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[Editor’s Note: Andres Resendez, our correspondent to the frozen wastes of Northern Europe, writes in from Finland today. Which suggests that the blog’s reach now encompasses the entire globe. So don’t mess with us, people. Anyway, Andres’s outstanding new book — it got an A- from Entertainment Weekly — can be found here. And we’re very grateful to him for taking the time to pitch in. Though really, he’s in Finland, so what else does he have to do with his time? It’s either this or pick a fight with a Swede. And we all know Andres isn’t that kind of guy.]

On this day Mexico celebrates its independence from the Spanish Empire (no, it wasn’t Cinco de Mayo, although the fact that the latter is the better-known date in the United States prompts many interesting questions and a few tentative answers). Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a balding priest from an insignificant town in central Mexico, rang the church bell in the wee hours of September 16, 1810 rallying his sleepy parishioners to shake off the thralldom of Spanish imperialism. His movement quickly snowballed into a massive insurrection (perhaps 60 thousand strong at its peak) and in short order captured some the richest mining centers and cities in the Bajío region. In a little more than a month Hidalgo’s mob was within sight of Mexico City threatening Spain’s hold over the entire viceroyalty.

Those interested in the arcana of historical memory may well ask why we commemorate Mexico’s independence on this date. For starters, Hidalgo is not the most obvious choice for a Founding Father: a priest investigated by the Inquisition for gambling, enjoying the company of women, and for his enthusiasm for books featured in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. But more to the point, Hidalgo’s movement fizzled. Early in 1811, as Hidalgo was desperately trying to make his way to Texas (that inexhaustible fountain of revolutions) to reorganize his movement, he was captured, defrocked, summarily tried, and shot.

Mexico achieved its independence only a decade later as a result of a back-room deal. The broker, Agustín de Iturbide, was a smart dresser and a dashing officer who delighted in pomp and circumstance and—knowing how to seize the moment—organized a triumphal entrance into Mexico City at the head of his army on September 21, 1821 to commemorate the nation’s deliverance from Spain. In other words, Iturbide was the poster child of the Latin American liberator.

So why Hidalgo and not Iturbide, why September 16, 1810 and not September 21, 1821? Both figures and dates had supporters and detractors among early Mexicans. As usual, the choice boiled down to politics with—roughly speaking—Hidalgo coming across as a man of the masses while Iturbide became the more conservative option.

But the Hidalgo camp received a shot in the arm from most unexpected quarters. In the 1860s Maximilian of Austria, the French-backed emperor of Mexico, faced with the problem of how to commemorate Mexico’s independence, decided travel to the tiny town of Dolores—where Hidalgo had launched his movement—and made quite an impression on his subjects by reenacting Hidalgo’s call-to-arms. What made this all the more ironic is that Emperor Maximilian was himself a Hapsburg and therefore a direct descendant of Charles V, the Spanish king during Mexico’s conquest. And thus, following Maximilian’s lead, every September 16 the sitting Mexican president takes a stab at recreating the priest’s stirring harangue, screaming at the top of his lungs Viva México! Vivan los Héroes de la Independencia! (see above) And the Mexican citizenry gets to pass judgment on each performance. If only Hidalgo could have known.

The poet Jack Spicer is more blogged about than read, as you’ll read in practically every post about him. This will be no exception. I haven’t read him enough either: I’ve known him so far mainly as a focus of gossip. (A San Francisco poet I know once told me, as we marveled at the inanity of Billy Collins, that back in the day, Collins had been one of Spicer’s disciples in North Beach.) This week I’ve been reading Lewis Ellingham and Kevin Killian’s biography, Poet Be Like God (Wesleyan, 1998), which is a feast of anecdote. But there’s news, and I expect soon we’ll be hearing more about him again.

Spicer was born in Los Angeles in 1925. At UC Berkeley, he met Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser, who would remain the poets closest to him. He studied for a few years in Minnesota, and then briefly worked in Boston, but he soon returned to the Bay Area to stay. He worked at Berkeley as a research linguist, but spent as much time as possible on the poetry scene in North Beach.

It’s astonishing how much of Spicer’s energy (and indeed that of the whole scene) went into the epiphenomena of poetry — teaching, talking, theorizing, publishing, arguing, drinking, cliquing, gossiping. (Spicer even supplied items to Herb Caen, gossip columnist for the Chronicle.) And yet he made poetry anyway.* He wrote steadily, publishing a stream of little books with fugitive presses. He distanced himself jealously from success in the poetry world — New York, Allen Ginsberg, even Ferlinghetti and City Lights — but achieved some success despite himself, speaking to attentive audiences, for example, at the University of British Columbia. His drinking caught up with him: in July 1965, he fell into a hepatic coma, and died after three weeks in and out of consciousness, fellow poets visiting whenever he could talk.

For Spicer, poetry was like receiving a radio transmission: something spoke through him. And more than a conceit or a superstition, this is borne out in the poetry. The language is direct, flexible, unshowy — what’s strange is the elusiveness of the voice, the instability of the poems’ agenda. It really is as though the poet had short-circuited himself out and his language spoke instead. Take this, from the book Language, of 1964:

    This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
    Tougher than anything.
    No one listens to poetry. The ocean
    Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
    Or crash of water. It means
    Is bread and butter
    Pepper and salt. The death
    That young men hope for. Aimlessly
    It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
    One listens to poetry.**

There’s an extended analogy at work here, but it would be hard, and misleading, to explicate it fully. One could assimilate “bread and butter / pepper and salt”, for example, to the analogy, but more plausibly they are simply clichés, half-abstract language objects bobbing up to divert the flow.

This week I went looking for the Collected Books, edited by Robin Blaser in the 1970s.  I used to see this on every poetry shelf in town, but now that I’m ready to read it, it’s become a collectible. Thank goodness, though, Wesleyan University Press is bringing out a new Collected Poems, long rumored and now on the brink of publication. (I’ve preordered it from Amazon.)

The title of the new book, My Vocabulary Did This To Me, is not a line from the poetry, but something Spicer said to Blaser in the hospital at the end. Or so Blaser says: another poet remembers the phrase differently, and a third denies it outright. Apart from its joke value, then (and Spicer might not have been joking), it’s an example of how Spicer is remembered — and an apt encapsulation of his poetic.


* Graham Mackintosh, who published him, said later, “I think what happened was he’d be of a certain blood-alcohol count, which would allow him to pass out for about five hours. Which would bring it around to approximately seven in the morning. Which was the time he would do most of his writing. Then he’d go back to sleep, and sort of pass back out.” (Quoted in Ellingham and Killian; but like most of their sources, Mackintosh is talking as much about himself as about Spicer.)

** Copied from the Spicer page at the Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center.  For more, see the Spicer feature in Jacket magazine, April 1999. And Lawrence La Riviere White dug deeper in a post at The Valve (almost on the fortieth anniversary of Spicer’s death).

1. Use someone’s suicide to repeat cheap talking points:

I was neither as surprised, nor as upset by this tragedy as the many in the elite realm of reputable literature seemed to be.

2. Use someone’s suicide to assert your own importance:

I have a truly unique perspective on David Foster Wallace’s suicide.

3. Criticize someone for being polite and modest:

I found him to be more than a bit eccentric, but certainly nice enough not to be bothered too much by his presence.

4. Claim someone spent:

[A]t least two months following my every move before and during the broadcast of my show.

5. Then claim this person:

[H]ad intended to write a hit piece on talk radio and use me as the easy and naïve target.

6. Flaunt your ignorance:

I am embarrassed to say that I did not even know who David Foster Wallace was and I was too stupid or lazy to bother to simply “Google” him. It was only when the article was finally published that I realized what a “big deal” he was supposed to be.

7. Remind people of it:

[A]nyone who attempts to read the 23-page cover story is immediately struck by the use of many boxes off to the side of each page where Wallace shares his parenthetical thoughts/statements to his undisciplined telling of the story.

8. Once you’ve admitted surprise at the foonotes—thereby demonstrating you did no more research after you allowed him access than you did before—speak hard truths about his talent:

But I also believe that there is an equally fine line between real genius and just plain weirdness. In my experience, Wallace had very little of the former, so he exaggerated the latter.

9. Glory in the evaluative freedom your ignorance affords you:

It is therefore far better to be weird and thought, at worst, to be “too smart for the room,” than to play it straight and be revealed as a “one hit wonder” or even a total fraud.

10. Despite “absolutely no evidence to backup [sic] this assertion,” claim this fraud committed suicide for personal gain:

While I have absolutely no evidence to backup this assertion, I also think it is quite possible that he knew that killing himself in his “prime” and before he had been totally exposed as being a mere mortal in the literary realm would cement his status as a “genius” forever.

11. Be a talentless AM radio hack whose name no one will remember tomorrow and write this:

David Foster Wallace was an overrated writer in life. His suicide should not be used to elevate him even further beyond what he deserved, in death.

12. Acknowledge this:

I know that it is considered bad form, or worse, to speak ill of the newly dead[.]

13. Then do it anyway.

*Pardon my French, but sometimes—just sometimes—nothing less will do.

Will Arnett effectively reprising “Gob” Bluth on Sesame Street. If I need to say more, you won’t get it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Also, if you can find better quality video, lemme know.

On this day in 1935, the German government adopted the Nuremberg Laws, which gave legal definition to racism in the Nazi state. The laws included the Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, which (among other provisions) banned intermarriage and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans [eta: as defined by the laws and state of the time] as well as the employment in a Jewish household of any German woman under 45 years of age. In writing the final draft of the law, Adolf Hitler deleted the sentence, “This law is only valid for full Jews,” this spurring debate over who, legally, qualified as a Jew.

In his War of the World, Niall Ferguson goes on from his discussion of such laws in Germany to note

… the United States could hardly claim to be a model of racial tolerance in the 1930s. As late as 1945, thirty states retained constitutional or legal bans on interracial marriage and many of those had recently extended or tightened their rules. In 1924, for example, the state of Virginia redefined the term “white person” to mean a “person who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian” or “one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and … no other non-Caucasic blood”. Henceforth even a single “Negro” great-grandparent made a person black. It was not only African-Americans and American Indians who were affected; some states also discriminated against Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, “Malays” (Filipinos) and “Hindus” (Indians). How profound were the differences between a case of “racial defilement” in 1930s Hamburg and a case of miscegenation in 1930s Montgomery? Not very. Was it so very different to be in a mixed marriage in Dresden and to be in one in Dixie? Not really. Moreover, the influence of eugenics in the United States had added a new tier of legislation which was not only similar to that introduced in Germany in the 1930s, but was also the inspiration for some Nazi legislation. No fewer than forty-one states used eugenic categories to restrict marriages of the mentally ill, while twenty-seven states passed laws mandating sterilization for certain categories of people. In 1933 alone California forcibly sterilized 1,278 people. The Third Reich, in short, was very far from the world’s only racial state in the 1930. Hitler openly acknowledged his debt to US eugenicists.1

One may want initially to protest casual moral equivalence between these two regimes; one even wants to say, of course, that the US did not descend that further step into racist depravity represented by the Final Solution. But Ferguson’s parallel poses an interesting challenge: suppose he is right that short of industrialized genocide the two states did not substantially differ. What made the Germans take that step, and what stopped the Americans from taking it? Was it merely that the Germans went first, became our antagonists in a war for survival, and only thus showed the US whither its racial laws were tending?

1Niall Ferguson, The War of the World, 273-274.

If you want a compendium of US miscegenation and similar legislation, this is a good place to start.

Jonah Goldberg’s modest opinion of his own work:

It is a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.

Jonah Goldberg’s serious, thoughtful argument about John McCain’s time in a North Vietnamese prison, presented in detail and with care:

The reason he doesn’t send email is that he can’t use a keyboard because of the relentless beatings he received from the Viet Cong in service to our country.

Not that I expect any better, but if you’ve written about a war between North and South Vietnam, shouldn’t you know the difference between North and South Vietnam?

Today’s Peanuts. In which Lucy is the Republican Party, 2008, and Charlie Brown is the American voter.

e fructu arbor cognoscitur


Of an apparent suicide, according to Ed ChampionLos Angeles Times confirms.

CR’s reaction nails mine.  Wallace was a brilliant, unpredictable author whose next book always could’ve been—what I mean to say, if Philip Roth dies, I’ll be upset, but it wouldn’t tie my stomach in knots.  Roth’s entered the late-James stage of his career—his works refine and distill and what readers expect from them.  With Wallace, there was still potential—his next book could’ve been another Infinite Jest, his next story could’ve been utterly unlike Oblivion, his next article could’ve done to McCain what Wallace’d done to lobsters.  In short, his unwritten work could’ve been differently brilliant.

Thoughts on suicide from a man who’s already committed it, in Oblivion‘s “Good Old Neon”:

I simply said, without going into anything like the level of detail I’ve given you (because my purpose in the letter was of course very different), that I was killing myself because I was an essentially fraudulent person who seemed to lack either the character or the firepower to find a way to stop even after I’d realized my fraudulence and the terrible toll it exacted . . . I also inserted that there was also a good possibility that, when all was said and done, I was nothing but another fact-track yuppie who couldn’t love, and that I found the banality of this unendurable, largely because I was evidently so hollow and insecure that I had a pathological need to see myself as somehow exceptional or outstanding at all times. Without going into much explanation or argument, I also told Fern that if her initial reaction to these reasons for my killing myself was to think I was being much, much too hard on myself, then she should know that I was already aware that that was the most likely reaction my note would produce in her, and had probably deliberately constructed the note to at least in part prompt just that reaction, just the way my whole life I’d often said and done things designed to prompt certain people to believe that I was a genuinely outstanding person whose personal standards were so high that he was far too hard on himself, which in turn made me appear attractively modest and unsmug, and was a big reason for my popularity with so many people in all different avenues of my life . . .” (173)

Of this story, Dan Green wrote:

At its core, “Good Old Neon” is indeed a story about a story, although we don’t know that until its conclusion. We do then discover, however, that “Good Old Neon” has been an impersonation by “David Wallace” of one of the latter’s high school classmates who died in a “fiery single-car accident he’d read about in 1991,” an attempt by the fictionalized author of Oblivion to “imagine what all must have happened to lead up to” that crash, why someone “David Wallace had back then imagined as happy and unreflective and wholly unhaunted by voices telling him that there was something deeply wrong with him that wasn’t wrong with anybody else and that he had to spend all his time and energy trying to figure out what to do and say in order to impersonate an even marginally normal or acceptable U.S. male” would drive into a bridge abutment.

It is a wholly convincing impersonation, and emotionally charged in a way we perhaps don’t expect from David Foster Wallace. And it is precisely in the act of “baring the device”—the story self-reflexively disclosing that it is indeed a story—that “Good Old Neon” produces its greatest emotional effect. For in addition to the genuine human feeling for the distress of its imagined protagonist the story encourages in us, even more compelling is the revelation that it was some such feeling on its author’s part that led “David Wallace” to write the story in the first place.

[Teo has been running with wolves and stuff. But he’s still kind enough to check in and drop some Southwestern flavah on us. This post either is or soon will be cross-posted at one of Teo’s two excellent blogs: here or here.]

On this day in 1692, Don Diego de Vargas Zapata Luján Ponce de León, the governor of the Spanish colony of New Mexico, arrived at the town of Santa Fe, formerly the capital of the province but held since 1680 by the coalition of Pueblo Indians who revolted against the Spanish in that year and managed to drive them out of the area entirely. Vargas, an ambitious royal administrator and member of a distinguished family in Madrid, had only recently been appointed governor, but he had spent almost all of his short term so far planning obsessively for the reconquest of his nominal province, limited for practical purposes to the area immediately around the fortress town of El Paso on the Rio Grande. He was impelled by both his loyalty to the crown and outrage at the audacity of the Indians in betraying it and, perhaps more importantly, his deep piety and desire to reclaim the Indians not just for the king, but for his beloved Catholic faith as well. After much bureaucratic wrangling, and despite the misgivings of some of the veteran soldiers on the frontier consulted by the viceroy in evaluating the reconquest plans (many of which turned out to be quite prescient), Vargas had succeeded in getting approval for his expedition, which left El Paso on August 16.

On the way to Santa Fe the expedition stopped to camp at several abandoned haciendas and Pueblos ravaged by the revolt and the resulting warfare. When it reached the area of Pueblos that were still occupied, they showed signs of being suddenly deserted, presumably in response to news that the Spaniards had returned to wreak vengeance. This was not an irrational response, since there had already been a few attempts at reconquest by previous governors since 1680, none of which had come close to retaking the province but some of which had managed to sack and destroy certain individual Pueblos, particularly Zia and Santa Ana. The Pueblos Vargas passed on his way up the Rio Grande, Cochiti and Santo Domingo, are near Zia and Santa Ana, and have many cultural and linguistic ties to those places as well, so the memory of the destruction brought by Spanish expeditions would have been particularly fresh and meaningful to the people there.

Vargas was disappointed at finding Cochiti and Santo Domingo abandoned. He had prepared for exciting dawn raids at both which might give him some quick military glory, and would at the very least leave him in a strong position for an extended siege, but in fact he was more troubled by the fear the people had of him. The fact was that he didn’t actually want to conquer the province militarily. His strong piety left him with a deep concern for the souls of the Indians, who he felt had been tempted to rebellion and apostasy by the Devil, and more than anything else he wanted them to come back to the Church peacefully and of their own free will. He was willing to impose Christianity by force, of course, but he went to great lengths to avoid having to resort to actual violence (as opposed to threats of violence, which he was quite happy to use).

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Many reviews of Spore have noted that it’s a great toy, but a weak game, and I agree with that consensus. I also have some thoughts about why it is a weak game, and why I suspect that the fact Spore strikes me as a weak game says more about me than it does about the game.

But first, my little dude, dancing:

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As Ike bears down on his namesake’s home state of Texas, it behooves us to remember what Ari wrote a few days back.  The only element absent from Ari’s post was the reaction of the rest of the country.  The first chapter of Erik Larson’s excellent recreation of Galveston’s last hours, Isaac’s Storm, reads:


Washington, D.C.
Sept. 9, 1900
To: Manager, Western Union
Houston, Texas

Did you hear anything about Galveston?

Willis L. Moore

We already know the answer—in 1900, everyone was confused.  On Wednesday, September 4th, the Louisville-based Christian Observer reported that “all the great damage done to the roads [in Puerto Rico] by the hurricane of August 8, 1899, has been repaired.”[1] By the time anyone read that article, the pluperfect had supplanted the perfect: another nameless storm had already slammed into the island and re-destroyed its infrastructure. The New York Times tracked the storm in its daily weather bulletins:

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On this date in 1942, the RMS Laconia was struck by a pair of German torpedoes off the coast of West Africa. Within hours, the ship — which had been carrying civilians, British sailors and Italian war prisoners — drifted to the bottom of the sea, carrying with hundreds of passengers who were either already or soon to be dead. Meantime, roughly two thousand survivors struggled aboard  the lifeboats that had not been splintered by the torpedo blasts; others swam helplessly or clung to floating debris, hoping not to be gnawed by the sharks that lived nearby.

As it happened, the German U-boat that scuttled the Laconia soon picked up most of the survivors.  They were assisted by several other submarines, ordered to join the effort by Kreigsmarine commander Karl Donitz. After a two-day rescue operation, the Germans had managed to pack hundreds of survivors into the ships — above deck as well as below — while roping lifeboats behind them to tow hundreds more. The German submarines then lumbered slowly toward the African coast, draped in flags of the International Red Cross. Although the U-boat commanders alerted other forces in the region that they were carrying survivors from the Laconia, the fleet was struck by bombs and depth charges from an American B-24 several days later on September 16. Hundreds of survivors perished as the U-boats submerged and US bombs obliterated several lifeboats. None of the U-boats was destroyed, and roughly 1500 passengers of the doomed Laconia survived the ordeal.

Although it could be — and has been — argued that the US attack on the German boats constituted a war crime, there is little legal ambiguity about the German response. In the wake of the attacks, Commander Donitz issued a notorious order that would later help to secure his conviction during the Nuremberg trials. The “Laconia Order,” as it became known, insisted that German U-boats — which were already carrying out unrestricted naval warfare — were no longer to assist survivors of their attacks:

All efforts to save survivors of sunken ships, such as the fishing out of swimming men and putting them on board lifeboats, the righting of overturned lifeboats, or the handing over of food and water, must stop. Rescue contradicts the most basic demands of the war: the destruction of hostile ships and their crews.. . . . Stay firm. Remember that the enemy has no regard for women and children when bombing German cities!

The Laconia Order — like so many other aspects of the Second World War — openly violated the protocols of international law, specifically Section 10 of the 1907 Hague Convention.

Nearly three years after the Laconia episode, Karl Donitz succeeded Adolf Hitler as the German head of state. It was his government, which lasted all of three weeks during May 1945, that ultimately surrendered to the Allies. Following the war, Donitz served a decade in Spandau Prison, the infamous West Berlin facility that also housed Albert Speer and neo-nazi icon Rudolph Hess. Donitz’ prosecution was made all the easier because he refused to order that his naval archives be destroyed. As he explained to Guther Hessler — a U-boat commander who also happened to be his son-in-law — “we have a clear conscience.”

It is a day too late for a 9/11 post, but Becks’ thoughts about the public nature of a private grief have been crawling around in my head. People construct walls, placing people into categories: those who “get it”, and those who don’t.

This is understandable. The bell tolls for all of us, but for the griever all that remains of her loved one are the decaying tones. If everyone can hear the bell, then what of the griever’s pain is hers? What is left of the loss to honor, if people three thousand miles away can weep?

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Not only is the election supposed to be about culture and not substance, but when we talk about substance, we must not say anything true.

My favorite part is where Hannity calls Kuttner “sir” while bullying him.


This is what Sarah Palin said:

PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words when he said — first, he suggested never presume to know what God’s will is, and I would never presume to know God’s will or to speak God’s words.

But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that’s a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.

That’s what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It’s an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.

This is remarkable, for almost too many reasons to describe.  I’ll concede what the howler monkeys of wingnuttia have been crying all night, which is that Palin is correct:  Gibson omits an arguably vital part of her original quotation.  But look at what Palin offers as an explanation before she proceeds to argue that yes, indeed, God’s side and “our” side are aligned.  She claims that when she was addressing the kids at her old pentecostal church earlier this year, she was “repeating” — those of us on the coastal elite wine track call this “quoting” or, less formally, “offering a shout out to” — Abraham Lincoln.  What she doesn’t say* is that the quotation derives from a pre-Civil War anecdote in which Lincoln receives a delegation of secessionists who insist that their cause is God’s cause and that, if war erupts, the South will triumph.

Lincoln’s response, fictional or not, is to chasten his callers by asking them to reflect, humbly and with extraordinary care, on the possibility that they’re about to embark on a reckless mission that does nothing to further “God’s plan.”  This would not only have required Lincoln’s visitors to consider what, precisely, “God’s plan” happened to be, but also to consider — in earnest detail, with considerable attention to actual historical facts — whether the Confederacy’s cause was indeed as righteous as its standard-bearers assumed.  It was, in other words, an admonition against a transparently stupid course of action being waged by regional ideologues who, it turns out, well-nigh wrecked the republic.

What Bush and Cheney have offered — and what Palin-Chernenko McCain are promising to re-up — is a foreign policy orientation that is exactly the opposite of the sort of patient reflection, self-criticism, and wisdom that Lincoln was encouraging in his southern brethren.  If this is indeed God’s plan, then it’s high time someone punched God in the face.

*because I don’t think she knows this**

**because I don’t think she was actually intending to quote Abraham Lincoln***

***because I don’t think Sarah Palin had ever heard this quotation before the two-week cramming session she completed before the interview

Irony is delicious.  WLS is upset because one manufactured scandal drowned out the The New York Times‘s coverage of the most important unreported story ever.  If you’re of the opinion that the McCain campaign is overstuffed with tactical geniuses dedicated to sitting on the sordid tale of the Annenberg Challenge until closer to the election, listen up, because I’m about to tell a story.

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It is possible, when text messaging with the auto-complete function enabled, to foul up the spelling of ‘philosophy’ so badly that one ends up writing ‘silosorgy.’

As in ‘are you going to the silosorgy talk later?’

I need a phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

Meanwhile, George Will has decided to use the 9/11 anniversary to hate on cops and firefighters. I’m sorry, which side is supposed to be a bunch of tone-deaf elitists?

simple arithmetic that has pushed Vallejo over the brink. Its crisis — a cash flow insufficient to cover contractual obligations — came about because (to use fiscal 2007 figures) each of the 100 firefighters paid $230 a month in union dues and each of the 140 police officers paid $254 a month, giving their unions enormous sums to purchase a compliant city council.

So a police captain receives $306,000 a year in pay and benefits, a lieutenant receives $247,644, and the average for firefighters — 21 of them earn more than $200,000, including overtime — is $171,000. Police and firefighters can store up unused vacation and leave time over their careers and walk away, as one of the more than 20 who recently retired did, with a $370,000 check. Last year, 292 city employees made more than $100,000. And after just five years, all police and firefighters are guaranteed lifetime health benefits.

As for contributing factors, never mind Prop. 13. It’s wise!

via Perlstein.

First, from the Times, a lovely and haunting series of before-and-after panoramas from New York City: first with the WTC and then without.

Second, one of my favorite recent children’s books: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. The book is quiet shading into contemplative, offbeat and even daring in places, and beautifully illustrated. Beware: if you don’t like choking up in front of your kids, make sure you prepare yourself for the conclusion, which reminds me, in its impact, of Art Spiegelman’s iconic New Yorker cover.

[Update: Occasional contributor Bryan Waterman’s memories.]

[Update II: Giblets and Fafnir remember in fafblog fashion.]

This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."