Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Imaginary Grievances

Much as I still bare a grudge against Christopher Hitchens, it will be a sad day when cancer gets him because on that day we will lose a very strong and articulate voice -- a wrong voice from time to time, to be sure, but one that has the capacity to sum it all up in captivating and satisfying ways. As, for example, in his exegesis of Glenn Beck:

In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention.

Concerns of this kind are not confined to the Tea Party belt. Late professors Arthur Schlesinger and Samuel Huntington both published books expressing misgivings about, respectively,multiculturalism and rapid demographic change. But these were phrased so carefully as almost to avoid starting the argument they flirted with. More recently, almost every European country has seen the emergence of populist parties that call upon nativism and give vent to the idea that the majority population now feels itself unwelcome in its own country. The ugliness of Islamic fundamentalism in particular has given energy and direction to such movements. It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it. Saturday's rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Everything is always for sale

Awesome ebay auction that I randomly stumbled upon:

About a decade ago a local public library
switched from the old library card catalog file system of looking up where to find books in the library, to a computer system of doing so. Instead of throwing out all the old cards the head librarian saved a few and sent them to the author who wrote the book listed on it, asking the author to autograph the card and send it back to the library so they could sell the cards as a fundraiser.

Most authors didn't respond.

Kurt Vonnegut did.
I'm not certain that Vonnegut would approve of the price tag, but it's a cool item nonetheless.