Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why We Fight?: Historicizing the American War Machine

Ira and I just watched Why We Fight an excellent BBC-produced documentary about U.S. militarism and the rise of the military-industrial complex. Although the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Festival and was directed by an American, Eugene Jarecki, I don't think it has had a very high profile in the States. Maybe it hit some of the art-house theaters and I just missed it. With the recent attacks on PBS, I suppose it won't be screened there anytime soon.

That's a shame, because it really deserves a large audience. Ira found it less emotional and more analytic than Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a film with which it will undoubtedly be compared.

I hope Why We Fight comes out on DVD soon, as I'd like to screen it in one of my American Literature and Culture classes. Jarecki's project is to historicze America's post-WWII militarism. The film, which takes it title from a series of Frank Capra-directed propaganda films from 1942 that were used to really support for the war against Nazi Germany, features a useful prologue featuring footage of President Eisenhower's farewell speech. It's always good to remind people that it was a Republican president and a 5-star general, not a 'libreal pinko peacenik,' who first warned about the dangers of a militarized economy.

An aside: I didn't know that Ike opposed dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. The film contrasted Eisenhower's anti-bomb position with Truman's decision to bomb Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. Was Truman really such a hawk. The film suggested that Truman deliberately ignored Japanese attempts to surrender so that he could drop the bomb and send a message to Stalin. Readers who are more knowledgeable in military history: Is this an accurate?

In short, the film was very disturbing for a variety of reasons that I won't go into now. What seemed clear from the interviews was that the Bush Doctrine and its policy of pre-emptive strikes will continue after this administration leaves office.

One final note: Jarecki's previous film was The Trials of Henry Kissinger, a film that I believe was based on Christopher Hitchens' book. I'd love to hear Hitchens' response to this film. Why does Hitchens believe Kissinger should be tried as a war criminal but Rumsfeld, Cheney, and company were right to invade Iraq? Surely he would have to concede with one of the film's key points: the Iraq war was never waged on behalf of the Iraqi people.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Advantages of Treating People Decently

Conservative and neoliberal ideologues in the U.S. claim that the welfare state has become obsolete in an era of globalization. Then they use this claim to justify cutting taxes for the rich and cutting public services for the rest of us. Consequently, the infrastructure for the U.S. is eroding, and many Americans lack decent educations and affordable health care.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, that Toyota chose to place its new assembly plant in Ontario, Canada rather than the U.S., even though several Southern states offered huge financial incentives to lure Toyota there. Why did Toyota execs choose Canada over the U.S.? Too many American workers were functionally illiterate, and the cost of providing health care in the States, where we've got a bloated private health-care bureaucracy, was too high.

Comparing America, where "basic health insurance is a privilege," with Canada, where "it's a right, " Paul Krugman suggests that "treating people decently is sometimes a competitive advantage."

I think I can already hear the right-wingnuts decrying Krugman for being a "Pro-Canuck Commie." Amongst certain circles, of course, it's considered heresy to suggest that that "we, the people" want our government to work for us by raising the quality of life for everybody.

More Krugman: "Funny, isn't it? Pundits tell us that the welfare state is doomed by globalization, that programs like national health insurance have become unsustainable. But Canada's universal health insurance system is handling international competition just fine. It's our own system, which penalizes companies that treat their workers well, that's in trouble."

That last line reminds me of a piece I read in the New York Times last week about Costco's success, which has been attributed in part to its implementing pro-worker policies that make it a sort of "anti-Wal-Mart." Apparently, Wall Street greedheads want to see benefits for Costco employees, who make something like $17/hour, reduced.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Primate Pensioners Enjoy Chimp Haven

Since Social Security is under attack, the people in my generation who aren't wealthy have been told that we'll probably have to work until we die. No wonder, then, that I felt a bit of envy as I read about Chimp Haven, a retirement home for chimpanzees. As a bard once put it, "Apes love that shit"...

From the description, Chimp Haven almost makes it worth enduring the indignities suffered during the production and promotion of 'B.J. and Bear' and other homo sapien entertainments.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Stanley Fish: 'Intentional Neglect'

Just came across this op-ed piece by Stanley Fish which explains why different labels for interpreters of the Constitution such as "originalist," "strict constructionalist," "textualist" and "judicial activist" are misleading. Fish's claim is that anyone who is in the business of "intepreting the Constitution - as opposed to rewriting it" is an "interntionalist." Fish proceeds to use his piece to articulate his "intentionalist" position regarding textual meaning.

If you've followed Fish's work at all, you've heard his arguments about why all meaning is necessarily intentional before. The following passage encapsulates the core of Fish's position: "if you're not looking for what is meant, the notion of something being said or written is incoherent. Intention is not something added to language; it is what must already be assumed if what are otherwise mere physical phenomena (rocks or scratch marks) are to be experienced as language. Intention comes first; language, and with it the possibility of meaning, second. And this means that there can be no "textualist" method, because there is no object - no text without writerly intention - to which would-be textualists could be faithful."

Whatever you think of Fish's claims, and I will admit to being convinced by his argument and the need to distinguish between a text's meaning and it's effects, you have to admire his prose. I've had Fish as a professor, and he has a real knack for unpacking (and knocking down) the claims made in dense and difficult texts.

Here is how Fish is identified at the end of his essay: "Stanley Fish, former head of the English department at Duke University, is a university professor of law at Florida International University." Did Fish intentionally neglect to mention that he recently stepped down as the Dean of the Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago? Whatever the case may be, I bet that position at Florida International U. is a phat one.

Ian McEwan on Terrorism and Collective Memory

I'm filing this Spiegel interview with Ian McEwan, arguably England's foremost novelist, now for use in my Fall Engl 105 class on English and American Fiction. Students will be reading McEwan's Saturday, and I expect that they'll find a lot to reflect upon and discuss in his McEwan's remarks.

One issue I want to dwell upon at some length in my class is the notion a people's "collective memory" can be a source of strength during trying periods in history. In the course of discussing Londoners' generally calm response during and after the terrorist bombings on 7/7, McEwan notes that the city has a "collective memory" of IRA bombings and the Blitz, in which 43,000 died. This collective memory of previous bombings, he suggests, could explain the "relative lack of panic and terror on the streets" immediately following the attacks.

Having implied that Londoners might be conditioned (not sure that this is the right word) to respond calmly bombing threats McEwan then proceeds to distinguish between the bombing of London during the Blitz and the bombing of Dresden. The primary difference being that the total destruction of Dresden made the "spirit of resistance" effectively impossible. This comparison should provide a way for us to begin discussing Jonathan Safran Foer's treatment of Dresden in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Some reviewers have taken issue with the parallel that Foer's book seems to present between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Allied bombing of Dresden.

Now, I wish I'd assigned Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five to read along with Foer and McEwan's novels. I may have to contact the UIC Bookstore to see if I can change my book order. It's not too late to do some syllabus revising.

A larger issue we'll be thinking about in my class is the degree to which it makes sense to talk about a collective memory. Does such an entity even exist. That is, can we define what constitutes a people's collective memory? And if so, how is it shaped? Literary texts, novels in particular, are often discussed as being archival forms that function as a sort of memory. I'm interested in taking this metaphor seriously and asking why we should take a blatantly fictional mode of discourse such as the novel seriously as a type of memory.

Aside from the subject of collective memory, I also want to look at McEwan's criticisms of the anti-Iraq war movement and his condemnation of the free-speech policies that have made it possible for radical Islamic clerics to preach hatred. McEwan predicts that the tolerance of such speech will have to end: "Inevitably, we're going to start seeing around the preposterous political correctness that allows us to have radical clerics preaching in mosques and recruiting young people. We have been caught too much by a sense that we can just regard these clerics as being like English eccentrics at Hyde Park Corner. But the problem is that their audience has already been to [terrorist] training camps."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Random Searches on the NY Subways

The fallout from the London bombings continues: the NYPD begins random searches of subway passengers with bags and backpacks.

I don't see how these searches could be constitutional -- where's the probable cause? -- though I suppose if random traffic stops to check for intoxicated drivers are permitted, these searches will be allowed as well.

Of course, I'm all for making our public transportation systems safer, but I worry that the long-term effects on civil liberties will be dire. If these random searches are deemed constitutional, what sort of legal precedent will these searches establish?

One possible scenario: We the public will be subject to increased monitoring by the government, whose police powers will infringe upon the privacy rights that may become obsolete. At the same the federal government will continue to neglect and underfund public transportation in US urban centers.

A serious question: How will the NYPD insure that the searches will be truly random, as police chief Ray Kelly has promised?

The bottom line: If one of the terrorists' aims is to "attack our freedom and our Western way of life," as President Bush and others have suggested, then the implementation of random searches can be regarded as a victory for them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Save the Stacks

An eloquent testimonial by Thomas H. Benton (a pseudonym) on the intellectual rewards of browsing library stacks. He argues that libraries should not become primarily digital entities.

Like Benton, I applaud the University of Chicago's decision to expand its Regenstein Library so that it will house more books in one building than any other U.S. library. However, I am critical of the U of C's library policies, which make it difficult for scholars from other local academic institutions, like UIC, to make use their facilities without a fair measure of bureaucratic hassle. But the U of C's insularity is another topic altogether, and since I'm not using a psedonym I'll refrain from airing my grievances.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Greider on Globalization: Can the US Afford It?

I've long admired William Greider's writings on economics. In debates about the effects of globalization, for example, he's consistently argued that the so-called free market is not actually free, if by that term one means that trade is unregulated.
Greider examines disturbing trends and asks the difficult questions that many people, and far too many of our journalists and our politicians, choose to ignore.

In this op-ed piece, cleverly titled "America's Truth Deficit," Greider draws a parallel between US leaders' failure to address "perennial trade deficits" with Soviet leaders' refusal to reform the USSR's failing economic system:

DURING the cold war, as the Soviet economic system slowly unraveled, internal reform was impossible because highly placed officials who recognized the systemic disorders could not talk about them honestly. The United States is now in an equivalent predicament. Its weakening position in the global trading system is obvious and ominous, yet leaders in politics, business, finance and the news media are not willing to discuss candidly what is happening and why. Instead, they recycle the usual bromides about the benefits of free trade and assurances that everything will work out for the best.

Much like Soviet leaders, the American establishment is enthralled by utopian convictions - the market orthodoxy of free trade globalization. The United States is heading for yet another record trade deficit in 2005, possibly 25 percent larger than last year's. Our economy's international debt position - accumulated from many years of tolerating larger and larger trade deficits - began compounding ferociously in the last five years. Our net foreign indebtedness is now more than 25 percent of gross domestic product and at the current pace will reach 50 percent in four or five years.

Fast Food Nation

We're talking about the United Kingdom here, not the States, mind you. Subway is on track to become the UK's largest fast-food franchise and London has the second higest concentration of Starbucks in the world: Which suggests that when it comes to dietary habits we Yanks aren't the only people on the globe who have traded taste for convenience.

Of course, the UK has never been known for its cuisine. Not until curry became the unofficial national dish of England, anyway.

I wonder how the mammoth fast-food chains are doing on the Continent where the slow-food movement was born. Could Starbucks ever gain a foothold in Italy? Not without changing its recipe for cappucino, one would think, but who knows. And what about Subway? I predict that they'll eventually take over Europe just like they did the states. Their strategy of market saturation has proven to be ruthlessly (to their competitors) effective.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Nick Hornby Interviews The Boss

I'm posting a link to Nick Hornby's interview with Bruce Springsteeb for the benefit of Jim and Jeff, who are both big fans of The Boss and (I think) appreciate Hornby's writing as well. The more I learn about Springsteen, the more I admire him. I hope I get the chance to see him live someday, and how I wish my first Bruce concert would've been the tour he did with R.E.M. and Bright Eyes (see photo w/ Michael Stipe, Conor Oberst)...It's cool that he risked alienating some of his mainstream audience by campaigning for John Kerry, and it's cool that he's so open to so many different kinds of music and is excited about hearing younger bands. Cool too that he tries to challenge his audiences by mixing up his set list so that it includes a wide range of material, including "uncoventional pieces" that dispel the "ritualistic aspect of the night" and don't pander to easy listeners expecting the Big Hits with the "formulated response built in."

One beef with the piece: Hornby makes a big deal out of the clowing around and the obvious performing that Springsteen does onstage. He asks: "how many shows have you been to where the band pretend to be unaware that there's a show going on? All that tuning up and talking to each other, while the audience waits for something to happen. Springsteen's simple recognition of the fact that people pay for every onstage second separates him from almost every single other act I've seen." I dunno what shows Hornby goes to see, but theatricality in live rock shows is hardly uncommon.

While it's true that some bands, e.g. Built to Spill, eschew audience interaction and simply play their music, most of the memorable shows I've been to in recent years (R.E.M., Nick Cave, Twilight Singers, Camper Van Beethoven come immediately to mind) have featured a welcome dose of playful theatricality or at least an attempt to connect with the audience. Moreover, it's generally smaller, indie acts who don't have a full road crew who must spend time tuning their instruments onstage.

Ok, back to work...

Weed on Willie's CD Cover Worries Right-Wing Wal-Mart Wonks

So, Willie's got a new reggae record out, and apparently its raising a stank in some circles because of the cannabis leaf that adorns its cover. In order not to "offend" those moral souls at (no snickering please) Wal-Mart who are stricken at the sight of a common plant, Universal Music has released Countryman with an alternative cover featuring a...palm tree.

My immediate thoughts:
1) I bet the record is very good, but not great, and in the end probably not that much of a deparature from a record like Across the Borderline, on which Willie covered 'non-country' tunes by Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, etc. and dueted with Sinead O'Connor, among others. Great musicians can experiment with different genres and styles and make them their own. Willie doing reggae makes sense. In the big picture, reggae, like the sort of country Willie, Waylon, Cash, etc. perform, is just another type of folk music.

2) It's ridiculous that cannabis is still criminalized when it is a less harmful drug than alcohol. The sale and use of both substances should be legal, but regulated by the state. The state and corporations should not be policing what substances people ingest into their bodies, what music they listen to, or what texts they read.

3) The Wal-mart executives should become more sensitive to the hardships and suffering endured by the employees whom they exploit and stop trying to divert attention from their shady business practices by taking phony 'moral' stances on silly symbolic psuedo issues.

4) Smoke it if you've got it, Willie. Smoke it if you've got it...

5) I wish I could afford to attend the 20th Farm Aid concert in Chicago this year. In general, I'm no fan of arena shows, preferring more intimate venues, and wish the concert was downtown, in Grant Park, rather than the Tweeter Center. But I've never seen Willie live, and who knows how many shows the old outlaw has left in him. Plus, the concert goes to a great cause and Neil Young will also be performing. The last time I saw Neil was on the Horde tour during an amazing outdoor concert that continued in the midst of a raging Midwestern thunderstorm and a power outage.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

First Democracy, Then Debt Relief?

Debt relief for Africa won't solve the problem of poverty in Africa. The fight against poverty will be futile unless the dictatorships in Africa are replaced with democratic governments. This is the core argument Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme's makes in a NYT op-ed piece, "All Rock, No Action," which dismisses Live 8 as "an insult both to us [Africans] and common sense."

Tonme's complaint that the Live 8 participants didn't "raise a cry for democracy in Africa" strikes me as valid. My hunch is that this strategy was deliberate. The organizers wanted to present the fight against poverty in Africa as a non-partisan cause that everyone, regardless of their ideological affiliations, could get behind. But of course this issue is as political as any other, which explains why we heard a chorus of right-wingers mocking the musicians for being pretentious and arrogant, etc. No need to rehearse their attacks here. Tonme's critique of Live 8, however, is worth considering.

The line of questioning that I wish Tonme had raised is this: what forces are working to keep oppressive rulers in place in courtries such as Uganda, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Togo, and the Central African republic? Is it not the case that Western countries have a history of backing (sometimes covertly) dictatorships in so-called developing nations in order to maintain stability? The rationale being that it is easier to do business with a single tyrant than with a coalition of democratically elected leaders, many of whom would likely reject the terms of trade agreements etc. that favor Western interests.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Teaching Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Note to self: Teaching Assignment for Engl 105. Give students Deborah Solmon's New York Times Magazine profile of Jonathan Safran Foer to read before they begin Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Then, after they've finished Foer's second novel (perhaps before?) have students read and write a response paper that addresses issues raised in various periodicals, e.g., Wyatt Mason's review in the London Review of Books and Vivian Gornick's review in The Nation.

Ask students to consider the difference between the two genres--the celebrity profile (filled with industry details about the large advances Foer received for his first two novels) and the critical review (which strives to situate the novel within a larger context). The point here will be to emphasize the different types of discourse that shape our reception of literary texts, to demonstrate how literary texts are marketed as entertainment commodities produced by celebrity artists, just like Hollywood films, etc., and to provide examples of more thoughtful engagements with the text

I'm particularly interested in hearing what students have to say about Gornick's harsh assessment of Foer's novel, particularly what she regards as Foer's exploitative treatment of 9/11. Gornick writes, "If Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is as popular with readers as Everything Is Illuminated, it will be because Foer is indeed the wunderkind the country needs and therefore deserves: a writer of talent who exploits holocaust to mythicize the most aggressive self-pity in modern American history, the kind that feeds relentlessly on a nostalgia that seriously reduces whatever chance we have of understanding what we are living through." If I understand Gornick correctly, she objects to Foer's decision to use a nine-year-old narrator as the primary focalizing consciousness through which we perceive post-9/11 America because doing so encourages readers to identify with an innocent and drastically limits the scope of the reflection on terrorism. Thus, we're presented with a novel that, like so much of the mass media's coverage of the war on terror, effectively asks the naive question "Why is this happening?" rather than "Why is this being done to me?"

I'll have to reread Extremely Loud again before providing a thorough response, but my initial impulse is to agree with Gornick's assessment. Although I enjoyed reading Foer's novel, my overall impression was that it was Vonnegut Lite. (Here, it might be interesting to compare Foer's treatment of the bombing of Dresden with Vonnegut's in Slaughterhouse Five. I don't mean this to sound as damning as it might. Unlike many academics who dismiss Vonnegut's writing as being too simplistic and too moralizing, I greatly admire Vonnegut's narrative technique, which is deceptively simple. But Vonnegut's academic reception is another topic altogether. By way of contast though, I would argue that Vonnegut's books provide far more insights, both psychological and sociopolitical, into the factors that contribute to what in retrospect we describe as history's tragedies.

British Stoicism Belies Right-Wing Propagandists in the US

I'm enjoying my break from American television, and John Nichols' observations about the response of right-wing pundits in the US to the July 7th terrorist attacks makes me glad I'm missing most of the coverage. In Bugged by the Brits, Nichols quotes several conservative commentators who have tried to use the London bombings to promote their reactionary agenda. The rhetoric, not to mention the logic, of Bill O'Reilly, Brit Hume, Brian Kilmeade, and John Gibson is disgusting, though just par for the course. I hope Nichols' assessment of the initial British response continues to hold true: "Try as American conservative commentators did to get Londoners to echo their pro-Bush, pro-war line, the British generally refused to play along." At the same time I'm hoping that the news from London will not divert attention from Karl Rove's criminal misdeeds.

A Room With a View in the Hotel Esplanaden

Looking out on the Esplanaden
Originally uploaded by erasmus.
This photo was shot from our westward-facing window in the Comfort Hotel Esplanaden, Bredgade 78, Copenhagen 1260, Denmark.

Our room was fairly small, I suppose, by American standards, but that didn't matter at all as we didn't spend much time back in the room anyway. The building was old but had been renovated recently, and was much more charming than a Comfort Inn in the States. The hotel itself was in a fantastic location, at the intersection of Bredgade and Esplandaen, about a 750 m. walk down the Bredgade from the Kongens Nytorv and about 350 m. away from the harbour. In other words, it was relatively close to the end of the Stroget but far enough away so that we were completely unaffected by tourist traffic. We were still very close to several attactions: The Museum of Decorative Art was just down the block on Bredgade, while the Resistance Musuem, which chronicles Denmark's fight for freedom during the German occupation during World War II, was just down the block walking east on the Esplanaden. The Little Mermaid was about a 10-15 minute walk away, if you went directly along the harbor.

The street below is the Esplandaen. The green trees on the right are in Churchill Park, conveniently located directly across the street from the hotel entrance.

Paying Our Respects to Søren Kierkegaard

Pilgrimage to Kierkegaard's Grave
Originally uploaded by erasmus.
On Sunday morning, our last full day in Copenhagen,
we hiked out of the city center to the Nørrbro district.

Our destination: Søren Kierkegaard's final resting place
in Assistens Kierkegard, i.e., Assistens Cemetery.

It being the 200th anniversary of H.C. Andersen,
Copenhagen was rife with reminders (many of which were for sale) of that famous author, best known for his collections of fairy tales.
In contrast, you had to look much harder to find traces of Andersen's friend,
the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

While I would like to see Copenhagen celebrate Kierkegaard a bit more, I realize that doing so would largely amount to transforming him into another commodity for Copenhagen's thriving tourism industry. And what might Kierkegaard have to say about that? "Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wander whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid."

The Coppenhagen City Museum houses a few of Kierkegaard's effects, including a writing desk, and a sculpture of Kierkegaard, which stands outside the Marble Church, was erected in 1972.

Having visited the aforementioned sights on a previous trip, Ira and I paid homage to the father of existentialism by visiting his gravesite and (ahem) posing by his wax replica in Louis Tussaud's Wax Museum.

Tussaud's was every bit the tourist trap that I expected it to be. I'm pleased to report that Kierkegaard's tomb attracted several visitors during our sojourn at the Assistens Cemetery, about as many as were wandering about Tussaud's.
Keeping in mind Kierkegaard's observation that "Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it," Ira and I lingered long enough at Assistens to savor a Carl's Dark and a Carl's Porter respectively. During our visit, a young woman kindly shot this photo of Ira and me.

Ian McEwan on London After the Bombings

Ira and I spent Thursday, July 7, wandering around Copenhagen. In the afternoon, we walked through the Vesterbrodade district out to the Carlsberg brewery for a tour where we sampled some fantastic microbeers. Many of the other tourists enjoying the Danish brews were from the UK, but nobody there seemed to have received word yet of the London bombings. The bar had no tv sets, and everyone was blissfully unaware of the day's horrific news. Ira and I had had BBC World and CNN Europe on the tube in the hotel room that morning, but as of 10 a.m. or so, there had been no word of the attacks. The news coverage was all about the G8 summit and London winning the bid for the 2012 Olympics.

In fact, that evening as we strolled down the Havnepromenade and passed the Amalienborg Plads, I remarked to Ira how tiresome the London Olympics hype was already becoming. The press was clearly reveling in the fact that London had won out over Paris, and I questioned the need for endless footage of frustrated Parisians expressing their disappointment coupled with pundits explaining that France had lost because it lacked the verve and business acumen of the English. While I respect the rivalry between England and France, I'm exposed to enough Franco-bashing back in the States, thank you. Sarcastically, I said something to the effect that: "Winning the Olympics is all fun and games until Al-Queda shows up at the party." In retrospect, of course, my comment sounds just awful. What I didn't know at the time was that Al-Queda, or some affiliated Jihadist terror group, had attacked London's public transport system. Only upon returning to the hotel in the late evening did we learn about what had happened. The tv in the lobby was tuned to a Danish station, but the tone of the broadcaster made it immediately apparent that something terrible had transpired.

In the following days, I've been curious to observe how the terrorism coverage differs in Europe from the United States. In general, I would say that there is less empty patriotic rhetoric and more informational analysis. To prevent political myopia, US citizens should make it a point to seek out international news sources. The rhetorical differences between our talking heads and those in Europe can be striking. The European broadcasters can be accused of being tv personalities first and journalists second, but still their coverage isn't as crassly commercial as it is in the US. On CNN Europe, for example, the American broadcasters seem more into infotainment

I've been impressed by the way that Londoners and the Brits, by and large, appear resolved not to fall prey to needless hysteria and panic. Is it because years of IRA bombings in the UK hardened or numbed the citizens somewhat? Or was there a sense of inevitability regarding an Al-Queda strike in England. In his recent novel Saturday, novelist Ian McEwan captures the sense of dread that the 9/11 attacks inspired in London. Not surprisingly, then, the Guardian published a short essay by McEwan on July 8 about London after the bombings. McEwan doesn't offer any especially brilliant insights, but does convey masterfully the extreme change in mood that London experienced following the Live 8 concert and the Olympic-bid victory. For McEwan, the attacks triggered a sense of déjà vu, and he is less sanguine that many that it will be a return to business as usual in London. In the closing paragraph of his essay McEwan writes:

It is unlikely that London will claim to have been transformed in an instant, to have lost its innocence in the course of a morning. It is hard to knock a huge city like this off its course. It has survived many attacks in the past. But once we have counted up our dead, and the numbness turns to anger and grief, we will see that our lives here will be difficult. We have been savagely woken from a pleasant dream. The city will not recover Wednesday's confidence and joy in a very long time. Who will want to travel on the tube, once it has been cleared? How will we sit at our ease in a restaurant, cinema or theatre? And we will face again that deal we must constantly make and remake with the state - how much power must we grant Leviathan, how much freedom will we be asked to trade for our security?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Högbo Manor

Högbo Manor
Originally uploaded by erasmus.
Another photo from Högbo,
where we attended the
Sandvicken Jazz Festival
the night before...

Sverige Gothic

Swedish Gothic I
Originally uploaded by erasmus.
The remote estate
the family manor in a state of disrepair
the raven-haired maiden,
clad in all black
before a foreboding sky...

Sverige Gothic