Archive for May, 2002

Friday, May 31st, 2002

This one’s pretty funny.

British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat – being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers. (…) “We were pretty shocked,” Marine Fletcher said. “We discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: a woman for babies, a man for pleasure.” (…) Originally, the marines had sent patrols into several villages in the mountains near the town of Khost, hoping to catch up with al-Qaeda suspects who last week fought a four-hour gun battle with soldiers of the Australian SAS. The hardened troops, their faces covered in camouflage cream and weight down with weapons, radios and ammunition, were confronted with Afghans wanting to stroke their hair.”

Startled marines find Afghan men all made up to see them (via Adnan.)

A couple of comments:
One: A British marine, quoted in this article, considered being propositioned by a gay farmer to be “more terrifying than Al Qaeda”. Well, now. Come on.
Two: In a country dominated by males and males’ interpretation of religion, it’s OK for a man to have sex with another man, just don’t take that to mean they’ll let their women get a job to feed their families.


Thursday, May 30th, 2002

When do your national origins matter?

I was reading news coverage of the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, which is due to start this Friday. There were plenty of articles on how Zinedine Zidane, the best (and highest paid) soccer player in the world, is out for at least his first two matches due to an injury. Zidane and is a native born Frenchman. If you Google him, 53,900 hits come up. If you then Google “Zineddine Zidane” + Algerian, you get 575 hits. Ratio: .01.

Now, the man who the FBI alleges is the 20th hijacker is a native born Frenchman by the name of Zacarias Moussaoui. If you Google him, 17,500 hits come up. If you then Google “Zacarias Moussaoui” + Moroccan, you get 3,140. Ratio: .17.

Conclusion: When it comes to the glory of the World Cup, being French is more important than being North African. When it comes to terrorism, you can bet the North African origins will make the headlines.

Thursday, May 30th, 2002

You couldn’t tell by the unusually overcast skies over L.A., but summer’s here, and, with it, summer books. Here’s a forecast by the Washington Post.

Thursday, May 30th, 2002

When I was growing up, my school had a miserable one-room library, staffed by a teacher in her off-hours. After that got eliminated, our teachers used to host “borrowing clubs” where you had to bring in 2 books at the beginning of the school year, and you could borrow up to 2 books a week from the pool formed by the entire classroom. Since the average class size in my school was 40 students, there were about 80 books available to each student during the year. Paltry numbers, but, looking back, I think the teachers were heroes, all things considered. Which is why stories such as this one upset me.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. And in at least 14 schools, it also means the end of the school library as it currently functions. Librarian positions in 14 Philadelphia schools, including several high schools, have been eliminated. That means, come fall, the libraries will no longer be staffed by professionally trained librarians. (…) The problem is that too many people, principals included, look upon a library as a frill, and not as an essential component of a quality education. And why are librarian jobs often targeted for elimination? Because in a society where the bottom line is the only thing considered, librarians are expensive. They are certified teachers who have master’s degrees in library science. Their salary and benefits package is more than that of the typical classroom teacher. Nationally, the ratio of students to librarians in schools is 550 to 1. In Philadelphia, that ratio is 1,433 to 1. Come fall, that number is going to be frighteningly larger.

Library, no librarian? It just doesn’t compute.

Via Mobylives.

Monday, May 27th, 2002

A short article from the Guardian today confirms what everyone already knows:

Fiction reading as a daily habit is a niche activity dominated by women.

Novels lose out to newspapers.

Monday, May 27th, 2002

This sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone:

The notion that Jewish soldiers were fighting for Hitler even as the Holocaust unfolded is so bizarre that it catches one’s breath. Yet truth is stranger than fiction, and there actually were a few such soldiers, in a manner of speaking. Finland joined forces with Germany against the Soviet Union in 1941 and, not being prone to anti-Semitism, admitted Jews into its army alongside other citizens. Technically, then, they were part of Hitler’s war, but when SS Chief Heinrich Himmler stopped by to sell his extermination plans, the Finns showed him the door.
Bryan Rigg’s book is not about these Jewish soldiers. Rather, it concerns German soldiers who for the most part did not regard themselves as Jews at all but became labeled as part-Jews, referred to as Mischlinge, by the complicated Nazi racial laws about people with a Jewish parent or grandparent.

Read Geoffrey Giles’s review of Bryan Mark Rigg’s Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

Monday, May 27th, 2002

From Yahoo! News:

“Ali Mestali could barely conceal his enthusiasm: “Alexander the Great is coming to Ouarzazate. It’s the best news since Gladiator.”
Mestali, 31, has been out of work for six months. He is counting the days until September when the American director Oliver Stone is expected to come to the Moroccan film capital of Ouarzazate to shoot “Alexander the Great.”

Moroccan film capital awaits Alexander the Great.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2002

More depressing news out of the Middle East today. Israel cut the Gaza Strip in half while a suicide bomber killed himself and another person. Perhaps more than any other feud in history, the trouble there is a perfect illustration of what Mark Twain had in mind when he wrote that famous chapter of Huckleberry Finn. I looked around for the passage and found it:

“Did you want to kill him, Buck?”
“Well, I bet I did.”
“What did he do to you?”
“Him? He never done nothing to me.”
“Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?”
“Why, nothing — only it’s on account of the feud.”
“What’s a feud?”
“Why, where was you raised? Don’t you know what a feud is?”
“Never heard of it before — tell me about it.”
“Well,” says Buck, “a feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man’s brother kills HIM; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the COUSINS chip in — and by and by everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud. But it’s kind of slow, and takes a long time.”
“Has this one been going on long, Buck?”
“Well, I should RECKON! It started thirty year ago, or som’ers along there. There was trouble ’bout something, and then a lawsuit to settle it; and the suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot the man that won the suit — which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would.”
“What was the trouble about, Buck? — land?”
“I reckon maybe — I don’t know.”
“Well, who done the shooting? Was it a Grangerford or a Shepherdson?”
“Laws, how do I know? It was so long ago.”
“Don’t anybody know?”
“Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old people; but they don’t know now what the row was about in the first place.”

Tuesday, May 21st, 2002

Alex forwarded me this fun article from the Evening Standard, which argues that Luke and Leia Skywalker are nothing but royalists who want the crown back while all Darth Vader and Palpatine want is to have some order in the galaxy: The Case for the Empire.

Monday, May 20th, 2002

From the New York Times:

In its two months on the market, Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book “Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children” has generated the kind of publicity authors and publishers usually only dream of.
The book was featured on “60 Minutes” and the cover of Time and New York magazines. It was promoted on “Oprah,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and the “NBC Nightly News.” It was debated on the editorial and op-ed pages of The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times.
But there’s one place you will not find a mention of Ms. Hewlett’s book: the best-seller lists. The most talked-about book in America, which raises the specter that women who sacrifice families for careers might wake up childless at 45, is hardly selling at all. (…)
Manhattan publishers, especially those at Talk Miramax, which paid a six-figure advance for the book and printed 30,000 hardcover copies, are considering the possible causes: a generic title, an ambiguous cover, the failure of the news media to appreciate the nuances of Ms. Hewlett’s research. But out on the front lines, at the bookstores where publicity turns to sales– or does not– the explanation is all too simple: women are just not interested in shelling out $22 for a load of depressing news about their biological clocks.

The funny thing is that I remember the spate of articles (Time comes to mind). In fact, I had quite a few lively discussions with my husband and then also with some of my girlfriends about the findings on fertility, etc. I just never remembered the title of the book, and frankly the findings were so stunning that it sent us thinking about our own specific lives rather than going out to get the book. Now they’re blaming the marketing campaign for focusing on that infertility angle, and they’re thinking of doing another campaign on “having it all” (which is the opposite of the book’s message, I should imagine.)

The Talk of the Book World Still Can’t Sell

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