Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The test of new architecture.

Witold Rybczynski says all buildings soon look dated, so
The real question about new buildings should never be "Are they cutting edge?" but "Are they good?"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Puppy vs. robot.

Via Laughing Squid.

Monday, January 28, 2008

So what are thousands of pictures worth?

Long-lost negatives of Robert Capa's work before World War II have resurfaced in Mexico City.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A picture is worth one thousand words.

The story of George W. Bush's favorite painting.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lending library.

Lending Out Books
Hal Sirowitz
You're always giving, my therapist said.
You have to learn how to take. Whenever
you meet a woman, the first thing you do
is lend her your books. You think she'll
have to see you again in order to return them.
But what happens is, she doesn't have the time
to read them, & she's afraid if she sees you again
you'll expect her to talk about them, & will
want to lend her even more. So she
cancels the date. You end up losing
a lot of books. You should borrow hers.
Garrison Keillor, ed., Good Poems 102 (Penguin, 2003).

An egg tempera triptych.

This is a work by Koo Schadler, a New Hampshire artist.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The making of an ICU nurse.

I've just stumbled across a Boston Globe series from a few years back about the training of a nurse on an intensive care unit at Mass General, one of the country's top teaching hospitals. As the Globe explains,
Reporter Scott Allen and photographer Michele McDonald observed the training of first-year nurse Julia Zelixon for seven months, as she cared for two dozen desperately ill patients. Massachusetts General Hospital allowed the Globe team unrestricted access to the ICU, on the condition that patients' names and photographs could be used only with their permission or that of a family member.
It's good stuff. Follow this link to the series. Here is reaction to the series from the Center for Nursing Advocacy. [The Globe changed its site architecture shortly after I originally posted, so the links were not working properly, but I have fixed them.]

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tape 'em all and let God sort 'em out.

Marty Lederman explains that
the greater scandal is not that these tapes were destroyed, but instead that the CIA did not create tapes of all its high-level interrogations. That is to say, the real outrage was the orders from the CIA to stop taping.
Definitely worth reading, especially for those who are unclear about what Barack Obama has ever accomplished.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Deep in the heart of Chiapas.

Rebecca Solnit visits the Zapatistas.

They began like conventional rebels, arming themselves and seizing six towns. They chose that first day of January[, 1994,] because it was the date that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, which meant utter devastation for small farmers in Mexico; but they had also been inspired by the 500th anniversary, 14 months before, of Columbus's arrival in the Americas and the way native groups had reframed that half-millenium as one of endurance and injustice for the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere.

Their rebellion was also meant to take the world at least a step beyond the false dichotomy between capitalism and the official state socialism of the Soviet Union which had collapsed in 1991. It was to be the first realization of what needed to come next: a rebellion, above all, against capitalism and neoliberalism. Fourteen years later, it is a qualified success: many landless campesino families in Zapatista-controlled Chiapas now have land; many who were subjugated now govern themselves; many who were crushed now have a sense of agency and power. Five areas in Chiapas have existed outside the reach of the Mexican government, under their own radically different rules, since that revolution.

Beyond that, the Zapatistas have given the world a model -- and, perhaps even more important, a language -- with which to re-imagine revolution, community, hope, and possibility. Even if, in the near future, they were to be definitively defeated on their own territory, their dreams, powerful as they have been, are not likely to die. And there are clouds on the horizon: the government of President Felipe Calderón may turn what has, for the last 14 years, been a low-intensity conflict in Chiapas into a full-fledged war of extermination. A war on dreams, on hope, on rights, and on the old goals of the hero of the Mexican Revolution a century before, Emiliano Zapata: tierra y libertad, land and liberty.

The Zapatistas emerged from the jungle in 1994, armed with words as well as guns. Their initial proclamation, the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, rang with familiar, outmoded-sounding revolutionary rhetoric, but shortly after the uprising took the world by storm, the Zapatistas' tone shifted. They have been largely nonviolent ever since, except in self-defense, though they are ringed by the Mexican army and local paramilitaries (and maintain their own disciplined army, a long line of whose masked troops patrolled La Garrucha at night, armed with sticks). What shifted most was their language, which metamorphosed into something unprecedented -- a revolutionary poetry full of brilliant analysis as well as of metaphor, imagery, and humor, the fruit of extraordinary imaginations.

Mugged by the financial markets.

If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, then is a progressive a conservative whose portfolio has taken a hit?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Someone buy him a clue.

John Yoo, responding to the suit against him, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer (via Jonathan Adler):

Walk down Broad Street and you pass by a brown mansion, squeezed in between a music store and a Banana Republic. With its statues of proud soldiers in front, the Union League stands as a symbol of the sacrifices necessary to win the Civil War.

After being sued by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, I wonder whether our nation today has the same unity and tenacity to defeat the great security challenge of our day, the rise of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. Even as our brave young soldiers fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our intelligence agents succeed in disrupting follow-ups to the 9/11 attacks, terrorists are using our own legal system as a weapon against us.

John Yoo ought to be ashamed of himself for comparing the sacrifices made by Union soldiers to the suit brought against him, a suit which seeks damages of $1. Plainly, the man lacks perspective or shame.

Some of the more than 50,000 casualties at Gettysburg.

Up near the North Pole.

Here's a piece by Robert Wade in today's Financial Times about the political and economic ramifications of global warming in the Arctic Ocean. Rising temperatures will mean less ice, which makes the Arctic more attractive to shipping. "Shanghai to Rotterdam via the north-east route across the top of Russia is almost 1,000 miles shorters than via Suez." Canada and Russia claim the right to control sea traffic even beyond the continental shelf, but international law on the question is unclear. These new shipping routes will have other effects.
Tiny Iceland suddenly takes on new geo-economic significance. It sits at the mouth of the Arctic Ocean, ideally located for transhipment of cargoes to or from giant container ships travelling between Iceland and a transhipment port in the Bering Sea. It has at least three plausible deep fjord sites. China maintains the biggest of all the embassies in Reykjavik and it welcomed the president of Iceland with all the pomp normally reserved for the head of a major state on his visit in 2007. It has been very helpful as Iceland seeks election to the United Nations Security Council in 2008.
There's more there, about the environmental consequences and the politics of the Arctic Council.

Vivo la revolución!

This Citroën commercial, run in Spanish media, agitated lots of Chinese. Markets in all things? Apparently not quite.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The country, sure, but not the Presidency.

Jack Balkin:
If the next President is a Democrat, . . . you should expect lots of press coverage in in a few years wondering why anyone ever thought that the Bush Administration had weakened the Presidency.
He suggests that even a Republican President facing a Democratic Congress will have broad lattitude to conduct foreign policy, which sounds likely to me.

And, her baby is due tomorrow.

Dwight Garner talks to Natasha Wimmer, the translator of Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives. She's working on another Bolaño's novel, 2666, to be released this year.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hugging at the Pentagon.

LTC Bob Bateman explains:
I recently noticed a change that took place between 2004 and the present. There is, you see, a lot more hugging going on nowadays where I work.

I work in the Pentagon. . . .

[I]nside of the space of a single week I received (and I must admit, somewhat awkwardly returned) three hugs from brother officers. One of them was a full colonel.

The other two were generals. . . .

After the third of these hugs I felt a little disoriented. Reeling through my mind was the scene from the movie A League of Their Own in which, after making one of his female baseball players cry, the coach (Tom Hanks) is flabbergasted, then exasperated, finally shouting, "There's no crying in baseball! There's no crying in BASEBALL!!" But in my head the words were swapped. "There's no hugging in the Pentagon! There's no hugging in the PENTAGON!!" But, quite obviously, there is now. . . .

During my first tour of duty in the Pentagon, from the middle of 2002 through the end of 2004, there was no such phenomenon. That is easy enough to understand, because although the "guy hug" had become fairly common in the civilian world (I suspect it leaked over from professional sports) by the late '80s and early '90s, mine is a somewhat more restrained sub-culture. . . .

So why the sudden change in the Pentagon? . . . [I]t took me a little while to puzzle this one out. I think I have it now. There are certain rules that seem to apply, and I should note that I am speaking only of what I have seen, and that is only within the Army.

Rule #1: A hug is only appropriate between two men who have not seen each other in at least a year. It only occurs on the first meeting of those two after such a gap.

Rule #2: During that period, one or both of them have been to combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Neither has died or was crippled beyond repair. Both now know too many who have been so.

Rule #3: The hug occurs in conjunction with a forearm gripped handshake. It is brief. Right arm in shake, left arm over the other man's shoulder, two or three hearty slaps or punches to the back. No more. Release. The sentiment is as direct as the action: "I am glad you are not dead."

In other words, what changed us was war.

Another Pollan interview.

This time with Here's an exchange about the deterioration of breakfast.:
CH: This morning I was looking at what I had in my house for a quick breakfast, and it wasn't much—I haven't gone shopping in way too long. My options were plain yogurt or an energy bar with soy protein isolate and all this other stuff in it. I went for the yogurt because it was actual food, but I was thinking, what if my choice were not between yogurt and the bar, but between a fast-food egg sandwich and the bar? Those are the options that a lot of people have when they're in a hurry—and the sandwich is probably more of a real food than the bar is.

MP: Well, for Eggs Benedict in the abstract that's true; but look at the ingredients in the bread they use [at the fast-food place]. It's a 40-ingredient bread. So although it looks like a real food, the actual way they're making it is more "foodish," or "foodlike." But one of my messages is that taking the 15 minutes to put a real breakfast on the table is not that long—so why has it come to seem so Herculean? I really think we've been sold a bill of goods: that we're too busy and there's absolutely no way that we can feed ourselves [without convenience food].

CH: For me personally and for lots of people I know who care about food, I make the time at dinner, but not always at breakfast.

MP: And breakfast has been the site of so much processing for the reasons you're talking about, the convenience question. It's really the pioneering meal for food science, with breakfast cereal being the big first step, and a continual ratcheting up of the innovations. I don't know if you've looked at a cereal aisle lately, but the latest is the breakfast cereal "straw," a strawlike thing made out of cereal material, with a layer of white "milk" on the inside. Kids are supposed to suck out the "milk" and then eat the "straw." So you don't even need a spoon.

CH: That's disgusting.

MP: It really is. I haven't tried one yet. But I think we're real suckers for innovation at breakfast, because we're kind of in a fog and don't want to have to think. Also, a lot of kids eat in the car or on the bus on the way to school. I talk about the percentage of our eating that goes on in cars, and a lot of that is breakfast.

CH: Yeah, you can't really take a nice bowl of oatmeal or a poached egg in the car with you.

MP: Nah, I can't drive that way.

There's also this bit about the widespread consumption of refined grains:

Somebody at a talk told me a line that her grandmother used to say: "The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead." So there was a wisdom around carbohydrates, and if you go back even to Brillat-Savarin and The Physiology of Taste, he says that the cause of fatness is eating too much sugar and too much flour, and drinking too much beer. It was kind of understood. But the prestige of refined grain is kind of a mystery. It's fairly recent; we've only known how to create it for 100 years, 150 years. And maybe soon there will be a feedback loop discouraging us from [refining grains]. But you're right, that's one area where your great-grandmother may or may not have it right.

With white rice, not a lot of people had it. These foods that have been around for a long time and that we know are maladaptive were not eaten in great quantities. We have always eaten things that were not necessarily good for us, and we call them special-occasion foods. And probably, given the trouble of polishing rice, you would not have that much. Even if you were wealthy it wouldn't necessarily be your staple—it would be like a sugary dessert: You have a little bit of it, and you have it at the end of the meal, where its effect on the insulin level and your metabolism is blunted by all the other food in your stomach.

And frying chicken, French fries—all these foods that are very hard to do, very expensive in terms of time—people did eat these things, but probably not in the quantities that we do today. Because of technology and industrialization we can outsource all the work. Somebody I was reading was saying it would be fine to have French fries, as long as you're willing to cook them yourself. So then how often would you have French fries? Maybe once a month, because it's a real pain, and you've got to clean it up. I was talking to someone from the South, who was saying that everyone thinks she ate a lot of fried chicken growing up, but that fried chicken was so much work and such a mess, and the oil was so expensive, that you only made it when you were having a party. You couldn't justify it for yourself or even just for your family. So it was special-occasion food. But now our special-occasion food has become everyday food—and that's been one of the achievements of industrialization. So you could even include in your dietary guidelines, "have all the French fries you want, as long as you make them and clean them up yourself."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's never too late for a Festivus gift.

One of these would be nice.

That which does not end the competition will make the candidates stronger.

Ezra Klein:

The problem with the "electability" test as applied to Kerry was that it was applied shoddily and hastily. Kerry had spent most of the primary proving himself unelectable and unappealing. He had begun as the frontrunner and proven entirely unable to sustain that support. The voters, it appeared, did not like being exposed to him for long periods of time. But as doubts about Dean blossomed, and Clark decided to skip Iowa, and Gephardt went overwhelmingly negative, and Edwards generated a lot of elite buzz but little popular support, Kerry was basically the last man standing. And that powered him through the primary. The fact that everyone named "electability" as their primary reason for supporting Kerry proved how unelectable he really was. When voters like a candidate, they can think of a better reason to support them than that other voters will also like this candidate.

But this election will actually be an interesting test of electability. Clinton is running against a charismatic, well-funded, media-loved, anti-war newcomer and an appealing Southern populist. To beat both of them will require pretty formidable political skills. And Obama, for his part, gets to test out his theories of electability. He keeps arguing that he'll bring a wave of young voters into the process, attract hordes of independents, and generally expand the Democratic coalition. He'll now have plenty of chances to do so, including in California, where independents can vote in the Democratic primary, but not in the Republican one. That appeal will either manifest or prove illusory -- and it's good to find out either way in advance of the general election.

Had Iowa propelled either to the nomination, that would have largely been proof that they could best organize a tiny Midwestern state. Now they'll actually have to out-campaign one another, prove that their political styles are most attractive to the voters. The Democrats can now look forward to a test of electability, rather than simply an assumption of it.

I'm for Obama, but I can live with Clinton or Edwards, and I think the candidate who prevails will be the stronger for the experience. (The same will be true on the GOP side, even Romney.) You would think that the media would prefer a long, uncertain primary season to a short one with a simple narrative, so perhaps they'll come around too.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Eating out with Michael Pollan.

My suggestion that we meet at a chain restaurant like Applebee's for a reality check on the state of the national lunch went over like a veal chop at a PETA dinner. "We only have three meals a day. I hate to waste one," Pollan said.

We settled on 900 Grayson, a friendly cafe on Berkeley's west side where the menu mixes humor (sides like fries and gravy are listed as "Make-up Kit & Sordid Accessories") and attention to local tastes for high-quality, sustainably raised ingredients.

I was curious how Pollan would decide what to order, given the advice he lays out in his new book. He says he wrote it to answer the question he heard repeatedly from people who ate up "Omnivore's" indictment of American mass food production, processing and government oversight, but then were left wondering: "So what can we eat?"

The new book puts flesh on the bones of an approach to eating that Pollan introduced in the New York Times Magazine last year:

Don't fall into the "nutritionist" trap of treating food like dietary supplements - eating blueberries for the antioxidants, for example.

Forget low-fat and low-carb.

Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains - real foods, not the "foodlike substances" that crowd store shelves.

Pick your proteins carefully. Choose meat raised in traditional ways, on pasture instead of in feedlots, don't eat too much of it, and include lots of fish from sustainable fisheries.

Pollan advocates a return to traditional ways of eating, before processing, hidden sugars and, as he sees it, dietitians got in the way of health and great taste.

"Our government is doing very little about obesity," he said. "How did it get so controversial to say, 'Eat less,' to say, 'Eat fruits and vegetables'?"

He practices what he preaches, cooking dinner at home most nights, often with help from his 15-year-old son Isaac, and sitting down to eat as a family with his wife, the painter Judith Belzer. Much of their food comes from a CSA (a subscription box of produce from a local farm) and north Berkeley's Thursday farmers' market, a short walk from their home.

Following Pollan's mantra sounds so easy until you're trying to navigate a menu - or a supermarket.

For example, the burger at 900 Grayson is "Creekstone Natural Beef," as the menu proudly declares. That's good, right? The company has made a name for itself fighting the U.S. government for permission to test its steers for mad cow disease.

But Pollan points out, "It's conventionally raised, in a feedlot. I'm happy they want to test for mad cow, but that's setting the bar low."

If a grass-fed burger were on the menu, he'd probably order it - but it's not. Chicken is nixed because it's mass produced, he thinks. The waiter, asked if the pulled pork is locally raised, reports back that it's bought from a local distributor - not the same thing.

"Asking all these questions is important," Pollan says. "The chefs hear this. It's another way a consumer can make his or her opinions felt and see results."

Our choices narrow fast. The vegetarian ravioli is one, but we both end up ordering the "Sorry Charlie," a coriander-crusted tuna steak with slaw, and we split an appetizer of local Dungeness crab cakes. At a chain restaurant, Pollan said, he'd fall back on the tuna sandwich.

"We eat entirely too much meat from the point of view of the environment. The carbon footprint of meat is deep," he says. "People think about what they drive, but if you cut out meat, it's the equivalent of trading a sedan for a Prius."

Carol Ness at

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I agree.

The phrase "dark satanic millian liberalism" should have more than eight Google hits.

Posting has been light for a while now. It is the dark of winter, and if they say the days are getting brighter earlier, I don't believe it.

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