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Anxiety roundup, from D.C. to Islamabad

The U Street corridor has really taken off the last few years, what with all the new restaurants and bars, so it's distressing to read about the midday mayhem triggered by a shooting after a funeral. I thought we were past that sort of thing around here. That feels like 1990 kind of behavior, back when we all had to wear Kevlar if we went for a stroll.

A crime scene at 13th and U? I'll tell you exactly what's at 13th and U: Starbucks.

The thing is, we should all probably worry more than we do. Like about Tehrik-e-Taliban. Never heard of Tehrik-e-Taliban? Read the latest Woodward piece. Apparently these folks are the homegrown Taliban spinoff/sequel/farm team in Pakistan. Also known as the TTP. And not to be confused with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group that planned the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The Pakistanis tried to reassure us that they'd help keep these guys under control. But they aren't making any promises that they will actually be successful in stopping a terrorist attack. Listen to this not entirely confidence-building comment from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari when he met with CIA Director Leon Panetta and Jim Jones:

"If something like that happens," Zardari said defensively, "it doesn't mean that somehow we're suddenly bad people or something. We're still partners."

Actually, no, he was informed. That would be really, really bad for our relationship.

The Woodward series shows Obama as a very reluctant warrior presented with no good options from his generals. Gen. David Petraeus says this is a war that will go on for the rest of our lives and our children's lives.

As ever, we must analyze risk -- geopolitically, militarily, economically. Do you spend a trillion dollars to fight terrorists in Asia? Pull back and hunker down, put up defenses, screen everyone, tap phones, track money transfers, make it more of a police state? Build a missile-defense system, as the GOP wants to do, in case Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or someone else decides to lob nukes our way?

And is it even safe to walk down the street in broad daylight and duck into a Starbucks for a half-caf?

Really, we should all just stay in bed with the covers over our head.

By Joel Achenbach  | September 29, 2010; 7:51 AM ET
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Even Portland, Oregon has homicides. There was the creepy feeling of waiting for the bus where a suburban kid from Milwaukie had been shot dead one weekend evening, near a theater. Going by the high school sidewalk where a kid had been beaten into vegetative condition with a baseball bat. Taco Bell. Bar on Powell.

And this was an almost ridiculously safe city, maybe a dozen homicides a year among a population of 600,000.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 29, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Just don't confuse the People's Front of Judea with the Judean People's Front.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I love listening to Lashkar-e-Taiba on NPR. She has the sexiest accent this side of Sylvia Poggioli.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

Joel, I watched the news last night regarding the restaurants and bars on U St. which had no patrons or very few following the drive by shooting and I thought the workers were brave just to show up for work.

I'm afraid that neighborhood is in for a bad patch, unless a miracle happens and the police can round ALL the shooters in that area. They seem to be indiscriminately insane to me.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 29, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

From the NYT corrections page:

"An article on Tuesday about a poll in which Americans fared poorly in answering questions about religion misspelled the name of a beatified Roman Catholic nun and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She was Mother Teresa, not Theresa."

Give yourself half a point if you missed that one (but I don't think anybody did).

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Joel and Boodle. It's a rare morning when I don't mudge myself.

I got nuthin' to add to the anxiety roundup, as I am generally and philosophically opposed to anxiety. It's not good for my complexion and belies my otherwise cool, dispassionate demeanor.

Scotty, the ark is anchored just off the dock in back of the bunker, so if you and the rest of the local Boodle need it, help yourselves aboard; just mind where you step (we're having a bit of trouble getting a few of the animals to cooperate with the waste elimination program protocols). On Sunday I'll be on a different vessel, but if I should happen to see you and the ark out to sea, I'll get the captain to come to your aid if need be, and transfer you over to our ship (less animals, more spa facilities, though no rock-climbing wall).

I'm still trying to figure out this headline: "Senate GOP blocks bill that would promote less outsourcing." How does one "promote less" of something? Why couldn't it be "reduce" outsourcing? (Never mind the politics of the situation; you know where the GOP's heart lies. In Bangalore. But they still want you to buy American, until every last item is outsourced overseas.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Is this one of those less/fewer or older/eldest trick questions? I always get those wrong.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

DaveotC posted a link to Pearlman's column at the end of the previous kit, but the column was so good it warrants reposting:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Pakistan is the only country ever founded purely as a homeland for Muslims. The "Pure Land" in unsurprisingly a model of dysfunction, hatred and terrorist activity. The folly is trying to reform them or Afghanistan, which relies on supply through Pakistan. I'm firmly in the camp of retrenchment and higher domestic security measures since I am certain that reform in the AfPak region is unmanageable.

Posted by: edbyronadams | September 29, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

A lot of anxiety is based on the perception of control. Sure, statistics tell us that driving a car is one of the most dangerous things you can do, but we, generally, don't worry too much about it because we fool ourselves into thinking that we are such good drivers that nothing bad will happen to us. Shark attacks, not so much.

And this is part of why the government stresses doing stuff like creating emergency preparation kits. While these certainly have valid uses, a lot of this is also about creating a sense of control.

But here's the other thing. Focusing too much on low-level threats can actually make anxiety that much worse. Which is why the "terrorist threat level" business was so questionable. Maybe, sometimes, a certain degree of ignorance really is bliss.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 29, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

And a lot of tolerance to risk is, again, all about the salience. Everybody has heard that statistically, getting on a airplane is much safer than driving a car. But most people don't get as nervous on the beltway (unless, you know, I'm driving) than they do taking off in a 757. Which is what makes terrorism so horribly effective.

I mean, several times as many people as were killed on 9/11 are killed by drunk drivers each year, but the funding to deal with this problem is comparatively tiny. We tolerate these deaths, both because of the false sense of control I mentioned before, but also because they occur in small batches. Is this sensible? Of course not, but it's the way people are.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 29, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. I spend a great deal of time trying to banish the illusion of control in daily life. As I tell the Boy, you can't control what others do; you can only control your own actions and reactions. Adulthood and, particularly, parenthood have borne in upon me the foolishness of my youthful delusions that I have some control over aspects of my life dependent on interaction with others.

Would I avoid the area of your recent shooting? Probably not, without more information than Joel has given here. Do bad things happen randomly, even to good people? Yep. Could they happen to you or me? Yep. Will they? Maybe. Seize the day, rejoice in the moment, and plan for error.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 29, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Front page alert.

dmd, the article about that Pew poll said they deliberately threw in one or two very, very hard questions specifically to test depth of knowledge. I think that "Great Awakening" question was one of them, because it is an extremely obscure event in American history (as opposed to religious history, which virtually nobody studies, which is the entire point of the question). Not only was there a Great Awakening (1725 to 1750), there were no less than THREE more of them, according to wikipedia. So, basically, it wasn't just one Great Awakening most people never heard of, there were FOUR Great Awakenings most people never heard of.

Because were are you going to learn that? Not in any high school. Not in college, unless you specifically study American Protestantism. You sure as he11 aren't going to learn about it in church, because church is just about the very last place any kind of serious pedagogical instruction takes place, especially of a historical nature. So the only place anyone would come across it is in their general reading of U.S. history. And how many people do that?

The whole point of the poll was to establish that people who go to church know less about their own religion than people who don't go. Which means that church is where one practices religion, not where one learns about it. When there is "education," per se, it is often just "bible education," studying the various books of the bible. There's virtually no study whatsoever of anybody else's religion, nor much if any study of the hiostory of one's own religion. For whatever reason, churches just don't teach, they just preach. (I'm not necessarily placing a value judgnment upon that, I'm just saying that's how it is. Whether they *should* offer broader instruction is not for me to say; it's for the adherents to say.) But in general, other than one's own leisure reading, the only way to "learn" about religion is to take some college classes in it.

Nobody ever went to church on a Sunday morning, sang four hymns (badly), put 5 bucks in the plate, and listened to a 45-minute lecture on the theology of Teilhard de Chardin or the differences in termonology of the J, E, P and Dtr authors, and whether J might have been a woman, or took a leisurely tour through the work of Astruc, Semler, Eichhorn, Baur, and Wellhausen, and how their work was brought to England by the likes of Coleridge (Ancient Mariner fame) and George Eliot (Mill on the Floss lady). It just doesn't happen.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

On a global scale, if you want to worry, consider Yemen. My cousin Ellen Knickmeyer, late of the Post Baghdad and Cairo bureaus, recently moved to Yemen "to brush up on her Arabic". Right. She's been filing online stories (Daily Beast, GlobalPost) detailing how Yemen is Al-Qaeda's new home. Scary stuff. Unstable country, corrupt government, haven for terrorism. At least Somalia has stuck to piracy, so far as I know.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 29, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

'Sinner In The Hands Of An Angry God' was required reading in my tenth grade English class. We also read The Scarlett Letter, The Crucible, and Ethan Frome. Gawd, do I hate Puritans.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Coleridge had a role in bringing subversive German scholarship to England?

I tried Teilhard but didn't get anywhere. Was happier with René Dubos, who I suspect may have fallen out of favor.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 29, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Tenth grade, Yello? We did American lit and history in the 11th, but that didn't make it any easier.

The son of a good friend just had to read The Scarlet Letter, and you would have thought the book was going to kill him. Actually, I rather liked that one, but I'm weird that way. Still, no excuse for ignorance.

Posted by: slyness | September 29, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Actually, my uncle (a Methodist minister in Baltimore) is known for sprinkling all sorts of academic material throughout his sermons. But he's somewhat atypical.

Posted by: bobsewell | September 29, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

The Crime Scene is reporting that one arrest has been made and that it is believed that the deceased's funeral had to do with a gang likely drive by. One or two other persons believed to be involved not yet arrested....small comfort to the family of the deceased whose fumeral was the stage.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 29, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Yup, he did, Dave. Georgie Girl, too.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

scc: "the deceased's funeral had NOTHING to do with the ganglikely drive by."

Really bad omission there...

Posted by: VintageLady | September 29, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Come to think of it, it was 11th grade. The department head was a Bible thumper and she loaded up the syllabus with as much religious-themed literature as she could, hence the endless parade of New England Puritans. Fortunately, our teacher was much cooler than Miss Biddy, but she still had to teach the texts.

That was also the year we were supposed to read Moby Dick, an assignment that was honored more in the breach.

Twelfth grade was 'World Literature' which was much cooler. Camus, Sartre, Beckett, Albee.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, 5 bucks? I hope that's got no relation to tithing.

Also, the churches preach, not teach part....maybe in a lot of churches, but not all...being RC is more than going to mass on holy days of obligation, it's the rites and rituals *and* the associated education. Back in the day, CCD covered more than just kneel here, stand here, memorizing the creed, this prayer, that psalm. There was a fair amount of how-we-got-here education. And while I minored in religious studies (majored in internaitonal affairs and the two kind of go hand-in-hand), I learned 14/15 answers prior to college. DC knows a fair amount about other religions (appropriate for her age) but she's well-traveled, and finds her butt in a pew regardless of where we are, what the affiliation of the local church is (she loved Rastafarian services, but who wouldn't, and also likes Southern Baptist for the energy.) Also, you're not getting out of most private high schools without taking at least one class in comparative religion (you'd be surprised how many Jewish and Muslim girls there were in a Catholic high school I attended over 30 years ago....just checked their web page, 43% of this year's crop of students are non-Catholic). The upshot...I think there's hope for a broader segment of society knowing more about religions in general.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 29, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Rolling Stone goes to a Tea Party.

Side-splittingly funny and deeply frightening.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I have the solution, the US needs to sever all ties with all muslim majority
countries -57 of them just like cuba.
Americans should leave muslim countries alone and vice versa.
Otherwise, china will overtake the US and become superpower in 5 years.

Posted by: MumboJumboo | September 29, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

China will become a superpower in 5 years?

I think you might want to check the date on the newspaper you're reading there, Jumboo.

Posted by: byoolin1 | September 29, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

My high school recollection is that reading Hamlet in Jacinto Benavente's Spanish translation was easier than Macbeth in English. Or maybe even Dickens. Thornton Wilder was OK. I suppose he still has a reputation.

I took an introductory New Testament course in college when the course I really wanted was suddenly canceled. First session, the students seemed mostly religiously conservative. The course was not for them. They quickly disappeared.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 29, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

LiT, I agree that Catholic churches do a better job in education. I was mainly talking about Protestant denominations.

When I was in high school and was forced to attend the local Methodist church, I was one of the kids who handled collection. Back then, the general going rate was a buck a head. Nowadays it seems to be 5 bucks a head. I have no idea how many tithe according to some rule or formula, and how many don't. On the rare occasions I go (weddings, funerals, christenings), my wife makes me put in 5 bucks.

I assume most people know that Jews don't take collection? This is because they are forbidden to carry money on the sabbath. Hence, no passing of the plate. Instead, temples and synagogues sell memberships, and you "buy" a seat during the high holy days, pretty much the same as they do at FedEx Field and the Verizon center: the more you pay the better the seat.

My #1 dottir and her inlaws support their Episcopal parish extensively, but I am not privy to the amounts or the methods thereof. My wife (Methodist church) puts an envelope in the plate each week, but I have no clue how much (in part since I don't go, and it's none of my business).

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I understand the causal link between U.S. involvement in "muslim countries" and Chinese hegemony, but what the heck.

Posted by: bobsewell | September 29, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yello, not a fan of the puritans either, but loved The Crucible, but I am a fan of Arthur Miller so a little biased.

Can't recall the year we studied The Crucible, our english course went on themes, not areas - all that I remember was Grade 12, Hamlet, Heart of Darkness and a year of similarly themed poems, plays, short stories. It was a long year - there was a reason Shakespeare employed comic relief!

Help sought, older daughter is already looking forward to English next semester, on the list of literature - To Kill a Mockingbird and she is currently debating whether to read it ahead of time or wait. What she asked me was what book she should read for her own novel study - last year on my recommendation she read "The Book of Negroes" and says it changed her. She is quite sensitive and can often be heard wailing in her room as she is reading - it is nothing for her to rant for hours on the positive or negative aspects of a book/character etc.

She likes fantasy, ancient greek/roman stories.

I have recommended Les Miserables but it might be too emotional for her.


Posted by: dmd3 | September 29, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Hugo's novel are not well put together, IMHO. All these asides, diversion and historical notes bother me. Maybe the translators, wisely, dispose of this garbage and the novels get to the point without all that zigzaging.

John LeCarré's "Honourable School Boy", or any other of his early work really, might interest her.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 29, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Anything by Kurt Vonnegut, but start with Slaughterhouse Five. Steinbeck is still popular on reading lists, mostly because some of his books are very short. Night by Elie Wiesel is also brief but poignant.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Don't let her read Zola. Or Flaubert. I remember finishing a Zola novel one evening and just sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. There seemed nothing else to do.

I got over it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 29, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, "The Book of Negroes" was a title too challenging for sensitive American ears/eyes. Published here as "Someone Knows My Name”.

I'm childishly amused that the URL apparently refers to a "booktit".

Posted by: bobsewell | September 29, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Funny you should mention The Honourable Schoolboy, shriek. I've been reading it on the bus for the past few weeks, my third or fourth time through. Am on page 460, nearing the end.

But do you think it can be read stand-alone, without first having read Tinker, Tailor, to set it all up? As a stand-alone Le Carre, how about "A Small Town in Germany" instead?

dmd: John Knowles' "A Separate Peace." Salinger's "Franny and Zooey." William Goldman's "The Princess Bride" and "The Temple of Gold." Ingemar Bergman's "Four Screenplays."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I love you all!

bob, what is really funny is the title of that book, "The Book of Negroes" - is so important to the story - it is a real book! One copy kept in the Library of Congress the other in I believe Shelburne, NS at the Black History museum. Yes the title is degrading in today's society - that is the point - it is the story of how difficult life was for the slaves, to put it mildly - the description of the boats used to bring the slaves to America was one of the tougher things I have read.

Sorry I tried to stay away from the title change as it really irks me, not unlike the epilogue in St. Joan that Shaw wrote to appease US audiences :-)

Posted by: dmd3 | September 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

True Curmudgeon, TTSS would be the better choice. I read THSB as my first LeCarré (I was maybe 16) and fell badly for him.

Flaubert's good Ivansmom. An artist of the sentence. But it is generally boring, absolutely.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 29, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

dmd3. To Kill a Mockingbird, now and later as well. I wish I could send her my copy of the movie, I hope you can find one for after she reads the book. If she reads it, I know you will have good discussions along the way. One of the top books for anybody, I think.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 29, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I hope they re-brand the "chilies negros" because they stopped selling them around here. It merely means a very dark dried chili.

I got all the questions except transsubstantiation. I always get that confused with the big bang and fish on Fridays, both of which views changed in my lifetime. But not that one.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 29, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I found a hardback copy of the screenplay for "To Kill a Mockingbird" in a flea market in New jersey this past summer. Never knew the screenplay had been printed by anyone, but it was.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Dickens, lots of Dickens-before some teacher can ruin it (if it hasn't already been done).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 29, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to thank yellojkt for the recommendation of the Rolling Stone tea party article. It's great. I've forwarded the link to several folks.

Posted by: bobsewell | September 29, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, been thinking about that lack of religious education thing. Maybe it's misinformation that's the problem. Might have been useful if the survery had included a question about Opus Dei or Knights Templar, see if the Dan Browns of the world are part of the problem, inadvertantly or not.

Also, "my wife makes me...." Does she teach classes? I can scratch up a coupla bucks....

Posted by: LostInThought | September 29, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

dmd, how about "The Queen's Gambit" by Walter Tevis? Coming-of-age novel about a young female chess genius. See's_Gambit_(novel)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Yello, just read the first page of the Rolling Stone Tea Party article. It is not surprising.

The most angry people I have talked to are typical of the folks in the article. Sure, they collect government money and benefits, but THEY EARNED IT! They are GOOD TAX-PAYING AMERICANS. The "other" folks, who should lose all the stuff the Tea-Partiers get, are most certainly NOT.

It has nothing to do with the color of the "others" skin, either. Just ask them.

Posted by: baldinho | September 29, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I'll ask her, LiT, since the real estate business has been in the tank lately. Maybe that should be her new career.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Although I suppose I should point out her success rate with husbands is only .500. She's 1 for 2.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Echo Bob's thanks to yello for the Rolling Stone article. I just finished reading it over an early lunch. The author's "comic relief" helped with my digestion.

Wonderful books suggestions. I agree about Dickens and would also suggest Austen, naturally.

Posted by: talitha1 | September 29, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Dickens would be my second recommendation, I was lucky and had an outstanding English teacher who made reading Great Expectations a delight, also like A Tale of Two Cities. My SIL is a PhD in Victorian English/Dickens so I grew up with an appreciation for the stories.

I also thought of Austen but she is not really a romantic, loves history though.

I keep telling her to read the Princess Bride as we have watched the movie countless times.

A tip for those of you with younger children/grandchildren - The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is fabulous, challenging vocabulary for younger ones to read on their own but a great story to read to them.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 29, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Oh I don't want a husband (overgrown children with golf clubs and a paycheck?). I want men to do what I tell them.

Besides, that she tossed one back shows good sense. If you get the new shoes home before noticing how cheap the heel is, you take them back. (Too many of us who were raised in homes where money was tight were taught "Don't throw it away. Fix it! Repeatedly!" It took me way too long to realize that you can only fix the toaster so many times before it's best just to toss it to the curb and get another.)

Posted by: LostInThought | September 29, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

dmd, that sounds an awful lot like my younger reading tastes. :)

Flaubert. *shudder* I think Madame Bovary was my least-favorite assigned reading in school. Catch-22 in 12th grade was probably my favorite.

I'd suggest the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey (start with the original trilogy). The Wind's Twelve Quarters by Ursula LeGuin (short stories) is a fantasy/sci-fi blend, but was one of the first books I remember reading that really made me think. The Forgotten Realms Dark Elf trilogy by R. A. Salvatore is also good, but it's a bit, well, dark.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | September 29, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The mention of Flaubert sent me searching for a quote I remember only partially. I didn't find the one I was looking for but I got lost in 150 others from letters, novels and his great posthumous "Dictionary of Received Ideas" while munching on my excellent Italian Fall Stew leftovers.
He had such a dark, biting humour.
Priests: sleep with their servant and call their offsprings nephews.
Erection: only said when talking about monuments.
Boneheads: those that do not think like you
Morons: closer to the everage man than the later is to a genius.
The quote I was looking for is the last sentence of a letter to a friend (He wrote a LOT of letters). It goes something like this: Sorry for this long letter, I do not have the time to make it shorter as the postman is about to leave.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 29, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I own not one single golf club.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

They've found that moon landing footage in Australia.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Shriek, the quote is often attributed to Mark Twain: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Before him, it is attributed to Lincoln but also to Pascal: "I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter."

It is also speculated that St. Augustine wrote it, and then before him it is said to be from Cicero.


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

There's a quote from Blaise Pascal that's similar:

"Reverend fathers, my letters were not wont either to be so prolix, or to follow so closely on one another. Want of time must plead my excuse for both of these faults. The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter."

For those who can make use of it, the original goes something like:

"Mes Révérends Pères, mes lettres n'avaient pas accoutumé de se suivre de si près, ni d'être si étendues. Le peu de temps que j'ai eu a été cause de l'un et de l'autre. Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte."

Posted by: bobsewell | September 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Just realized it sounds like I'm bitter and blaming my dad for the men in my life. But really, it's not his fault, even if I did take his lessons and apply them more generally than he intended. I just don't want to share a bathroom.

Mudge, that you don't have golf clubs isn't that much of a surprise. I thought golf was a ridiculously expensive hobby that takes up way too much time. Then I learned about motor boats and classic cars.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha, this is why I couldn't find it! I enjoyed the trip in his real quotations anyway.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 29, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I was horribly traumatized as a young child, LiT, by golf. Where I grew up there were two golf courses nearby, and my father insisted my younger brother and I go become caddies, on the theory that we would learn about hard work and the sheer joy of earning money by becoming human pack animals. So we went and became caddies, although we were both marginally too small to do it well. One Saturday afternoon I was one of the few guys still left in the caddy shack (yes!) when the Archbishop of Phila. came in with three other guys. There were only two caddies left, so I had to carry double-bag for the Archie and his pal. Carrying a single bag was tough enough for my small stature but double-bag on a 6,000-yard course was Oliver Twist-horrible, especvially since they kept shanking their drives into the rough, so my course down the fairway looked like the patch of a convoy zig-zagging through a U-boat wolfpack on the way to Murmansk.

I have harbored strong resentment against both golf and archbishops ever since. I was the only one who cheered when Richard Burton got stabbed in Becket.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

dmd, have her read To Kill a Mockingbird now and later. It's the best book ever written about the South, and one that will last.

You know Austen will always been on my list. She's probably too old for Alcott, whom I loved when I was 10-11. She probably ought to read Little Women because it's the classic, though.

Sherlock Holmes...a great read because the short stories are quick to get through. A Study in Scarlet is a great novella, that and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Posted by: slyness | September 29, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse


The Forsyte Saga
Cry, The Beloved Country
The Riders
*definitely* The Honourable Schoolboy (my all time absolutely favorite of the Karla Trilogy)
Cutting for Stone (that made *me* cry, FCOL)

more to come, as I think on it.

Posted by: ftb3 | September 29, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Southern writers (and I agree about Mockingbird, btw), what do any boodlers who have read her think of Flannery O'Connor? I know the southern gothic genre is disdained in some circles.

I also enjoyed reading Carson McMullers back in the day. Bailey White, who used to read her essays on NPR and have them published on Smithsonian's backpage, is Georgia woman whose work I dearly love.

Posted by: talitha1 | September 29, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, thanks for the link to the Rolling Stone article. I'm shaking my head as I smile. Ivansdad saw a poll the other day in which a significant number of people (a) blamed the Republicans for economic collapse and (b) thought things would get better if the Republicans win in November.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 29, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I revere O'Connor and McCullers, particularly The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Square Root of Wonderful.

Posted by: Yoki | September 29, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I have never shared a bathroom. In fact, she denies that mine even exists.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 29, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I love that an anxiety kit provokes great books to recall or to read anew.

Must tap the keys for pennies, so off. Perhaps I can knit up a few of these great threads.

Smoochies, rather than disatrahoochies, as our Brag might say.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | September 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Rd, when someone adores you so much they deny you need to pee, well, you're a lucky guy.

Posted by: -dbG- | September 29, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine just e-mailed me some sign suggestions for the Big Rally:

"Sanity, Not Hannity!"

"Taking America Back from Americans"

"Colbert? I thought you said 'Cold Beer'!"

"Immigrants, Muslims, and Gays, Oh My!"

"This sign is spelled correctly."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, thanks!

I can tie a couple of threads together here. The Rolling Stone article induces more anxiety in my psyche than the U Street shootings. I'm not a stranger to the latter having lived in DC and Baltimore for 20 years. Those teafolk (and I know a few) are fn spooky, though.
And then some!

Posted by: talitha1 | September 29, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I personally think that the signs for the 10/30 rally should be as benign, yet biting, as possible. Also, I think some enterprising photog should document as many signs as possible. It would make a great flip-book. ;)

Posted by: talitha1 | September 29, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I will suggest that to the Geekdottir,'re right about it making a great book.

The inability of older white Americans to see and understand is breathtakingly sad and scary. Why are they so afraid of change? It's not like they haven't been through it all their lives.

Posted by: slyness | September 29, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Just read the Rolling Stone article.

*trying to keep my lunch down*

Posted by: ftb3 | September 29, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh no dbG. It isn't that. It's just that my wife and I have a radically different notion of what it means to clean a bathroom. She dislikes being reminded that I do not keep mine as clean as she would like.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 29, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I've been thinking about that, too, slyness, in the last hour or so since I read the article. I'm not sure "change" is more than a small fraction of the answer.

We're always getting reminders in various leadership courses and stuff about how "People don't like change." I hear it all the time, and I think its overly simplistic. But be that as it may, you ask what they are afraid of, because they've been through it all their lives. Yes, they have -- and that might have been part of the answer. What changes have they experienced that are good? What have been bad? First, start off looking at it negatively (the glass is half empty): what changes have the seen? The world has gotten vastly more complicated, beyond their understanding. The country is overrun with them furriners and , you know, "them." (Hispanics, blacks, gays, etc., all of whom used to be invisble back in the day.) The economy has collapsed on them, at the very end of their careers or in retirement, when they can do least about it. The culture around them has gotten coarse, vulgar, complicated. The relative comfort of the media has changed from a small handful of trusted and beloved sources (Uncle Walter, Huintley and Brinkley, the staid, gray, reliable newspaper) where there were only three or four channels to chose from, and all the programmking was nice and safe. There were no drugs (prior to about 1965 or 1966). There was no sexual revolution and girls getting knocked up (if they did, it was hushed and the girl got spirited out of town); now, everybody's preganant and having a spawn of kids out of wedlock (40% for white girls, 70% for black girls). The only war they knew about was WWII, and we won that one. (Korea was largely forgotten.) By and large, politicians kept their pants on and their zippers shut. Political discourse was civil. Men took their hats off indoors, and shaved. No news magazine ever had a photo of Doris Day getting out of a limo and showing her bare hoo-ha.

So compared to all that what changes have been good? If one has been bombarded with negatives, it is hard to say what's improved. So the message they have received is basically that change has been mostly for the worse.

Then I started wondering about the other thing the article seemed to be saying, possibly by implication: How can these people be so dumb? How can they believe such patent crapola?

And there has to be some answer to that, and I don't think anyone has quite found it yet. But I want to advance a theory, which is that no, these people aren't especially "dumb," any more than the rest of us. What I think the answer is, is that these people are simply overwhelmed by the totality of modern life and modern culture.


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Earning a living does cut into cleaning time, doesn't it?

Posted by: -dbG- | September 29, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

This older white American is not afraid of change. I voted for Obama and am still proud that I did. The only thing I'm afraid of is Republicans back in power.

Posted by: Manon1 | September 29, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Mudge-I beg to differ about there being no girls getting knocked up, or if there were the girls were spirited out of town. Far more common, happening often enough in fact to be common, was the young marriage followed by a "premature" birth.

I think aging naturally makes people wary of change, and it also erases the bad memories that would produce positive attitudes about the value of change.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 29, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of anxiety, I recall being appalled by John Lukacs' "Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture". The city was booming, economically and culturally, in 1900. The First World War dismembered Hungary and left Budapest struggling. The second war left much of the city in ruins. The 1956 uprising bequeathed many fine Budapest natives to the United States. It's amazing there was anything left by the end of communism.

I could have just supposed that nutty royalty, Communists, and Fascist/Nazis were European problems that wouldn't have happened in the US. But if Budapest was doing so well in 1900, a period when the industrial US wasn't a happy place and the South had become a land of peasants clearing every bit of ground to grow cotton, wasn't there room to be thankful that the US had somehow remained democratic and had periodically reformed itself?

Our successful past leads us to suppose the future will be easy, maybe just a matter of going back to the recent, wonderful past.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 29, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

It isn't just change, per se, whether good or ill; it is also all the incredible "noise" of our culture, the saturation of media, the thousands of choices one has to make where before there were only a few. 600 TV channels isn't a blessing, its a curse. A thousand sources of news from Twitter to Facebook to the InterTubes isn't good, it's bad because it is too much, too unmanageable, too new, too fragmented, too complicated, in short simply too much to manage.

Life isn't "harder" now than it was then, but it is more "complicated" by a long shot. That's why Taibbe kept finding people who wanted to "go back" to the way it was. They don't want to go back because it was "better" back then, though they probably would agree to that; they want to go back because they could manage everything back then, and they can't handle the complexity of today.

So the bombardment of modern life becomes in many ways a kind of shell-shock, and the retreat into the past doesn't require any kind of rational thinking. Taibbe pointed out several examples of the inability to process the hypocracy: the woman in the wheelchair on Medicare who want less government and no government handouts. He calls it "narcissism," but I think it is more than that. Those people aren't stupid -- but they are shell-shocked into a state where they are unable to process complex thought. Thus the resort to simple-minded cliches and formulas such as the thought that "I've earned my wheelchair" but all those others haven't. I'm beginning to think that isn't "stupidity" nor is it hypocracy; I'm beginning to think is simply the brain shutting down because it is overwhelmed. It is the only answer I can think of as to why someone cannot solve a relatively simple, uncomplicated question. It's like asking the woman in the wheelchair what is 6 plus 6, and she simply cannot get to 12, yet she's not "stupid."

All those people in the Tea Party and in the far right generally aren't "stupid"; yet they make dumb statements and like candidates who are likewise dumb and simple-minded. But why? There has to be an answer why people who aren't "dumb" think dumb things. (And of course, they get really pissed off if you say they are dumb. At some fundamental level they know they aren't dumb. But they don't know they say and think dumb things.)

"Dumb" isn't the answer, nor is "narcissistic." But they just can't handle complexity and the overwhelming noise of our modern culture.

Anyway, that's my theory.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Dickens? Depends. My introduction was Great Expectations, in which the author had the great expectations that readers would slog through chapter after chapter of little import before all the threads would come together in a great roaring surprise climax at the end. And you have to be wary about someone who would treat offer the Jewish stereotype in Oliver Twist. In other words, his quality varies.

Instead I wasted my youth on science fiction. A lot of it was trash. So much of it was trash that SF Author T Sturgeon felt compelled to defend it in Sturgeon's Law, "Yes, 90% of science fiction is crud. 90% of everything is crud." (How many of the composers of Mozarts era have been completely and justly forgotten?)

SF did, however, introduce me to other societies at a time when my education was so focused on our own society that one would think nothing else was worthy of attention. It prepared me to study anthropology before I knew of anthropology. (And you might be amused to know that now many anthropologists return the favor and study cyberspace and other SFnal virtual worlds.)

The SF with the greatest impact was for me Asimov's Foundation series - the idea that there might be cycles of history and patterns of social behavior, set initially within a small, struggling frontier world of a vast decaying empire, led by scientists, structured like a series of mystery stories - what's not to like? The I Robot books are pretty good too.

But for the early teen, you can't beat Heinlein's juveniles. I've got Podkayne of Mars in readiness, waiting for my daughter to reach the right age.

Posted by: j3hess | September 29, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Mudge, but you lost me at Doris Day's hoo-ha. No power on earth can convince me that Doris Day possessed any such thing. I watched her go through screen marriages to Jimmy Stewart, James Garner, Rock Hudson, Rod Taylor, and many others and at no time was there the slightest indication that Ms. Day had even a hint of a hoo, much less the full hoo-ha article.

Posted by: kguy1 | September 29, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

OK, frosti, I agree and would amend that sometimes the happy couple ran off and got married and disguised the pregnancy, yes. That was also an option. But what I meant was, the situation was made "invisible" one way or another, because to do otherwise was a horrible scandal.

I would like to see a poll that asked, "Do you think the world is a better place now than it was 50 years ago," and see how the different age cohorts respond. I bet the 60-and-olders say "He11, no!" and the 40-and-unders say "Hell, yes!" both in overwhelming numbers.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

'mudge, I recall a great deal of bitterness about the Korea "police action" (a particularly detested term).

Thinking of complexity, I'm reminded of a local street with the mandatory wheelchair-accessible sidewalks. There's one regular motorized-wheelchair user. He avoids the sidewalk, preferring the bike lane.

I'm in a town where there's sometimes fierce opposition to sidewalks. During construction of a one-mile sidewalk this summer, I noted that surveyors' stakes had popped up marking the street right of way, which was wide enough to four-lane the street as well as add the sidewalk.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 29, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

There is a great deal in what you say, Mudge. On one level these folks are dumb and, as the article's author says, full of sh*t. However, that can't be the whole explanation. There are a lot of people, mostly middle-aged (gulp, my age bracket!) and older, mostly white, mostly middle-class or lower income, who just don't understand the world any more. Some people just don't want to understand it - I mean they don't see why they should change or grow themselves in order to meet the world. They don't want things to be complex. It must be tremendously tempting to think how much easier or more comfortable life would be if only things were more familiar, with fewer choices and more certainty.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 29, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, how many of those folks that Taibbe interviewed or overhead in Kentucky do you suppose actually tap into the "complexity" of news/information, especially via the internet? And I mean in an objective, logical reading and analysis of the information. I may be underestimating them but I'd be willing to bet their "news" is Faux and the tab settings on their computers aren't an Achenblog.

I get your point about the "noise" involved in daily life but there is such a thing as discretion and selectivity. And, like Manon said, I'm an older white American who seems able to handle the "change" pretty well. Unless we revert to Republican control ... after that, all bets are off.

(Besides, I've just had a little more personal change in my life than I needed right now!)

Hey, Manon - how are you?

Posted by: talitha1 | September 29, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

That's what I'm saying, kguy-- Doris never had a hoo-ha. Even now, it is a purely hypothetical notion, an "construct," if you will. Remember, hoo-has weren't even invited until Hugh Hefner put them into his magazine. And sex wasn't invented until Woodstock. And Philip Roth invented m@sturb@tion -- I clearly remember reading about it. That's what I'm saying-- the world was so much simpler back then before we had any of that stuff.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

j3hess, I am smiling my SIL MA thesis was on the furnishings in Dickens novels - a big part of all that slog.

I liked your insights on SF, a genre that has never been able to capture me, two siblings were huge fans so it was easily accessible, just found it all to cold for my taste but I loved the slog in Great Expectations - different tastes.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 29, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to reverse mudge myself:

"I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin." - Oscar Levant

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I don't think many of them do tap into it, talitha, but that doesn't mean they aren't aware that it is out there. I think the point about the increased noise level and complexity is that one can't escape it, in the sense of being aware of it. They might not tap into it themselves--but their children and god knoes their grandchildren have. And they know that: they know their kids and grandkids live a completely different world than they do, and they mourn that fact.

Yes, their news is Faux, absolutely. But not because it is rightwing; it is because it taps into their "values." That's what all the talk about "family values" is about. It isn't about having "good" values in modern times; it is abhout having 1950s values inside a 1950s time warp. That's what they want, perhaps without being fully aware of it. I suspect that knowledge of what they've lost ("Paradis Lost") is only of the things that stokes their anger, perhaps on a subconscious level. I feel some of that anger myself, sometimes.

But not all of us are quite so shell-shocked, talitha. Some of us can handle complexity just fine. How much is nature and how much nurture I don't know.

Read Parker's somewhat odd column today. She's talking about how she was a small-town girl who came to the big city, and got gobsmacked by big city rules and regulations. She incorrectly associates it with Democrats and Big Government and, of course, Obama (it's all his fault life is loud and complex, see). But she seems to think there are no rules and regulations and social mores in small-town America, at least few or none imposed by a strong central government. (At one point she says the dumbest thing she's ever written: that after coming to the big city she thought, "So this is what it's like to live in Red China." Really.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Here's a fascinating (IMHO) paradox: Some people are born and raised in small towns/rural America, and love it, wish they could "go back" there in time, live there now, etc., Others who grew up in the same places found them to be horrible, stuffing, boring, and could wait to get the he11 out of Dodge. Why the disparity?

Similiarly, there are born-and-bred city people who love it, and would dream in a thousand years of moving out to the burbs or the boonies, and would rather die first. They love cities. And there are others who feel swamped and overwhelmed by cities, and can't wait to get out, to get away. Again, why the disparity?

What role does the small town versus big city orientation affect one's political views? Discuss.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

New kit

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 29, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

A triple mudge. I'm impressed.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 29, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The furnishings, dmd3? Now I begin to get it. Would you say that one of the attractions is that Dickens offered a voyeuristic peek behind the doors of different social classes? Or the consumerist pleasures of browsing a good mail order catalog?

I've a bit of an engineering bent - the desire to take off the decorative cover panels to see how the device behind them works. But socially, the decor IS part of how the whole thing works. What did you conclude about the furnishings in Dickens?

Posted by: j3hess | September 29, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

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