Commonplace Book, June 2007

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE by Nelson Algren
THE BEST OF H.P. LOVECRAFT (Del Ray edition; introduction by Robert Bloch)


"They (superheroes) are our post-industrial folklore, and, as such, they mean much more to people than a few minutes' idle amusement. They're part of the psychic family. The public and apparently callous slaying of one of their number was, to some, a vicious attack on the special part of their souls that needs awe, magic, and heroism."
(Dennis O'Neil, A Lonely Place of Dying)

“Merit pay, or compensating teachers for classroom performance rather than their years on the job and coursework completed, found some support in the 1980s among policy makers and school administrators, who saw it as a way to encourage good teachers to work harder and to weed out the bad ones. But teachers saw it as a gimmick used by principals to reward cronies based on favoritism.”
(The New York Times)
“How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. ... How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? .... It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really, really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted.
(Joss Whedon , on his blog)

“The disappointment of “Nancy Drew,” which was directed by Andrew Fleming and written by Mr. Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen, is that it trusts neither its heroine nor its audience enough to approach its material with the confidence and conviction that Carolyn Keene, the pseudonymous author of the Nancy Drew books, brought to the franchise...“Nancy Drew” corrupts the clean, functional, grown-up style of the books with the kind of cute, pseudo-smart self-consciousness that has sadly become the default setting for contemporary juvenile popular culture produced by insecure, immature adults.
(review by in The New York Times)

“The war in Iraq would be over in a week if the insurgents wore uniforms. Instead, they hide in plain sight, and Iraqi and American soldiers have no means of checking the true identity and history of anyone they stop....
Any time a car is stopped in the United States, the police run an immediate check. The New York Police Department tracks criminal trends by neighborhood and block in a real time database called Compstat. The Chicago police have handheld devices that send fingerprints over the airwaves and get a response in minutes. So do our border police. But in Iraq, for four years our units have been forced to concoct their own identification databases using laptops, spreadsheets and poster boards. At any one time, the military is conducting dozens of separate census operations. Houses are labeled by one unit and relabeled by the next.
Meanwhile, it is common for an Iraqi civilian to carry two or three IDs with different names. The result: Last year 400,000 coalition and Iraqi troops made fewer than 40,000 arrests; in contrast, 22,000 New York City patrolmen made more than 500,000 spot checks and 313,000 arrests.”
(Op-Ed in the New York Times, 6/15/07)

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
(Horace Mann, motto of Antioch College, closing after 150 years, which before the Civil War adopted race-neutral admissions)

“Antioch became like one of those Essene communities in the Judean desert in the first century after Christ that, convinced of their own purity, died out while waiting for a golden age that never came.... I grieve for Antioch the way I grieve for the hope of 1968 washed away in a tide of self-inflated rhetoric, self-righteousness and self-indulgence....The ideals of social justice and economic fairness we embraced then are still right and deeply American. The discipline to turn those ideals into realities was what Antioch, its community and the generation it led was lacking.”
(Michael Goldfarb)
Reading this week:

THE RIGHT MADNESS by James Crumley

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