
slicing the floor into windows

you slowly and gracefully crash through.
Splintered glass sequins your skin.

Your hands reaching for the doorknob
sharpen to cones. The door soars.

Your legs run too fast, lose their feet
to curls of smoke drifting up the stairs.

You spend hours, or possibly years, floating around like this --
light-headed, fuzzy-brained,

cotton-mouthed. You have fallen in love
with the way light refracts in impossible ways.

Later darkness barges in horizontally,
like a lawn cutting itself down.

It is night without shadows
and everything is way too shallow.

You are too close to the picture
to see if you're included.

You fall headfirst down the drain
sucking the bright out of colors.

You become somber, colder, a kind of high-quality vinyl,
and, in some places, an old damp velvet.

Meanwhile your head continues to plummet,
has become a potholed highway

splitting into stalks, going to seed
as you talk yourself into the distance.

You are telling yourself: Do not be afraid.
You are begging: God help me.

You are whining: If only
I had not come home for lunch today.

If only I had some kind of anchor
in here. If only I could disappear.


You know you should be ashamed.
This is the kindof compulsive behavior

you are always being criticized for.
But it's not you anymore.

It's that soup bowl,
now soupless and spinning, hovering

and singing, sparkling like a god and spitting
its empty refrain in the faces of all your bestselves:

If only ______, then ______ .
If only ______, then ______ .


  contact Sheila Link: 2/27/2003 08:29:00 AM



 
QUOTE OF THE DAY

This is from one of my favorite books of all time: The Catcher in the Rye. Reading that book in the 10th grade was a life-changing experience for me.

So here goes. Holden Caulfield is out by himself at a nightclub with a band, and he hooks up with three touristy girls, out for a night on the town.

...the band was starting a fast one. She started jitterbugging with me -- but just very nice and easy, not corny. She was really good. All you had to do was touch her. And when she turned around, her pretty little butt twitched so nice and all. She knocked me out. I mean it. I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.

They didn't invite me to sit down at their table -- mostly because they were too ignorant -- but I sat down anyway. The blonde I'd been dancing with's name was Bernice something -- Crabs or Krebs. The two ugly ones' names were Marty and Laverne. I told them my name was Jim Steele, just for the hell of it. Then I tried to get them in a little intelligent conversation, but it was practically impossible. You had to twist their arms. You could hardly tell which was the stupidest of the three of them. And the whole three of them kept looking all around the goddam room, like as if they expected a flock of goddam movie stars to come in any minute. They probably thought movie stars always hung out in the Lavender Room when they came to New York, instead of the Stork Club or El Morocco and all. Anyway, it took me about a half hour to find out where they all worked and all in Seattle. They all worked in the same insurance office. I asked them if they liked it, but do you think you could get an intelligent answer out of those three dopes? I thought the two ugly ones, Marty and Laverne, were sisters, but they got very insulted when I asked them. You coudl tell neither one of them wanted to look like the other one, and you couldn't blame them, but it was very amusing anyway.

I danced with them all -- the whole three of them -- one at a time. The one ugly one, Laverne, wasn't too bad a dancer, but the other one, old Marty, was murder. Old Marty was like dragging the Statue of Liberty around the floor. The only way could even half enjoy myself dragging her around was if I amused myself a little. So I told her I just saw Gary Cooper, the movie star, on the other side of the floor.

"Where?" she asked me -- excited as hell. "Where?"

"Aw, you just missed him. He just went out. Why didn't you look when I told you?"

She practically stopped dancing, and started looking over everybody's heads to see if she could see him. "Oh, shoot!" she said. I'd just about broken her heart -- I really had. I was sorry as hell I'd kidded her. Some people you shouldn't kid, even if they deserve it.


  contact Sheila Link: 2/27/2003 08:05:00 AM



 
SCORE TWO FOR REPRESSION

The theme of repression (and how it may not be altogether a bad thing) continues to arise. I spoke about it the other day, spurred on by the article in the NY Times magazine. Our first rehearsal the other night made me think of it as well: we are creating an Irish family, where a trauma has occurred, and nobody talks about it. And is it ALWAYS best to shine a flashlight into the dark corners? When is it most healthy to let things slide, to let things be submerged? Are the people who successfully repress things the ultimate survivors? What can they teach us?

I read a piece today in Time magazine by Joe Klein, analyzing Bush's character. Something about it didn't sit right with me. Perhaps it is the same issue that I have with the biography of Gertrude Bell I am reading right now, filled with sentences of assumptions. "She must have felt so free as she galloped across the sands ... " You were not there. How do you know? How can we really know what is going on in someone else's minds? Add on the fact that everybody ses everythng through filters, and you come up with some real communicataion problems. We all have filters in front of our eyes through which all information goes. This can lead to incorrect assumptions.

For example: I have little patience with people who flake out on me, who disappoint me, who say they're going to do something and then they do not do it. I know people, however, who have tremendous patience in that regard. They are able to let it go, to look past these flaws, and forgive. Over and over again. At times, I look at my friends' behavior through my own filter. "How the hell do you put UP with that??" My filter makes me assume that my way is the most logical way to be. But that is not, actually, the case. Perhaps the people who do not write people off with impatience the second something disappointing happens have something to teach me.

A lot of that is going on right now in the political dialogue in this country. On both sides. People are talking as though they are speaking the truth, they speak with such certainty, when actually all they are doing is stating the case as they see it, looking through the world with their particular filter.

So Joe Klein doesn't understand why Bush, a man of faith, seems so "jaunty" in regards to the coming war. Wouldn't a man of faith have more gravitas? "What is it about the President's religious faith that makes him seem so jaunty as he faces the most fateful decision a President can make?" says Klein. That seems like an extraordinary assumption to make about people of faith. Klein's got a big ol' filter for how he sees religious people, and what they should be like.

He goes on: And this, I think, is at the heart of what is disturbing about Bush's faith in this moment of national crisis: it does not discomfort him enough; it does not impel him to have second thoughts, to explore other intellectual possibilities or question the possible consequences of his actions.

The rest of the article is more of the same.

I tripped over the following analysis of that very same Time magazine article by John Coumarianos, which clarified for me what bothered me so much about the tone of the piece. Check it out.

It reminds me a bit of the repression article in that:

Today, in our self-help-ruled society, an enormous assumption is made that it is better to express everything that is going on with you at every moment, and if you hold anything back, you are "repressed". And being "repressed" has a negative connotation. This is an absolutely accepted "truth". It is accepted as truth along with: the sky is blue and the earth is round. Nothing to be questioned. It has been established beyond a reasonable doubt.

But lately, I continue to see another side to this, another way of looking at it ... (I realize that I am just exchanging one filter for another ... but you can't escape that. The trick seems to be making yourself aware that you even have a filter. If you are aware that you see things through a filter, and that EVERYBODY sees things through a filter, then there will be no danger of you ever sounding as INSANE as Susan Sarandon did on the news the other night ... she was so certain, she was so passionate, she was so f***ing RIGHT ... and there is no possibility, ever, that she will ever even CONSIDER the views of the other side ... because it would contaminate her intellectual purity ... And all I heard was that her words were coming through the filter of her political beliefs... The same is true for people like Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly when he starts talking about pop culture, Pat Buchanan ... I'm not just talking about raging lefties like Sarandon.)

But back to my point:

In my own life, I have started working more with repression. I've been working up to it over the past year, because psychotherapy was making me tired, I was no longer getting too much out of it, and to be honest with you: I was sick to death of hearing the sound of my own whiny voice! To my ears, this sounds revolutionary. I can just see the expressions on friends' faces when I inform them that I have decided to consciously "repress" some stuff, in order to raise my quality of life.

"WHAT?? No! Repression is ALWAYS unhealthy!!"

But let me tell you this: In the past couple of months, I have been a whirlwind of productivity. I am able to get so much done in any given day, and I feel, too, like my creativity has been unleashed. It will not stop coming. It's terrific. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I, like that Henry Miller quote, have started to take an interest in the world around me, and I am trying to forget myself. I de-focus. I put my energy elsewhere. I am no longer interested at ALL in the "whys" of my psychology, or the "hows." YAWN.

For months now, too, I have thought that Bush's rhetoric about the war was spot-on, although I would wince when that Texas swagger would come out from time to time. But that's just from my East Coast filter about Texans ... that's who he is. It's certainly not phony. And I also believe, from the bottom of my heart, that the wacko regimes in the Middle East do not respect the United States of America, think we are soft, think that we will not stay the course, we are pussies, basically. This is mostly Clinton's fault: the debacle in Somalia, the bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, sending SCUD missiles flying over Afghanistan. The despots took all of this, and deduced: "This man is not serious."

Add to that, Clinton's sensitivity, his calling for more "dialogue, etc., roundtable discussions ... blah blah blah. This gave those regimes a free pass. Strength is respected in that region of the world. Not sensitivity. Sensitivity is weakness. It is to be exploited.

So showing that you are strong, and that you can keep your emotions under a tight rein (unlike Bill Clinton, who bit his lip in empathetic pain 30 times a day) may not be the most terrible quality in a President.

Regardless, it is dangerous to make such assumptions. Assumptions based on what our filters tell us about reality.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/26/2003 05:52:00 PM


Wednesday, February 26, 2003  

 
I AM TWISTED

Just took the "How evil are you?" quiz, and here is the verdict:


How evil are you?


I would say that that is pretty right on target.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/26/2003 01:39:00 PM



 
THAT PHOTO

The photo which I am sure you have all seen ... it has been everywhere in the last couple of days ... strikes me as funny (in an ironic sort of way) but also enraging. I ranted yesterday about how much I dislike indoctrinated humorless feminists ... but when I see photos like this, an enraged feminist rises up in me. Normally, I'm pretty mellow, but I see something like this and I am suddenly Margaret Atwood.

The tyranny of men!! The tyranny of men! What a JACKASS the guy is in that photo. I condemn him. That poor woman. I don't care WHAT "Albanian tradition" is.

Anyway, Tony Pierce has some funny things to say about the photo.


  contact Sheila Link: 2/26/2003 12:53:00 PM



 
SNOW TALES

Jayne, a good friend of mine from Rhode Island, sent me two articles to read, in response to my rant yesterday about "erotic" snowmen. One of the stories is HORRIFIC and one is quite uplifting ... and it all has to do with snow.

Philly Cops Say Snowball Led to Shooting

Snowballs Replace Bullets as Snow Hits Holy Land



  contact Sheila Link: 2/26/2003 10:01:00 AM



 
AN EVENING ORGANIZED BY ERNEST HILBERT

I went to a reading last night at the Whitney, hosted and organized by Ernie Hilbert, editor of NowCulture (among other things). He had invited 4 authors to come and read their stuff. Suzanne Wise was one of them. I came across one of her poems years ago ... maybe 3 years ago ... and it got my attention. Most poetry doesn't get my attention at all. At least not modern poetry. But there was something confident and haunting about her voice ... and it wasn't of the "Oh, the rain falls, and my heart is breaking" variety.

She does have a book of poetry out, called The Kingdom of the Subjunctive. The Whitney had a table of the authors' books, including Wise's, so I bought one. I'm so excited! I am familiar with perhaps three of the poems in the book (because of Ernie), but the rest are unknown and I can't wait to read them all.

I love her voice. I just love it.

Here's one of her poems. It's called "Advice". It kills me. It just kills me.

Advice
It is time for you to stop trying to be so smart.
It is time to abandon those plans for aqueducts,
canals, sewers. It is time to burn your boats,
to jump into the next free dinghy, to run
yourself aground on foreign land. It is time
to smash every inhibition on the shores of progress,
then loll in the rubble, flinging shards of ship
at gulls as you build empires in the sand
beneath a beach umbrella. Basically,
it is time to stop trying so hard.
Instead, lie back and listen to the waves
smashing shells to bits. Think of it
as a chorus goading you to greater heights
or as wild beasts begging to be caged.
Basically, it is time for you to be heard.
Remember to enunciate. Pay attention
to vowels, the way they seduce
regardless of the words they inhabit.
Recognize how the names of things
slide off their thingness like fried fish
from an oily plate. Smell the fishy fragrance,
injected into the steamy air by the mere
mention of dinner. Fondle your imaginary
skillet. How hard and dark and hot it is.
This is just the beginning of your power.
You wilil find new oceans, you will reside
in a do-or-die mode. This is not necessarily
a problem and thus the ironic, absurdist tone
you have become accustomed to
must also be abandoned. You must be
patient. You must quietly await
your one authentic voice. As Pound said,
quoting Beardsley: Beauty is slow.

For me, on the other hand, it is over,
politically, and as a human being.
I will never talk about myself again.
I will be taciturn, modest.
You will continue to look at me
from the outside and not know
what I have suffered. Still,
it may be difficult to forget
that I have been your leader.
It is this indebtedness
that will define you
as my greatest joy.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/26/2003 08:26:00 AM



 
QUOTE

"People who claim to like pictures and books will often only respond to those pictures and books in which they can clearly find themselves. This is ego masquerading as taste." -- Jeanette Winterson

WOAH. So true. I know people like that! People who have some weird inability to learn things unless it has to do with them ... or, people who are only fascinated by things because of how it relates to them, as opposed to being fascinated by things because they are fascinating.

Very good observation there, Jeanette. Now do me a favor: WRITE A GOOD NOVEL AGAIN ... STOP THIS OTHER STUFF YOU'VE BEEN DOING ... IT SUCKS ... GET BACK ON THE HORSE ... STOP MESSING AROUND.

Me and my friend Mitchell read Winterson's novel The Passion together years ago and fell in love with it. It is still one of my favorite reading experiences. Great plot, fascinating characters, surrealistic writing, very haunting ... the book had BACKBONE. Ever since then, she's been floating about in self-important post-modernism ... or who the hell knows what she's doing ... All I know is I have been unable to get through any of her books since The Passion.

So. Great quote, yes, Ms. Winterson. Now get to work.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/25/2003 03:26:00 PM


Tuesday, February 25, 2003  

 
A BLOG TO CHECK OUT

Just discovered this... it looks good: MuslimPundit. Very clear-headed, and honest. It is difficult to keep a clear head, especially for intelligent educated Muslims, at this point in time! So kudos to him!

He says: Some argue that Muslim anti-Semitism is a marginal phenomenon, a fringe movement. It is clearly not. It is central to the Islamist outlook on this worldly life. As has become increasingly clear, British university Islamic societies are among the worst practitioners of anti-Jewish and anti-Western bigotry here. People who are otherwise quite intelligent and articulate, routinely wax poetic about the “bloodsucking free society” of the West and the “Zionist scourge”. Here the distinction between Islam and Islamism fades out of existence altogether.

He decries honor crimes (punishing women by gang-raping her), tribalism, living in the fantasy world of pure Islam, the patriarchal system in the Muslim world which enslaves women ... He is a Muslim. He can look at the problems in his culture and faith and discuss them, shine the flashlight on them. Just as we Catholics have had to do over the last year. You must admit when something has gone TERRIBLY wrong.

He posts a letter from one of his readers, which is good good stuff. (Go to the main page, linked to above, and scroll down to the headline "Tell it like it is". It doesn't appear that he has permanent link functionality.) The reader who writes in is not a Muslim, and yet he sends MuslimPundit a list of suggestions for the Muslim world. It is courageous for the pundit to post such a thing. It is courageous to allow yourself to hear all sides, as difficult as that may be. You MUST listen to both sides. It is essential. Whether you are "in agreeance" with the views or not.

The letter's long, but it is worth posting in full, for those of you who are interested. So here goes:

I have been wrestling with the rights and wrongs of attitudes expressed by Muslim spokesmen, both here in the United States and around the world, since the World Trade Center attack last year. I am not a Muslim, or an expert on Islam, but I have been trying to understand how the world looks from an "Islamic" or "Arabic" perspective. I've wanted to understand why so much public commentary by Muslim spokesmen sounds wrong to my Western ears. I've concluded that much of the Islamic world is doing a poor job of facing up to some grim realities, and doing a good job of blaming everyone else (especially the US and Israel) for their self-inflicted injuries.

So here is my message to the Islamic world. I believe you need to do the following:

1) Acknowledge that every nation of significance that has embraced Islam as the state religion, and has tried to govern according to the laws of Sharia, is a miserable failure. Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia: These are totalitarian nations that repress their own citizens every bit as savagely as did the former Soviet Union. Citizens in these countries have no freedom, no rights, and no hope for a better life. They cannot speak freely. They can be arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or killed for any reason. The governing authorities can even order mass slaughter of their own people at will (witness Syria).

Part of the reason for the abject failure of these nations is the tribal origins of their peoples. After communism, tribalism has been responsible for more slaughter and suffering than any other single cause in history. Tribal communities are, by definition, barbarian. True civilization arises only when tribal limitations are relegated to the dustbin of history.

Another reason for their failure is Islam itself. The laws of Sharia assume that the highest principle of governance is justice, not freedom. Justice, in this case, means that decisions are made by religious authorities in consonance with the teachings of the Koran. There are no checks on the power of these authorities, as their mandate is given as coming straight from God. Thus Sharia forbids the notion of rule by the people, with laws being made by the people and their elected representatives.

In contrast, Western civilization holds freedom as the highest principle of governance. Government is by the people, for the people. Laws are made by the people and their elected representatives. Western civilization, and especially American civilization, is based on the concept of preserving freedom by limiting powers through a system of checks and balances. Laws are, deliberately, man made, not taken as coming from God, although religious (Judeo-Christian) teachings are influential in guiding legislation.

The bottom line is that no successful civilization of significant size can exist without the separation of church and state. The weight of history has demonstrated this over and over again, as the utter failure of Islamic nations shows. Sharia prohibits this separation, therefore Sharia must be discarded.

2) Discard the myth of Muslim solidarity. I have noticed a great reluctance on the part of Muslim speakers to criticize others who name themselves Muslims, even when the latter are murderous killers such as Al Qaeda, Taliban, or the Palestinian bombers. If you are a good person, you condemn these terrorists and say you want them caught or killed. If you are a bad person, you find reasons to excuse their behavior, or support them. If you are a worthless person, you say nothing.

I have seen a lot of bad Muslims quoted, but not many good Muslims. Pick a side. If you are on the side of good, then disown the evil ones and deny all commonality with them, or you will be considered one of them. Be plain spoken. Be blunt! Avoid the vague circumlocutions favored by virtually every Muslim speaker I've seen quoted --- these irritate the hell out of me, and you can be sure that no one else respects them.

3) Eliminate the apocalyptic language of condemnation and jihad, in private as well as in public. These are bad things to say. Americans are listening, and they do not like what they hear. If you will not change, prepare to accept the consequences of your behavior.

4) Stop pretending to be victims. No country is perfect, and no country is completely free of religious or racial intolerance, but Muslims have it better in the US than anywhere else in the world. If a Muslim organization wants to defend Muslims who are truly mistreated, that is all to the good, but if you want respect, act as if you already have it, and be prepared to condemn the criminal behavior of Muslims as rapidly as you do non-Muslims.

5) Stop talking about the Crusades as an offense against innocent Muslim victims. Islam expanded through North Africa and into Europe by fighting wars and defeating the opposition (in other words, by killing people who disagreed). By our standards today (in the US), these were wars of aggression, unjustified and immoral. By the standards of the time, they were acceptable, the normal way of life. The same is true of the Crusades, which were a response to the expansion of Islam and restrictions on Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The expansion of Islam was halted and reversed after the Muslim forces were defeated at Vienna, as, similarly, the Crusades were defeated by the Islamic forces of the time.

It is not reasonable to apply modern standards to the medieval world. There is no moral superiority to be had in these parts of history. Insisting that the Crusades displayed the brutal victimization of Islam by Christian barbarians is, now, nothing more than the resentful complaints of Muslim populations who look only at the outside world, not within their own, for the causes of their misery.

6) Don't inflate the importance of the "Islamic street." The truth is that the Islamic street doesn't matter much even to the totalitarian rulers of Islamic nations, who have a tendency to kill their own citizens when disagreements arise. It isn't important at all to Americans. What the American street believes, however, is important to the Islamic countries, even if they don't realize it. To be blunt, no Islamic nation or combination of them can present much of a threat to the US, but the US is perfectly capable of exterminating any who try. This truth is almost completely unappreciated throughout the world, even in Europe, where they should know better. The US is not an imperialist nation---it does not trot around the globe and gobble up parts of it with military force. Nor does the US react strongly to most provocations. As a result, few in the world realize just how dangerous this country is when aroused. The Third Reich and the Japanese Empire made this discovery, and they no longer exist. The Islamic nations are nowhere near as dangerous as either of those dead relics, and the US is much more lethal now than it was in World War II.

7) Stop saying that all people will or must become Muslims eventually, and that the law of Sharia must ultimately become the law of the land. The former isn't going to happen. The latter would require the overthrow of the Constitution. While the First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to speak their beliefs, a real attempt to overturn the Constitution would be an act of treason. We will not tolerate treason. We will not let you destroy the founding principles of the United States.

Muslims throughout the world, but especially in the US, are at a turning point. They can choose to change and grow with the rest of the world, or to stay the same and become increasingly backwards, savage, and irrelevant. The history of Islam for the last several hundred years offers little reason for optimism, but if any Muslims can lead Islam into the future, it will be those in this country. Please, I urge you, take up the banner for freedom and progress, and lift the burden of the dead weight of history and dogma from the backs of all Muslims. No one else can do this for you. It is up to the Muslims, and only to the Muslims, to free themselves.

Dr. Anonymous
(who knows many Muslims, and prefers that his real name and email address not be used)


Adding MuslimPundit to my blogroll.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/25/2003 01:06:00 PM



 
THE FIRE IN RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island, naturally, is still reeling from the unbelievable disaster last week. Now people are looking at who is to blame, which, of course, is correct. 97 people died. 97 people. There were no sprinklers in that club. There were locked doors. Nobody could get out. Someone must pay. But the entire thing is wrenching. A prayer vigil last week turned into a Wellstone-esque political rally which enraged the mourners present, many of whom got up and stormed out. People are devastated.

My heart is so with all of them right now. My state. My home. Rhode Island, the smallest state with the longest name ... "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". Here are some more facts about Rhode Island. To all my Rhode Island readers: it is mortifying that the "world's largest bug" makes it to the fact list!! You all will know what that refers to!

And facts 21 through 23 are things I am particularly proud of.

I read a quote in one of the articles about the mourners, one of them said, "You hear about that whole six degrees of separation thing? Well, it's usually only about one degree in Rhode Island."

That is one of Rhode Island's strengths, one of the beautiful things about the state (and it also can be the main reason why people are like: Get me the hell out of here! Give me a MODICUM of anonymity!)

The following article in the New York Times "gets" us perfectly, gets exactly what Rhode Island is about. It made me cry. The one anecdote which seems to capture the smallness and intimacy of Rhode Island perfectly is a description of the governor's press conference:

Gov. Donald L. Carcieri fielded the questions fired at him one after another — How many dead now? Isn't someone accountable? — with the patience of a father being tested. "I'm not saying that, Sean," he said at one point.

Rhode Island is described as a place where "everything is local".

Rhode Island is the kind of state where you ask for directions, and this is what someone will tell you: "Okay, so you go down this street and you take a right where the A&P used to be ... then you stay on that road, and when you come to the end of it, take a left where the Bess Eaton used to be ... and what you're looking for is on Rt.138 where that Tae Kwan Do studio used to be."

Ha ha. I am not kidding. Local Rhode Islanders like myself will nod knowingly at these directions suffused with the past, and newcomers will be completely lost. "Tell me what is there NOW, please." And when the direction-givers say stuff like "where the A&P used to be", sometimes they are talking about what hasn't been there for 30 years!

I love that.

And my sister Jean pointed out, that all directions given in Rhode Island usually contain the words "Dunkin Donuts". The moment she pointed it out to me, I started hearing it all over the place. "Take a left at the Dunkin Donuts..." "And then you pass the Dunkin Donuts..." "There's a stoplight, and a Dunkin Donuts on your right..."

Or sometimes the two particularities of Rhode Island directions will happen in the same sentence: "Take a right where the Dunkin Donuts used to be..."

  contact Sheila Link: 2/25/2003 12:23:00 PM



 
JOHNNY JEWISH CASH

This is one of those forwarded-email-joke-nightmares, but for once, one of these things made me laugh, so I thought I'd post it for posterity. #11 is such a damn CRACK-UP. Love it.

TOP 15 JEWISH COUNTRY-WESTERN SONGS
1. "I Was One of the Chosen People ('Til She Chose Somebody Else)"
2. "Honkey Tonk Nights on the Golan Heights"
3. "I've Got My Foot On The Glass, Where Are You? "
4. "My Rowdy Friend Elijah's Comin' Over Tonight"
5. "New Bottle of Whiskey, Same Old Testament"
6. "Stand by Your Mensch"
7. "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Latkes"
8. "I Balanced Your Books, but You're Breaking My Heart"
9. "My Darlin's a Schmendrick and I'm All Verklempt"
10. "That Shiksa Done Made off with My Heart Like a Goniff"
11. "The Second Time She Said 'Shalom', I Knew She Meant 'Goodbye'"
12. "You're the Lox My Bagel's Been Missin'"
13. "You've Been Talkin' Hebrew in Your Sleep Since that Rabbi Came to Town"
14. "Why Don't We Get Drunk - We're Jews!"
15. "Mamas Don't Let Your Ungrateful Sons Grow Up to Be Cowboys (When They Could Very Easily Have Just Taken Over the Family Hardware Business that My Own Grandfather Broke His Back to Start and My Father sweated Over for Years Which Apparently Doesn't Mean Anything Now That You're Turning Your Back on Such a Gift)"


  contact Sheila Link: 2/25/2003 12:13:00 PM



 
GET RID OF "SHOULD" AND "MUST"

Great great piece in Slate today, analyzing the language of "should" and "must" on the NY Times editorial page. Fascinating stuff, regardless of your political leanings. This is an article about language itself, one of my passions. Howell Raines brought back the banned words "should" and "must", and yet still resists letting the New York Times make a big statement about its position. It can't really, because it is the #1 paper in the world, and if the war happens, and if it is a rousing success, then all of their gloom-and-doom predictions will end up looking like defeatist claptrap ... so they undermine, they second-guess, they hedge, they haw, they withhold support and enthusiasm. But what I like about this article is the discussion of the language itself. And what words like "should" and "must" really have done to the integrity of the New York Times op-ed page.

--A decade ago, the New York Times editorial page editor Jack Rosenthal banned his writers from using the words should and must. Rosenthal claimed his "silly, stupid rule had a magical effect" on editorial writers, forcing them to rely on logic, not assertion, to persuade readers. Rosenthal told George magazine's Timothy Noah that if he didn't ban the words, he risked running editorials tainted by "this foot stomping, childish petulance. .... 'You must, by God, because we said so, and we're the fucking New York Times.' "

Slate analyses one of the most recent op-eds about war with Iraq, where the language is so clouded, and hemmy and haw-ey, that ... it is hard to tell what the hell is going on. The voice is certain in one moment, and then caves in defeat in the next ...

But what if the United Nations doesn't do what the Times thinks it "should" or "must" do? The nation's most prestigious newspaper takes a powder, retreating from the insistent voice—in which it advises the Bush administration to provide world "leadership" with its "power"—to a pathetically passive tone. "But in the end, sometime in March, the United States may have to decide whether it should do the job on its own," the editorial allows.

OK, but when the United States approaches that Rubicon, does the Times recommend we cross it? Not precisely. If this editorial were a football game, the zebras would penalize the Times for delay of game.


  contact Sheila Link: 2/25/2003 11:11:00 AM



 
A NEW EPIDEMIC

In the past couple of weeks, a new epidemic is raging in the areas of the country pounded by snow. Is it a flu epidemic? An influenza epidemic? An epidemic of the common cold?

Actually, no.

It is an epidemic of "inappropriate" snowmen. People have begun making snowmen with penises or breasts, and ultra-sensitive members of the communities have complained to the authorities. I would have a hard time keeping a straight face making such a complaint. "Uh, yes, hello Officer. I am very upset. Something terrible is going on." "What is it, ma'am? Is someone breaking into your house?" "No, it's worse than that ... I feel so VIOLATED." "Has someone raped you, ma'am?" "No. But it's just as big an outrage. I am staring now at a snowman with an erect penis, and I do not feel that I can continue to live in a community that practices such gender aggression."

Actually, now that I think about it, it must have been quite a feat for the policemen who took such calls to keep a straight face!

It all began with the "pornographic" snowman at Harvard. The crew team, as a JOKE, as a JOKE, made a snowman with an erect penis, and (naturally) offended the delicate sensibilities of feminists everywhere. (Reminds me of that joke: "How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" "One. And it's NOT FUNNY.")

And then poor Crystal Lynn, of Ohio, built a snowman with breasts and created an uproar. Look at the picture of the offensive snowwoman and tell me if you feel offended by a slight swell of bosom. What the hell is going on here?? The article has a very amusing tone, though ... kind of captures the ridiculousness of it all.

And these feminists ... I am sorry, but they sound brainwashed. It's all catch-phrases. They have killed language. Example: Amy E. Keel, who dismantled the snowman with a hard-on at Harvard: "It was offensive because it was pornographic. As a feminist, pornography is degrading to women and creates a violent atmosphere."

To me, that sort of language doesn't even sound real anymore. It's sloganeering, the language itself is stripped of resonance. Also, just a reminder: SHE IS TALKING ABOUT A SNOWMAN. A SNOWMAN CREATING A VIOLENT ATMOSPHERE.

Now I believe that some people are just too sensitive to even live. You gotta toughen up. I don't believe that a society should cater to its most sensitive members. No. That is unrealistic, and creates not a violent atmosphere, no, no, not violent at all ... but increasingly surrealistic.

Basically, I think the whole thing is ridiculous and that people are acting like boneheads (every pun intended).

I loved Crystal Lynn's baffled comments about her snowwoman, and what SHE saw in her girlie-girl snowwoman: "She looked really good, like she was getting ready to go to a party."

Breasts are not pornographic all on their own. Penises are not pornographic all on their own. They are just body parts.

But again, I must reiterate: we are talking about SNOWMEN. People have lost their minds. This is the type of thinker Harvard is letting loose on society?

One of my least favorite type of person is an indoctrinated humorless feminist. In their presence, I become a rabble-rousing politically-incorrect fiery-haired whirligig, making inappropriate jokes, whooping it up, saying stuff like, "I think Henry Miller is the bomb", or "You know, Ronald Reagan was actually pretty smart", or "I dig men, you know what I'm saying? I just DIG them", and I let them stew in their own angry confused feminist juices. I would have helped the crew team build that damn snowman, if I had been there! Just because it would have been a lark, and I enjoy a good laugh.

One last thing: In last month's Vanity Fair, the 5-minute interview with various celebs (always on the last page of the magazine) was with Bill O'Reilly. The questions are blunt, fired off (probably by email), and the answers just as blunt. "What is your idea of heaven on earth?" "What's the last book you read?" "What is your favorite kind of music?" And Bill O'Reilly (who I find sometimes amusing and sometimes right-ON, but then sometimes I think he has slid off the rails) was asked: "What qualities do you most admire in women?" And his answer was: "Having a sense of humor about sex."

It tells me a lot about Bill O'Reilly ... that that would be his answer. Those prissy Harvard girls could learn a little bit from O'Reilly, if they even were able to listen to anybody ever, at all, anymore.

  contact Sheila Link: 2/25/2003 09:44:00 AM


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