January 2010 News
January 29, 2010
From Daniel Ellsberg’s article at Consortiumnews.com in memory of Howard Zinn:
A day later, Howard Zinn was the last speaker at a large rally in Boston Common. I was at the back of a huge crowd, listening to him over loudspeakers. Twenty-seven years later, I can remember some of what he said. “On May Day in Washington, thousands of us were arrested for disturbing the peace. But there is no peace. We were really arrested because we were disturbing the war.”
… At the end of his comments, he said: “I want to speak now to some of the members of this audience, the plainclothes policemen among us, the military intelligence agents who are assigned to do surveillance. You are taking the part of secret police, spying on your fellow Americans. You should not be doing what you are doing. You should rethink it, and stop. You do not have to carry out orders that go against the grain of what it means to be an American.”
January 26, 2010
One night, only days after an earthquake had leveled huge swaths of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed an estimated 200,000 people there and in its environs, I found myself cruising thorough the city on the back of a moto-taxi.
A crowded, dirty but also irrepressibly vibrant city during normal times, Port-au-Prince that night presented a landscape that could fairly be described as nightmarish. Visible through the darkness, the ruined shells of buildings destroyed in the 7.0 quake looked over the fragile forms of hundreds of thousands of people reduced to sleeping in the streets, while in the air mingled the corrosive smell of burning garbage and the vomitous, cloyingly sweet stench of human decay. A city I have sporadically called home since I first visited Haiti in 1997, and whose personality had become deeply ingrained in my soul, Port-au-Prince had never seemed more desperate or defeated.
Then something happened. Despite the terrible suffering that had been visited on this poor nation of 9 million people, it began to dawn on me that, along the streets that I knew so well, life was going on after this terrible trauma.
January 26, 2010
From the article “Good Nudes From My Naughty World” by Art Shay, at Swans Commentary:
“It’s quite a rear,” The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik gushed. “The picture was taken in 1950 by, of all people, an American — the photographer Art Shay — in, of all places, Chicago, where Beauvoir was canoodling bilingually with Nelson Algren.”
To be singled out by The New Yorker as one “of all people, an American” who shot the picture in “of all places, Chicago” makes me feel like Ingrid Bergman stumbling upon Humphrey Bogart who as Rick says, “of all the gin joints in all the towns of the world, she walks into mine” while Dooley Wilson tinkles out “As Time Goes By” on the pleasantly off-key piano.
January 22, 2010
I’ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama’s rhetoric; I don’t see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.
As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that’s hardly any different from a Republican–as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there’s no expectation and no disappointment.
January 20, 2010
At the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston from January 15-18, 2010, the Seven Stories Press table was set up next to a large display of socks in all colors and sizes. Four for ten dollars, ten for twenty, mix and match: this was the refrain I heard throughout the day from my neighbor at the sock table, along with the question from the librarians: whatever possessed you to sell socks at a library convention?
That my neighbor sold hundreds, thousands of socks to these same questioners isn’t the point. He could have done as much at any other convention, and probably done better financially as well. Libraries are cutting budgets across the nation, starting with travel allotments, and attendance was down significantly from previous midwinter ALA events. In the shadow of the September 2009 scare about the Philadelphia Free Library closing its doors, the survival of libraries is more than ever in doubt—both financially, and in terms of those in power losing respect for a library’s basic mission.
January 20, 2010
Hearty congratulations to Marcus Ewert, Rex Ray, and young Bailey for 10,000 Dresses, which has just been named a Stonewall Honor Book in the Children’s and Young Adult Literature category by the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Awards Committee. See the press release here — and if you haven’t already, take a look at the book itself from Seven Stories.
January 8, 2010
“I find Ernaux to be one of the most important and essential writers of the human condition. Her memoirs about her childhood and her parents were compelling and insightful, even though their lives were not particularly unique or fascinating, and the raw emotions of the women in unrequited affairs in The Possession and Shame made me squirm in discomfort and empathy.”
January 8, 2010
From Sonia Shah’s article at Yale Environment 360 on low-level pesticide exposure:
Neonicotinoids came into wide use in the early 2000s. Unlike older pesticides that evaporate or disperse shortly after application, neonicotinoids are systemic poisons. Applied to the soil or doused on seeds, neonicotinoid insecticides incorporate themselves into the plant’s tissues, turning the plant itself into a tiny poison factory emitting toxin from its roots, leaves, stems, pollen, and nectar.
In Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia, beekeepers’ concerns about neonicotinoids’ effect on bee colonies have resulted in a series of bans on the chemicals. In the United States, regulators have approved their use, despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard method of protecting bees from insecticides — by requiring farmers to refrain from applying them during blooming times when bees are most exposed — does little to protect bees from systemic pesticides.
“The companies believe this stuff is safe,” says U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist Jeff Pettis.
January 4, 2010
When Beverly Gologorsky’s powerfully written and beautiful novel, The Things We Do To Make It Home, was first released in 1999, most U.S. residents weren’t thinking about war. The Vietnam conflict had ended decades earlier, the Cold War was over, and for at least a fraction of a minute, world peace seemed possible. Then 9-11 happened, and a world without armed conflict became the stuff of pipe dreams. In short order the U.S. was involved in two wars, fighting what many see as losing battles against terrorism.
This makes the re-release of Gologorsky’s novel especially important. Unlike war stories that focus only on the soldiers’ experiences, The Things We Do To Make It Home includes the lovers and children of numerous warriors—people who have no choice but to grapple with the physical and psychological aftereffects of military life when their loved ones return to civilian life. It’s gripping material, poetically rendered.