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The Sun Magazine: Island of the Damned

In North Carolina a nice person passed along a magazine called The Sun. It's a kind of back-to-nature literary journal -- by its own description, a "non-profit, ad-free monthly magazine that publishes an eclectic mix of personal essays, fiction, interviews, poetry, and photographs." The editor, Sy Safransky, refuses to start running ads, preferring to rely on subscriptions and donations. Readers also write their own mini-essays on a single, open-ended topic announced in advance, such as "Waking Up" and "Nothing to Lose" and "The Bedroom."

The July issue carries a great essay by Jack Hitt about the island of Nauru (the link takes you to an excerpt). It's a chilling tale of modern industrial civilization and a once-lovely place that is gradually committing suicide:

"I witnessed something rare and mysterious, even terrifying: the people have dug up and sold off the interior of their homeland in order to compete in the new global economy.... [L]ike a runaway innocent, she has spent her beauty too easily, and now she's lost her only asset. The options are grim. The end is coming quickly, and it's impossible not to watch."

For more about The Sun, click here. Here's the Wiki entry on Jack Hitt.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 1, 2006; 9:01 AM ET
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"announced in advanced"

Posted by: Tom fan | September 1, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I love Sy's dream about his cat Nimbus:

". . . she reminded me to calm down and pay attention. Eventually I got it right. Then the brightness swallowed me."


Posted by: Dreamer | September 1, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Wow, that Jack Hitt piece is indeed good.

I started looking at that interview with Sam Harris in the Sun. Sounded a bit like a conversation I'd been a part of recently...


Posted by: bc | September 1, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The Sun looks wonderful. And I can certainly see the family resemblance between it and the Boodle. Further, I really like the notion that the Boodle can be viewed as free-form literary journal. This interpretation certainly seems way more flattering than the more common description of the Boodle as an enabler of creative work avoidance.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 1, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I used to love using Nauru as the highest per capita income nation as a useless trivia tidbit. I had no idea they had fallen on such hard times. I don't think the excerpt makes it explicit enough, but the phosphate industry is based on the island's location along migratory bird routes. The natives are selling bird guano to support themselves. Once it's all gone, that's it. The metaphor level is off the scale for any society living off of wealth based on happy accidents of geography.

Western Florida also has a thriving phosphate industry. There is a lot of industrial pollution associated with the strip mining and open pit digging of this resource. The mounds of trails along State Road 60 are some of the highest points in Florida.

A few closed mines have been converted to public parks with lakes, but that is a small benefit from permananantly scarring hundreds of square miles of Florida scrub.

The phosphate is used to make fertilizer that is sold to Iowa farmers to raise corn to feed pigs and chickens and the waste and run-off from these industrial farms pollutes and kills the Chesapeake, among other waterways. It's like a circle of death, except without cute Disney animals singing about it.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 1, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"So that's how you eat a popsicle when you know you're dying.
And from a distance I watched him as if I had all the time
in the world."

That brought tears to my eyes.

I don't buy magazines anymore. It was a cost cutting measure a few years ago, when the boys were eating us out of house and home. There are a few that I miss, like the Beaver magazine and Natty Geo. I have been thinking that maybe its time to have some subscriptions again. The Sun is going to have to go into consideration for a subscription. It looks very good.

Posted by: dr | September 1, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

It seems like, at this point, the only workable solution for Nauru is to sell the entirety of the island for mineral value, split the money among the remaining Nauruans and simply leave. Buy elsewhere. Give up. The whole thing is going to be under water in about 20 years, anyway, from what I recall hearing about the observed rate of sea-level rising.

Come to think of it, maybe that was Tuvalu that is almost under water. Or was it Vanuatu? Dang! In any case, what they need is Tonga's plague that Hitt describes -- they need a plague of obesity so that they can simply float away when the waters come. Or, maybe, we could actually do something intelligent about humanity's impact on the planet. That seems so unlikely, however (not to mention, it's too late), that I'm putting my stock on sales of fattening foods to Pacific islands as a solution for sea-level rising.

As stewards of the planet, we're doing fine. The planet will be here long after we're gone. Mission accomplished! As stewards of humanity, we're doing not so well.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 1, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

You can have a vacation in San Antonio without six inches of rain--we've had a bit more than that *for the year*.

Nov 05 .20
Dec 05 .10
Jan 06 .35
Feb 06 .62
Mar 06 1.36
Apr 06 1.40
May 06 3.80
Jun 06 1.63
Jul 06 1.41
Aug 06 .03

I'm afraid that you can't go whitewater rafting as there is no whitewater. Probably just enough to float your boat, um, kayak. Wear your helment, because should you tumble, you'll either hit lots of mud or exposed rock. Retreating shorelines of local lakes, exposing long submerged blanched skeletons of trees, make the local news.

For the calendar year. 10.6 inches--for millions of people, pets and livestock--with triple-digit temperatures almost every day in August. I'm reading about Ernesto and weeping.

Googled the web to see that Black Dahlia, set in late 1940s Los Angeles, was filmed in Bulgaria, of all places. That's what I call an "extraordinary rendition"--turning a former Iron Curtain country into the City of Angels.

Hope the North Carolina pub makes it. After Ms. magazine went ad-free, it went into a decline of sorts.

Anyone see Katie receive the baton last night? She was dressed in a white blouse under a back school-girl jumper. She was in the garb of a 14 year-old. She will definitely need help in the wardrobe department.

Posted by: Loomis | September 1, 2006 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The news, as regards obesity, is not good in Micronesia, and Tongo is already at the epicenter of the obesity epidemic:

According to WHO estimates, more than 75% of women over the age of 30 are now overweight in countries as diverse as Barbados, Egypt, Malta, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States. Estimates are similar for men, with over 75% now overweight in, for example, Argentina, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, New Zealand, Samoa, and the United Kingdom. Notably, the Western Pacific islands of Nauru and Tonga have the highest global prevalence of overweight where nine out of every 10 adults are overweight.

"The sheer magnitude of the overweight and obesity problem is staggering," said Dr Catherine Le-Galès Camus, WHO Assistant Director-General of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. "The rapid increase of overweight and obesity in many low and middle income countries foretells an overwhelming chronic disease burden in these countries in the next 10 to 20 years, if action is not taken now."

Posted by: Loomis | September 1, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Fairly recent study:

Overweight in the Pacific: links between foreign dependence, global food trade, and obesity in the Federated States of Micronesia

Susan Cassels
Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, University of Washington, Box 353412, Seattle WA 98195, USA
Globalization and Health 2006, 2:10 doi:10.1186/1744-8603-2-10
Published 11 July 2006

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has received considerable attention for their alarming rates of overweight and obesity. On Kosrae, one of the four districts in the FSM, 88% of adults aged 20 or older are overweight (BMI > 25), 59% are obese (BMI > 30), and 24% are extremely obese (BMI > 35). Recent genetic studies in Kosrae have shown that obesity is a highly heritable trait, and more work is underway to identify obesity genes in humans.

However, less attention has been given to potential social and developmental causes of obesity in the FSM. This paper outlines the long history of foreign rule and social change over the last 100 years, and suggests that a combination of dietary change influenced by foreigners, dependence on foreign aid, and the ease of global food trade contributed to poor diet and increased rates of obesity in Micronesia. The last section of the paper highlights the Pacific tuna trade as an example of how foreign dependence and global food trade exacerbates their obesity epidemic.

Posted by: Loomis | September 1, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Not to be more contrarian than usual, but I didn't like the Jack Hitt excerpt very much. First, he begins with a long and (to me) boring series of cheap shots about James Michener's novel "Hawaii," which he ironically castigates as being long and boring. (While I'd agree it wasn't high literature, I liked "Hawaii," notwithstanding it had two really good-but-tasteful sex scenes back in the day when these were relatively rare in books you could read on the bus.) But whether you agree or disagree about Michener and "Hawaii," it was all just showing off and had nothing to do with where Hitt was going.

I also thouight he was unnecessarily snarky about a lot of stuff, such as: "The shore was lined with the usual tall palms (which might have swayed in the breeze had there been one)...." C'mon--he's criticizing the island because the effing breeze wasn't blowing that day? That's not good journalism or good travel writing; not even Paul Theroux is that snotty. He complains about the his run-down hotel, the only one on the island, and the fact that the third-rate golf course only has nine holes. But of course if the island had had a Taj Mahal swank, posh hotel and a Greg Norman-designed 18-hole golf course, then he'd had turned up his nose at that as some sort of excess, too, the native wasting their money on glitz and glamour, etc. It's a cheap-shot game anybody can play.

Yes, the island's got lots of problems, and he describes them. But he's also showing off quite a bit first.

The magazine, The Sun, though, does look pretty interesting, and it has another long excerpt/interview with Sam Harris that bc alluded to that I thought was pretty interesting, at . But I wouldn't recommend it for the more religous amongst the boodle--it is pretty inflammatory.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 1, 2006 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"A free-form literary journal and enabler of creative work avoidance, with the motto 'Clouds are hard', the Kit n' Boodle enriches the virtual community with a mixture of science, humor, eclectic philosophy, news of the world, umbrage, and the continuing adventures of Mr. Stripey."

I think Joel deserves a raise for fostering such an asset to WaPo.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 1, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, hear, hear.

ScienceTim, Eureka! Everyone with elevated BMI, outta the ocean! Not all at once, mind you, or sea levels will drop too suddenly.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 1, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Mudge, I thought that he was going to Hitt out at the Naurutians after the whole "Helenbogdan" thing, and figured that he was going to make it a lark, like a Weingarten phone call. Made me chuckle, looked to me to be well-written (FWIW) and I learned a few things , so I gave it a thumbs up.

The piece makes me think of the whole mid-Pacific island data haven/electronic banking thing that became popular in the late 90's in dotcom boom media like "Wired".

Speaking of snortworthy, I found Peter Carlson's Sign 'O the Times in Style this morning to be so:


Posted by: bc | September 1, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I *heart* the Jack Hitt excerpt, 'mudge.
And I don't think he's criticizing or complaining so much as *describing* -- and he's describing an unfolding tragedy, not a potential vacation destination. He doesn't condemn; he pities.

[Wait -- maybe that was *faux* umbrage? Never mind . . .]

Posted by: Dreamer | September 1, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

*Tim, a I have a question about your proposed solution to the sea level rise issue.

To SoC's point, wouldn't several fleets of overweight people in the Pacific cause the global sea level to rise even more?

I think there's some methane-powered solution to this right under our noses.


Posted by: bc | September 1, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Veering off-topic for a moment...

I read the obit for Joseph Stefano yesterday in the SF Chronicle, and noticed it was (well-)written by the Post's Adam Bernstein. It included this wonderful detail about the man who wrote the screenplay for "Psycho" and was a writer and producer for "The Outer Limits":

"Mr. Stefano had an enormous sheet-music collection and once spent five hours challenging pianist Michael Feinstein about who could name increasingly obscure Tin Pan Alley songs."

Posted by: ac in sj | September 1, 2006 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Mr. Stripey. I must report that last night, inspired by the pumpkin-like visage of Barry Manilow, Mr. Stripey underwent drastic plastic surgery. Significant amounts of saggy tissue were removed. This procedure, while aggressive, was not at the level commonly known as "Riverish." The surgery was undertaken to minimize the possibility of further fungal damage given the anticipated rainfall. In other words, it was done purely for medicinal reasons.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 1, 2006 11:06 AM | Report abuse

It seems most of the school systems in our area are closed or closing early. Mine isn't. I may have to swim from my trailer to the main building on my way out. Ernesto is really throwing my weekend off.

Posted by: a bea c | September 1, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

This has to be one of the slowest boodle days in history...

Posted by: a bea c | September 1, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned The Outer Limits. (cue the theramin music)

Posted by: ac in sj | September 1, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is over at the Sun reading stuff.

Posted by: dr | September 1, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

dr, I know I was for a while. The bit by Safransky hit home, and I also read Harris' piece.

Hope your day is better today.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 1, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

You want some action? You want Tonga women?

May I present you Sonia Belle, one of my regular bloggers, who lives on Tonga, is not a fat whale, and never wears any clothes, even when traveling:

Caution: not safe for work! (but great if you bored at work!)

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 1, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I thought the Helenbogdon thing was a cheap shot, too, in part because I answer my work phone the same way, Firstnamelastname. I suspect a lot of people do, and I don't think it requires any comment in an of itself. That the island has a PR flack (and one who makes those kinds of pre-emptory decisions)--sure, go for it. But Helenbogdon was a cheap shot. And raises the question, how does Jack Hitt answer his phone -- and what are the odds somebody could make fun of it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 1, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Boodle is in sad shape today because of:

a) Lots of hangovers from BPH.
b) Downer kit topic that makes Global Warming Tuesday seem uplifting.
c) Everybody out buying enough milk, bread and toilet paper to ride out Ernesto.
d) Government employees and contractors working extra hard on day before a major holiday weekend and don't have time to goof-off.
e) All of the above.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 1, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes it is a quiet day around here. Perhaps it is the rain, or the need to prepare for the three day weekend. Or the kit, although entertaining, simply doesn't lend itself to detailed commentary.

Which leads us to off-topic stuff. For example, this development makes me quite sad because my children visited this place every summer of their lives.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 1, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

You guys are absolutely correct. Now that I see the pics. of the BPH/BHBH, I am doubly sad that I couldn't attend last night. I had intended to come, but this impending bad weather forced me to do some much needed, and long avoided, maintenance on a gutter that was coming loose. So, I was up on an extension ladder, tools and supplies dangling every which way, cursing my procrastination. As darkness fell, I cursed that, too. There I was, three stories up, securing a loose gutter by the light of a flashlight. What kind of knucklehead am I?

Mudge, I didn't answer your question yesterday about the seemingly weird connection between "good times long since gone" and snakes at a wedding, etc. What I was lamenting was fact that I haven't seen my brothers and sisters and their respective families in quite a while. Even the goofball that loves his snakes can be quite endearing. It's just the DC rat race syndrome, and the fact that they are half a country away makes it hard to connect with them. It seems that the folks on the Boodle are the only ones that I have any real sense of connectedness to. Even at that, it's frustrated by work. Work interferes with everything that I really want to do in life.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | September 1, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Don, Oh man do I hear you. Everything I am rails at being at this desk today - everday actually- but it is compouneded by the fact that I like to have a roof over my head, books, clothes, and well stuff. Dagnabit.

Guess what. I found some fingers today and a half a right foot at least. I'm sure that litre of Bailey's has something to do with it. The new motto on my desk is that if you are going to lose someone's paperwork, DON"T lose the boss' daughter's.

Posted by: dr | September 1, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I think this Kit might wind up provoking comment, after we've had a chance to digest the Sun (boy, what a great image!). However, right now I feel like I can barely type, much less come up with anything witty, clever, mildly entertaining, not actually embarrassing, or coherent.

Of course, I'll selflessly post something anyway, just to give other idle Boodlers thirty seconds of activity.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 1, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Mudgeon here"
"Cur speaking"
Yeah, Mudge knows best.

Posted by: Dr. Where | September 1, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I love The Sun - I've received it for a few years now. I especially enjoy the section called "readers write". Some of the entries can bring me to tears, though.

Another magazine that's got some good writing and cultural articles is The Oxford American. Their summer music issue kicks a** and includes a CD.

Posted by: MizPattay | September 1, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Hiya MizPattay, welcome!

Some of us have been letting our PCs cool off after processing the BBPH pics...


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 1, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Mudge on the Helenbogdon thing in Hitt's article, also because that's how I answer my phone (although it did make me wonder how I sound to other people--then I decided I didn't care). And I thought the lengthy "Hawaii" reference was quite pointless, although I had some hopes that, maybe by the end of the article, it ties back in to the story in some way.

I have long considered visiting some of the Pacific islands, though, just so I can be the smallest person in the room for once!

Posted by: Dooley | September 1, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

In reading the link about the doomed island, I thought about the county I live in, and how we're digging ourselves out of house and home. We have two huge plants that dig the sand and whatever else that is from both ends of the county. On one end you have pits so deep, one could probably see hell. On the other end, the folks that own that, bought up the adjacent land to dig even more. And I am told that they use dynamite to blast this place. This has been going on for many, many, years, so I suspect we're looking a lot like the island in Witt's doomsday piece. LOF, a corporation, I'm assuming claims the sand here is the best for making glass. They haul that stuff so many times a day in huge trucks, and they're constantly digging. Riding by the place at night, it looks like a city, it's so lit up and busy. On the other end of the county, these folks bought out the homeowners and pretend to test the water regularly, which makes me very afraid of this company. One never hears what the results of these test are though. Don't need to go to island, the writer could have visited his home state, and wrote the same thing. Of course, I don't think we're laundering money, but hey, what do I know?

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 1, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Boy, Cassandra, that sounds scary -- particularly the water part. On the bright side, they're probably not laundering money. It is much harder to do that in the U.S. these days, so the sums have to be really big as an incentive. But what do I know? Maybe an obscure sand-mining operation is the perfect legitimate cover, and you're not that far from the Florida coast (sorry, Floridians, but drug crimes ARE frequent there). I've told law students for years that they need to approach local street gangs and offer to take those stacks of drug and weapons cash and help invest them in legitimate businesses -- become financial advisers, really. Of course the down side if you make your bosses mad is pretty bad.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 1, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link to Nauru, Joel. This article dovetails the current book I'm reading, Collapse by Jared Diamond. His Guns, Germs, and Steel won a Pulitzer.The latest is quite edifying also.

There is more to the story of Nauru than appeared in the excerpt by Hitt. Nauru was a place Afghani refugees ended up the first years after 9-11, whom no other nation would take in, and lived in pretty awful camps there for a while. The whole story is vague and troubling. And also not mentioned is how a recent president of Nauru died suddenly in D.C. following emergency heart surgery following a meeting with officials of the current administration. Odd, and tragic for the reeling country as well. Of course, any more rise in sea level will cause the end of Nauru.
The Web has much on this, the Guardian being one source. (this from memory..)

Posted by: Jumper | September 1, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I was thinking the same thing. The island is certainly smaller but is that not what we do all over the place, but we just have more land to...umm...ruin?

Posted by: dr | September 1, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

more bph/bbph pics!

boy, last nite was a HOOT! good times! good times! firsttimeblogger, i'm sorry if i scared you off!! (i was pretty hyper and rowdy last nite...)

and yello - don't start those rumours! bc is a married man!

Posted by: mo | September 1, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I was proud that I had the biggest, baddest umbrella on the block until just a few minutes ago a gust came along and suddenly I was spinning and weaving and lurching and basically just getting yanked all over creation, right up to the scary point of almost doing a Mary Poppins. Seriously if you see a UFO that looks like a blogger, that means a gust got me. I finally resorted to collapsing the umbrella and getting wet. Wet is better than Poppins.

Mudge is correct that the Michener portion of the article is unnecessary at best, and indeed the excerpt doesn't really capture the way the piece builds to tragedy. Yellojkt mentions the highest per-capita income factoid, which actually reveals something very telling about economic statistics. The economists aren't very good about factoring in environmental destruction. Thus you can have a booming economy, wonderful growth, high income, even as in the grand scheme of things you are becoming impoverished.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 1, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

government employees working hard? on a friday? before a holiday weekend? that's something i'd like to see. my office is DEAD today.

Posted by: sparks | September 1, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Last night my neighbor Angus was claiming that a tree might fall on his house. I explained that this was impossible, since a tree had ALREADY fallen on his house, and in its place there is only a sapling. He said no, that tree over yonder. He pointed out a tree that, were it to fall, might manage to brush his front porch with the topmost leaf of its canopy. But this is what happens when a tree falls on your house once: Forever after, trees look closer, and menacing, and you can't trust 'em. Seriously that tree he pointed to couldn't hurt him unless it learned to walk.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 1, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Another problem on Pacific islands is non-native plants and animals. The elaborate HEAR website covers the plants.

A literary approach to invasives in Britain is taken by Book Works, a tiny publisher:

New Scientist's review last week says this book on aliens has a truly weird anecdote about drowned eastern grey squirrels at Kensington Palace.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | September 1, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I raised a glass or two last night to y'all as a Brooding Boodle Porcher, good pitchers yello.
Esnesto's very mild leftovers are supposed to show up Sunday or Monday but who cares? It's going to be a declawed kitten by the time it reaches the North Eastern Hinterland, as usual. Only once in a while do we get harsh weather from hurricanes, the last time was Hazel in the fifties. Mudge wrote a nice nostalgia piece about that one if I remember correctly. Something about his mother, brother, a bus and an old department stores in Philly.
LindaLoo, I don't want to gloat or give you rain envy, but the grass has never been greener here. By August we expect the lawn to be a nice golden colour and the lawnmower stored until the September and October rainy bits but not this year, no sir. We got rain on a consistent basis so the flipping grass is still growing like nobody's business. It's a record year for weeds as well, of course. I can't barely see the pumpkin plants in the garden. Oh well, hang tough and your turn will come, hopefully before the whole place has dried up to a crisp or you are reduced to using the swill out of the San-Antonio river.
The plight of the people on Nauru is not that different than that of any people relying on non-renewable natural resources, except that their ancestors inhabited the island before the resources were exploited. "Company town" based on a mine, quarry or oil wells all have to shut down when the resource is depleted, it happens all the time. When a mine is opened and a town established the seed of the town's closure has been sowed. The people of Nauru blew their chance with the help of greedy advisers and investment bankers, no doubts. Lawyers were most certainly involved as well, with excuses to SoC, PLS and Ivansmom. But the number of people is probably pretty small compared to Pakistani or Bangladeshi villages that are facing similar and/or worse plight. We are moved by their sad destiny because of the romantic image of this paradisiacal island in a remote area of the Pacific. Do I see a young Brooke Shields with a grass skirt and coconut bra ? Man she was good looking in that lousy flick.
Enough rambling, I've got to finish up that coffee and get back in the wheel with my fellow (snarky) squirrels.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | September 1, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks mo! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 1, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Achenbach: //Thus you can have a booming economy, wonderful growth, high income, even as in the grand scheme of things you are becoming impoverished.//

How do you measure the happiness of a country's citizens?

Simple: multiply Life Satisfaction by Life Expectancy, and divide by Ecological Footprint.

Like this:

(Life satisfaction X Life expectancy)/ Ecological Footprint

GDP per capita, level of industrialization, and other economic rankings? Forget that! That does not make us happy.

Don't believe me. Look up the Happy Planet Index (HPI):

The results: Vanuatu, a little Pacific archipelago, came out on top of the rankings.

Among the G8 countries, Italy did 'best' at a mediocre 66th place. The UK is 108th, France is 129th, and the US is in 150th place. Russia fared worst, at 172nd.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 1, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Shrieking, my lawn is a candidate for the Ugliest Lawn in America Contest. I keep telling myself it's just dormant. Yeah. "Just dormant." Like about as dormant as Martin Van Buren.

OK, not that anyone asked for it, but the approach of even a Tropical Despondency like Ernesto compels me to post the famous tale (well, famous on my block!) of Angus and the Killer Tree (Style section, Sept. 20, 2003):

As we drove around in the storm Thursday night, taking the measure of Isabel, my friend Angus Yates was a bit worried that a giant tree might topple over and crush his house. He wanted to make sure he got back to the neighborhood before that happened.

He succeeded.

The trees on our street in Palisades are willow oaks. They're behemoths. Thomas Jefferson loved this type of tree, which has a perfect, cartoonish V-shape, the trunk rising for a couple of stories before splitting into multiple trunks that finally, high above the houses, open into broad canopies.

This tree has the astonishing ability to survive on a patch of urban turf not much larger than a beach towel. The tree in front of the Yates house extruded preposterously from the tiny rectangle of city property between the sidewalk and the curb. You'd look at it and think: Is that thing safe?

This is a part of town where most people have office jobs and have long since lost the ability to work a chain saw, much less (do they still make such things?) an ax. There was a time, long ago, when people understood that a tree was merely the temporary condition of lumber. A tree was the larval stage of a stump.

Now, we hug trees. Hardly anyone sees trees for what they are: an urban terror, intrinsically deceptive, seemingly inert, stately and well-grounded -- until that horrible moment when they decide to get funky with some gravity.

The tree in front of Angus and Sissy Yates's house is easily 75 years old, and neighborhood lore puts its planting at 1918. What's certain is that it's 121/2 feet in circumference. We measured it Friday morning at a point on the trunk three feet "off the ground," to use a term that by then had ceased to have a literal meaning.

When you live in the shadow of such a tree you have to tell yourself that it has a vast subterranean infrastructure, and that through some natural genetic gift it is designed to remain erect even in powerful storms. We take solace in the belief that there are secret systems and backup networks that protect us. Surely the tree had its act together.

Nonetheless no one parked a car on the street as Hurricane Isabel approached. A huge, diseased willow oak just down the street had fallen a few weeks earlier. No one completely trusted the trees. The prudent residents slept in rooms downstairs or away from the street. The rest of the Yates household -- Sissy and the three kids (Angus, Jack, Josie) -- did just that, camping out in the dining room. But Angus, an Emmy-award-winning film and television producer, has been known to court danger (he is always helicoptering through exotic places like New Zealand and Patagonia) and had already survived several hours driving through the storm and dodging road debris with his reporter buddy. At 1 in the morning he was upstairs in his bedroom reading a biography and keeping an eye on the old tree just out the window.

"It's doing the hula," he says, reconstructing the moment. "It's doing this unnatural rhythmic gyration. It's making that strainer sound, of wind blowing through fishing nets."

He closed the book and began to doze.

The wind intensified. The willow oaks rocked and thrashed. They were now fully mobile.

What no one knew at this point, but what would become apparent moments later, was that the mighty willow oak by the Yates home had a root system that you'd expect to find on an azalea. This thing was a 70-foot candle stuck in a birthday cake.

"I heard this enormous crack -- it sounded like someone taking a head of lettuce and twisting it."

He looked out the window and saw something that no sane human being ever wants to see: a homicidal oak coming right for him.

"I saw the whole thing coming into the window. That's when it gets reflexive. I don't know what propelled me out of bed. In midair I felt the spray of glass shards pepper my body."

The house broke the fall of the tree admirably, but a single branch, thick as an elephant's trunk, rammed through the window directly next to Angus's bed, protruding 55 inches into the room. It was as though it wanted to grab its victim and yank him outside.

Prone on the floor, waiting for the full impact of the giant tree, Angus thought, "This is it." The it that need not speak its name. The big one. The final and irremediable smushing.

[Hint to delicate readers who at this point in the narrative may be hyperventilating with fear that the protagonist will die. He doesn't! The tree, however, is not going to make it.]

So what is it like, we ask (sitting in his garage the next day, where he's working his cell phone and still trying to get the glass out of his back), when you have that "This is it" moment?

"You go from a full audit and appraisal of that instant -- this is all happening in milliseconds -- then that goes into a realization that you're going to die, and then the last thought is, 'I wonder what it's going to feel like.' "

And then he was alive, and thought of Sissy and the kids, and ran downstairs. "This is bad, the tree's come down on the house," he said, and they all took shelter in the rear garage.

But suddenly no place seemed safe.

The willow oaks were silhouetted against a sky glowing pale orange from the lights of Georgetown, each tree seemingly larger than ever, impossibly tall, and bucking madly -- monsters raging at the foolish and pathetic mortals who dared eke out a miserable existence at their ankles.

I ran over and we all dashed back to my house, and somehow through the miracle of youthful innocence the kids were soon asleep again.

Josie, the 3-year-old, briefly woke up, announced, "That was freaky," and went back to sleep.

The men with the chain saws were already on hand by yesterday afternoon. The sun came out. The sun had never shined much on the Yates yard, and the grass had always struggled to grow. At least, said Angus, this'll be good for the lawn.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 1, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

You still there, Joel? The WaPo front page has the following headline up: "Potomac AP Barrior Cracked." Please phone the copy desk and tell them how to spell barrier (they managed to get it right inside).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 1, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Don't really know why I'm posting this, as it has no relevance to anything mentioned today; if anything, it's carry-over from the, whatshername, Katherine Harris?, stuff from a couple days ago. Mostly, I just like this quote.

"Religion can be perverted into magic so that instead of self-dedication to God, it becomes the attempt to gain power over the divine and make it subservient to one's own will."
-Josef Pieper

Posted by: tangent | September 1, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

That is my nightmare. That trees will come visit me one night and I will be to late to stop them at the roof. The trees around my house are at least 100 years old, we counted rings in a birch that fell after a late spring snow storm in 1997. Mr.dr is always trying to convince me that 100 foot trees can't reach the house across a 20 foot lawn, but I'm not buying it.

Posted by: dr | September 1, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, we got an early out, so I'm outa here. yellojkt wrote: "Government employees and contractors working extra hard on day before a major holiday weekend and don't have time to goof-off," which is just about the funniest thing on this boodle in weeks.

We're starting a week-long vacation tomorrow, driving to Charleston and Savannah areas, so my boodling will be minimal to non-existent for the next week or so. Everybody try to stay reasonably dry. Joel, sorry to hear about your umbrella; why don't you tell the boodlers about it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 1, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey mo -- no, I'm not at all scared off (or even by you LOL). There's really not much that rattles me (or even you LOL LOL LOL). It was fun last night -- even if I take *terrible* pictures. (more yuck yuck yuck)

Nice group of boodlers we have here. It might, yes just possibly might, be the *nicest* (mostly) blog in creation. Hmmm, I wonder what Katherine Harris might think about the "creation" part. (shudder)

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | September 1, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Not to brag or anything, but I think my son outscored Potomac HS on the AP tests. He got a 5 in Calculus AB and a 4 in American Government. This year he is tackling Calculus BC, World History, and Physics C. He won't take the English AP test (which is what I think Potomac HS was offering) until his senior year.

I use news stories like this to impress on him the advantages in life he has been given.

The article quoted a 16 year old student who is being treated as a hero. Since English AP is usually taken as a senior, it surprises me she is still in school there. I also think its great that schools in economically depressed areas are pushing for some academic success stories.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 1, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

superfrenchie, I didn't look at the methodology of that index, but it sure resulted heavily in favour of Latin America. Colombia (#2), Cuba (#6), Honduras (#7), Guatemala (#8) and El Salvador (#9)

tangent, further to your quote, read the Sam Harris interview linked by Mudge at 10:36.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 1, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the comments, Joel, and for the scary tree story. I've had to cut down 4 trees since I moved back home because they were sick and dangerously close to the house, or encroaching on the roof. Although I'm a big tree fan, and left three alone until they actually pushed shingles aside, when push came to eaves it was better them than me. Now all I have to worry about is crazed labrador retrievers picking up their doghouse and water bin and throwing them through the windows.
I'm not really worried about that -- our dogs aren't smart enough. If they were border collies or poodles, I'd be in trouble.
I really like the image of Joel and a giant umbrella, floating like Mary Poppins only sideways and upside down with the wind. I carry a golf umbrella -- I'm short enough that I look like an umbrella with legs. Because I'm so short, though, I'm too close to the ground for the umbrella to turn inside out in all but the worst storm.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 1, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

When I lived in Florida, I had a very tall dead pine tree in my yard fall and miss the house by about 10 feet. My boss loved the opportunity to fire up his chain saw. I don't remember what happened to the wood. It was worthless to me since I didn't have a fireplace.

A pine tree even closer to my house was looking pretty sick, but I treated it for ants and feed it tree food spikes for a few months and nursed it back to health.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 1, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

We have a ficus tree that is on our property but growing over the fence to also shade our neighbor's yard. In a storm a couple of years ago, one of the branches broke off and ended up on our neighbor's roof. We helped him clean the debris off his roof and lawn, and we were all still friends. He asked if we would mind if he cut the tree back to prevent further incidents. We said, sure, no problem. Now it's kind of a hobby for him, he attacks the tree periodically with a machete. He's Haitian, and he knows what he's doing with that machete. Chain saw? We don't need no stinkin chain saw!

Posted by: kbertocci | September 1, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for directing me to Mudge's earlier post. I should probably clarify. I am a Christian, but I have no tolerance for those, such as Katherine Harris and to some extent, Bush, who hide behind and propagate perverted Christian beliefs. Atrocities have been committed by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, (fill in any other religion here), and atheists, all in the name of their ideology. However, for Sam Harris to say that, given the choice, he would annahilate all religion before rape, is, IMHO, pretty extreme.
Sorry, didn't really mean to get on a religious stream, as I know many of the boodlers find it tiresome.

Posted by: tangent | September 1, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Years ago, during hurricane Bob, my ex and I "rode it out" at our summer home on Cape Cod. In the front yard was a beautiful, very large Tulip tree. My daughter and I were really fearful that it would go down in the storm so were keeping a very close watch on it. One great gust of wind made the grass all around the tree undulate, a very spooky sight, and we thought for sure that the tree was a goner. It lost one very large limb, but survived. My ex couldn't understand why we weren't worried about the house rather than the tree. We replied that the house could be rebuilt, but we would never have been able to duplicate that tree in our lifetime.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 1, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm in a townhouse in the middle of a fairly long row, if I ever have tree trouble there's something REALLY wrong...


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 1, 2006 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The BPH pictures feature a "Dr. T". Who dat? I thought I was Dr. T!

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 1, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Dr. T is Mr. TBG (we shortened it and he's a dr so...) don't worry scitim - he only breeched the bph, not the boodle - you are still OUR Dr. T!

i bought my first (and only) house in maryland the day before the last big hurricane - it has something like 23 trees (most are smaller cyprus trees that ring the backyard) and my first thought after signing all that paperwork (the hurricane started during the closing!) was GREAT! now i have all those darn trees to worry about! none came down... but now one of the bigger trees (not sure what kind but it's a big 'un) is diseased... we are putting off cutting it down cuz we love the trees but... (i don't live in the house, my mother does...)

Posted by: mo | September 1, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

during isabel, we had a tree come down on the house diagonal to our back yard. completely destroyed the house. I was in a photography class at the time, so it made for some cool work for my portfolio, but if the wind had been blowing the other way, 'twould have been us.

Posted by: sparks | September 1, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

There is, at this moment, a large pin oak loitering in my front yard and looking at the roof of my house with ill-intent. Perhaps I have put off getting it pruned a bit too long.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 1, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Hi, team -- big fun at the BPH last night. Hesitate to give too many details lest those geographically isolated from the center of the boodle universe suffer spasms of jealousy. But it was fun to meet everyone! (except Mudge, who had to leave before I could get there, spent a few minutes gnashing my teeth about that). Thanks again for the warm welcome. And happy birthdays again to all the late-August celebrants.

Sorry for the delayed thanks. Feeling extremely low-energy today. More later.

Posted by: annie | September 1, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Annie, we geographically isloated boodlers suffer extremem angst over our isolatededneseses, but we are working on that. SofC came up with a name for us...but I don't remember what it was.

I am sneaking out of work a little early. Its the last man in the building thing, and its not my turn to stay late, even if I am the only one here.

Have a great weekend, boodlers and kitter extraordinaire.

Posted by: dr | September 1, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Isabel was a cool event for paleontologists. Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, MD got a fossil baleen whale skeleton that was exposed by the storm, that's now on exhibit. My museum got a fossil sea turtle from Westmoreland State Park after the same storm; it goes on exhibit next year.

Actually, the first fossil whale I ever prepared (in 1990) was originally exposed by flooding from Hurricane Camille in Hanover County.

Posted by: Dooley | September 1, 2006 5:44 PM | Report abuse

There are about a half dozen mature trees on the Padouk estate. Despite my treating them with love and high-nitrogen fertilizer spikes, they show me nothing but disdain. Not only do they litter my yard each Fall with their noisome dropppings, but on days like this they cast their branches down like wooden spears. I am afraid to walk outside to comfort poor Mr. Stripey for fear of impalement.
Plus this big umbrella thingy keeps buzzing the house.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 1, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

All this talk of felled trees is making the woodworker inside me wish he had a sawmill. Do you have any idea how much hardwood goes for?

Here are some retail prices for 1.5 x 3.5 (dimensional 2x4) per linear FOOT from a local sawmill I deal with:

oak - $3.74
maple - $5.16
cherry - $5.71
walnut - $6.57

I'll leave it up to the mathematicians here to calculate how much Joel's friend's tree would have been worth.

Do yourself and woodworkers of America a favor -- before you haul out the chainsaw and turn a hardwood tree into firewood, call a sawmill. Chances are they'll PAY you to come get it.

Posted by: martooni | September 1, 2006 6:02 PM | Report abuse

When my mother's maiden aunts were compelled by eminent domain to leave the family farm and homestead in upstate NY, my Aunt Marjie (a sharp cookie) compelled the State to recompense them for the black walnut orchard tree-by-tree at fair-market value. The value of the land-plus-house, plus orchard, plus the water rights on which no one had collected any rent in a century, paid for several decades of comfortable retirement in Florida. Not much of that money left, however, so I am spared the embarrassment of being a moneyed fop. What little is left will be consumed in the first couple years of my mother's retirement.

As of the mid-70's, I seem to recall that a mature black walnut went for something like $5K. So, follow martooni's advice and sell your hardwoods when they fall on your house. Unfortunately, all we have left at our house is a Bradford pear (which is leaning so as to fall on the phone lines, not the house) and a modest red maple. Our neighbors have a very substantial oak, so they'll be sitting pretty, should they survive the impact of the tree on their roof. If their tree should fall so as to damage my roof, I'll sell them my umbrage for the resale value of the tree (assuming my insurance fixes my house).

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 1, 2006 6:17 PM | Report abuse

mmmm... black walnut...

I'd have to buy all new blades to work with that (I'm mostly set up for softer woods like pine and cedar).

I used to rent office space in an old building here in Youngstown that used to be the local headquarters for the electric company. The entire building was done in black walnut, granite and marble. The main lobby has solid black walnut paneling literally from the floor to its 40ft. ceiling.

Fortunately, the guy who owns the building is an architectural buff and knows what needs to be done to preserve it. That lobby space hasn't been rented out in over a decade (he does use it for the occasional party), but he pays his work crew to clean and oil the paneling in that room at least three times a year.

Posted by: martooni | September 1, 2006 6:36 PM | Report abuse

to superfrenchie.
Please don't post links like that.

Posted by: Prude | September 1, 2006 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Oy. Back in '99 we had a supercell pass through the neighborhood while I was at work.

Fortunately, my wife knows that when the sky gets that greenish tint, and the wind starts kicking up, it's time to head for the basement.

So she did, and thank goodness for that. By the time I got home from in the city, the county had just started clearing the main roads of the trees that had been toppled and the limbs that had been snapped off. I had to park a block away and walk home due to neighbor's 60 ft locust tree that had fallen across the street.

I lived in a valley, and the cell's funnel had bounced from hilltop to hilltop over the street, but shearing off the tops of most of the trees in the 'hood and knocking many over. I lost two black locust trees completely, the top 1/3 of a big white oak, and part of a maple. All of my neighbors suffered similar damage, though forunately, no one had injuries or serious house damage. We did with out power for eight days, and because I have a generator, I became Mr. Popularity and the temporary home for a lot of frozen food.

I also have a chain saw, and went through a lot of 2 stroke gas/oil mix and completely wore out a chain.

We sold several cords of wood, and I had to enlarge the pedestal of the woodpile to hold the four cords of oak we kept.

Though it was a tiring week, it was fun as the community pulled together get rid of fallen limbs, fix windows, mend fences, and replace rooftiles.

And barbecue a *lot* of defrosting food (my freezers can only hold so much).

I was glad to see those that BPHed with us last night, and spared a thought for those that didn't.


Posted by: bc | September 1, 2006 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, I liked your quote also. Ah, the egocentric uses of power!

Hugo in '89 brought down a bunch of trees in the yard; I still have the photo of the ex sitting on the pile of wood on the street, 120 feet long, four feet high, four feet deep. Mostly pine, though, so it wasn't good for burning. In fact, trees over the whole city were decimated and it took about six months for them all to be cleaned up and hauled away. Hugo hit on September 22; I remember that we had a hot dog supper and fun for the kids at church for Halloween because it simply wasn't safe to walk on the streets anywhere.

Posted by: Slyness | September 1, 2006 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to second the post by "Prude." On this blog, the key to reknown is smarts, not smut.

Posted by: nellie | September 1, 2006 9:31 PM | Report abuse

As the civilized, sensitive, female-respecting, politically polite gentleman I try to be, I'm with Prude and nellie.

As the meat-eatin', long-haired, red-blooded, tattooed and stewed, heterosexual MAN still breathing that I am... "thanks, SF, for the mammaries".

(good thing I was working in the office alone tonight)

Posted by: martooni | September 1, 2006 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Martooni! And I have your music on my computer! And if I had an Ipod, I would have had your music on it!

Posted by: nellie | September 1, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

I can't really comment on the link, because I'm such a prude I didn't even dare click on it.
(Seeing as I'm a heterosexual woman, I probably wouldn't have gotten much out of doing so.)

But I have to say, I'm with superfrenchie on the American "cheese" issue. I mean, it's *orange*, for goodness' sake! [Ducks for cover.]

Posted by: Tom fan | September 1, 2006 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Great pics of the BPH. Glad to see The Lonemule was there. The cake looked delish! Mmmm, were those rolls of white chocolate? pj, did you ditch your mom on her birthday??? I'm outraged!

Hope everyone in the storm's path is staying safe. I have to say, living with 100 foot tall Douglas firs and bigleaf maples has made me quite suspicious of trees, especially when the wind kicks up. But I still love them and hug them whenever possible.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 1, 2006 10:42 PM | Report abuse

nellie... hahahaha! I read your post and somehow my cigarette shot out of my mouth and burst into a shower of sparks when it hit my monitor.

(SF... I suppose we owe you wine-n-cheese monkeys some credit for "cigarette". sounds feminine, though. got a more masculine version?) ;-)

Hope you'll continue to enjoy the music, nellie, even though I've "come out of the closet" as a straight man with an appreciation for the female anatomy. And just because I bear an uncanny resemblance to the guy on the cover of "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull, that doesn't mean I'm a dirty old bum.


Posted by: martooni | September 1, 2006 10:50 PM | Report abuse

tangent, don't mind the religious post. And I agree with your thinking. people want to use God, but they don't want God to use them. Isn't it sad that we get tired of religion, and talking about our salvation, as if we're going to be here forever.

ivansmom, they say some of those holes are so deep that if one happened to go down it might take days to get out. I'm a full grown woman and they were digging in this place when I screamed in the world. And have not stopped, still digging. the other one is a quarry. these folks tore down a church on the property, and supposedly built the congregation a new church, so small the people can hardly turn around in the bathroom.

and I agree with your thinking about the criminal element. I've always thought that those that deal in the criminal elements of this country, drugs, etc, just lack the better suits of the corporate environment, everything else is the same. the criminal would not be at a loss in the corporate board room, and vice versa. in fact, sometimes I tell young people you need to go to school so you can do whatever it is you do, legal. and that is so sad, it really is. but what I'm trying to tell them is that they have the stuff to succeed in school, and their lives would be so much better.

have a good holiday folks, and enjoy yourselves. tell your family you love them, get some rest, and give God some of your time. good night, sweet dreams.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 1, 2006 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is leaving for holiday, so who's in charge?

When Hugo wrecked Charlotte most of the felled timber was oak. When I went out in the morning to survey the damage in our neighborhood I counted six trees, that were a minimum of 60 in. dbh, down from a vantage point in our front yard. Two of the main thoroughfares leading out of center city are four lane with a 30 ft. median, and they were impassable for at least 3 miles. The side streets were worse. In one neigborhood a woman happened to be in the loo during the storm when a tree fell onto her home. The debris pinned her on the commode. A courageous effort by the Clt. FD freed her some hours later. Slyness might be able to add to that. I hope all of you boodlers north and east of Chester and Charlotte are faring well.

Posted by: jack | September 2, 2006 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I found this on my library's homepage, and thought it might come in handy for you:

I'm sorry to say that of the 100 books every child should hear before entering school, I've only read about 17. Sigh. I didn't realize my reading list was so deficient on that end.

But I was glad to see Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel on the list - one of my absolute favorites, although I'm not even sure why. I loved it as a kid, I loved reading it to my son, and I often pick it for a gift. I bet there's a copy around here somewhere - I may have to refresh my memory (hopefully it holds up - well, it is on the list, after all!).

Anyway, I thought it might have some ideas for you, and maybe for others as well.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 2, 2006 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Martooni - When I went to see Ian Anderson perform locally a few weeks back, I mentioned to someone that I (sort of) knew a couple of guys who are obviously pretty closely related to the "Aqualung" cover model. You was one of the two that I had in mind! : )

Posted by: Bob S. | September 2, 2006 1:12 AM | Report abuse

Bob S., what did you think of Ian Anderson (an orchestral appearance, I'm assuming)? I was a big fan of early Tull (first 3 albums - not so fond of Aqualung and beyond) - but I've never seen Ian Anderson perform.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 2, 2006 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Mostlylurking, I'm only certain of having read 15 of those. Many of those books have been written or otherwise become well known only in the last 20 years. Some I barely remember and wouldn't have said they were the greatest, while others I will remember when I have Alzheimer's.

Harold and the Purple Crayon-- that's the one.

To the list I would add I liked it better than Cat in the Hat.
And there are many other Dr. Seuss books that tickle the fancy of kids even better than the Cat in the Hat.
"And to Think That I saw it on Mulberry Street" was one of my favorites and the one book we owned by Dr. Seuss. Also, "If I ran the Zoo" appealed to me more than "The Cat in the Hat."
Even Bartholomew Stubbins and his thousand Hats...

I would also recommend Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever for a beginning reader, very easy to learn words by visual examples.

Nothing wrong with only reading 20 or so and then adding in lots of oral storytelling.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 2, 2006 1:32 AM | Report abuse

Having lived and worked on Nauru for 9 years as one of those "Aussies" I can say that it is very sad to see how the Island has gone from bad to worse, mostly due to curuption and trying to make a quick buck

Posted by: joetas | September 2, 2006 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Do I remember that rescue, jack? Hooboy, yes, I do...Her husband had to get in the car and go to Station 2 to get help because the phones weren't working. And there they were, in the middle of 90 mph winds, trying to get a mature oak off of her. She was badly injured, with a broken pelvis and ruptured spleen, so there wasn't anything she could do but be patient till they could get her out. Fortunately, the home wasn't but about four blocks from the hospital. After the firefighters got her out and were getting their stuff together, they watched from the front porch as a tree fell on their ladder truck and destroyed it.

That was September 22. I was invited to go to the luncheon they had for her and her family at Station 2 the day before Thanksgiving. She was still using a walker at that point. She told the guys, "Today is Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is just turkey." The memory still brings tears to my eyes.

Posted by: Slyness | September 2, 2006 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Is that Louis the XIV, the Sun King, in the logo of that magazine?

At any rate, a bit different from the Murdoch-owned British newspaper The Sun:

But at least it answers the question of where to look if you want to find something called "the sun" in the UK.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 2, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

bc: I just noticed your comment about the converesation about religion.


And I completely agree with Sam Harris that religion is much worse than rape.

An example? Here is a list of recent wars:

Palestine: Jews vs Muslims
Balkans: (Orthodox Serbians Vs Catholic Croatians and Albanian Muslims)
Northern Ireland (Protestant Vs Catholics)
Sudan (Muslims Vs Christians and animists)
Sri Lanka (Buddhists Vs Hindus)
Indonesia (Muslims Vs Christians)
Caucasus: (Orthodox Vs Muslims)
Ethiopia and Eritrea: Muslims Vs Christians

Show me any other human endeavor as destructive as religion!

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 2, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

bc: I just noticed your comment about the conversation about religion.


And I completely agree with Sam Harris that religion is much worse than rape.

An example? Here is a list of recent wars:

Palestine: Jews vs Muslims
Balkans: (Orthodox Serbians Vs Catholic Croatians and Albanian Muslims)
Northern Ireland (Protestant Vs Catholics)
Sudan (Muslims Vs Christians and animists)
Sri Lanka (Buddhists Vs Hindus)
Indonesia (Muslims Vs Christians)
Caucasus: (Orthodox Vs Muslims)
Ethiopia and Eritrea: Muslims Vs Christians

Show me any other human endeavor as destructive as religion!

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 2, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, I would suspect only men would agree with that assessment of religion vs rape.

If you wiped out rape altogether-- let's see, no polygamous sects subjecting children to child rape. No genocidal rape of muslim women and girls in Sarejevo. No rape then suttee of muslim women during the riots in Gujarat.

Let's face it-- a disregard of human rights promoted by religion always starts with a sheer disregard of women's rights.

I do think the opportunity to oblierate rape would save far more suffering than oblierating all religion would. I speak as somebody who has many friends who have been raped.

ACTUAL Violence vs the possibility of organizing violence in the cause of religion?

I also rather suspect men are so lassiz=faire on the subject of rape because they think hey, guys who go to prison deserve raping, so can't obliterate rape totally?

Secondly, obliterate religion and you would still have prejydice and ethnic cleansing. Just look at Rwanda. I would invite you to read
" Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" by Immaculee Ilibagiza

This book is very clear as to the causes of the genocide and it was not religion. Religion tends to provoke the worst violence when it is considered a mark of ethnicity.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 2, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to write and say I really like your articles. Stepping into Gene's footsteps (whose great in and of himself so missing Dave has nothing to do with anything) may have seemed a bit of a challenge.
I graduated college in '96 and worked at one of those CA Start Ups for a few years plus the whole making a living 'teaching technology' thing. But I was never a surfer.
Then, in order to find you, there were links and words. There are a lot of words and no offense, to other readers, but there are a lot of missed grammer lessons.
I want to say, I lived in Chapel Hill for a short bit between DC stays and the Sun was the closest thing to the City Paper and well, as with many American towns, Chapel Hill is mostly defined by one street... and the Sun was heads above what most small towns produce.
I had a point and then I started trying to surf through all the words to leave a quick message. I am 31 and developed nostalgia. Back in the day, you only posted when you had something to say and it didn't involve a registration moment that asks for evertyhing but your SSN.
I never posted, I didn't have much to say and now I think I want to say something and I realize there is no way you, Washington Post Magazine columnist Joel Achenblach, would ever actually get through all these words.
I love reading, I love words, I use to think the Internet was some research tool you were allowed to use when you got to college, but now there is a lot of talking and advertising and no filter. I've known that it was all headed that way but I was on the site and wanted to give a mild opinion and a thumbs up and now I feel the need to provide a soliloquy. (if you have an audience..)
I was trying to find you and all I could think about is symbiosis. In Aristotle's day there was water etc. but not many words. Very, very few written words. Now there are lots and lots, I had no idea how much scanning and scrolling had to go on. I wanted to give a thumbs up and as I plowed through a simple search, I kept thinking about my econ class. We use to choose between guns and butter and I am starting to think my children will be drawing graphs that choose between words and water.

Posted by: gen X and totally out of touch | September 4, 2006 3:58 AM | Report abuse

I am guessing this won't go up and there is actually a filter sitting reading all the commentary. At 4 in the morning? Who are you and how am I gen X and totally out of touch.
Definitely creative but am I really... surprised.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 4, 2006 4:14 AM | Report abuse

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