Paris, 12 May 1780
My dear Portia,
Since my Arrival this time I have driven about Paris, more than I did before. The rural Scenes around this Town are charming. The public Walks, Gardens, &c. are extreamly beautifull. Oh Man, it would be Cool if I could blow off Diplomacy and just get into the Arts over here, but the Science of Government is my Duty to study, more than all other Sciences.
I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.
My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.
Those Children must study Painting, Musick, Tapestry (if Tapestry is still a Thing in the Future), Porcelaine and Whatnot so that their Children might study Advertising, Marketing, Investing, Law, and Communications. That last one is certainly a bullshit Thing to study, but those Students will wind up in Law or Advertising anyway.
“Rusty was earthy and vulgar at times, but he was very real.”
-From Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep.
Somewhere around ten years old I got a sense what a stereotypical Irishman was, and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I bet you conjure the same guy I did: a good story teller with a quick wit; a little garrulous, maybe, but never annoying; someone you want on your side when a fight breaks out; a pious man, but not one to take himself too seriously; a drinker, fun to be around, always quick to break into song or to tell one of those great stories.
Each one of those stereotypes has its negative side, and in the time of Irish Need Not Apply formed a basis of discrimination: an Irishman is a tiresome blowhard, a deadly brawler, and a superstitious Papist who’ll drink anything he can get his hands on. And yet even with the prejudices we Irish face, we got luck on our side. If someone who's never met me wants to assume I’ll bring a tad much to a party—hey, go right ahead.
North American readers care inordinately that fictional characters be likable. This preference is strange, given that few real people are thoroughly nice and that those few aren’t interesting. Surely what actually matters is that characters clear this vital hurdle: that they be interesting.
There was a guy in my neighborhood who jogged each December in a Santa Claus outfit. I'll call him E. E. ran a landscaping business and mowed each lawn alongside his staff, which included several of his sons and (my parents tell me) unemployed men from the neighborhood eager or desperate for a paycheck. But that was not his main gig. He taught high school English in a poor neighborhood on the South Side.
February 5, 2013
From: Cpt. David L. Collins, Jr., Chicago Police Department Internal Affairs Division
To: Chicago Police Department Board of Review; The Fraternal Order of Police—Chicago Lodge 7
CC: Officer Anthony Villanueva
In Re: Officer Anthony Villanueva
On the evening of Saturday, January 19, 2013, at 7:37 P.M., Officer Anthony Villanueva stopped a 2004 Nissan Maxima driven by Peter O’Malley, 37, of Chicago, for a speed limit violation along the 4200 block of North Damen Avenue. According to Officer Villanueva’s incident report, Mr. O’Malley seemed “touched with drink.” Officer Villanueva asked Mr. O’Malley to exit his vehicle, which he did without protest according to both the incident report and the formal complaint filed by Mr. O’Malley.
Cyrus Harbaugh in an 18th Century woodcut
The most important thing that non-football fans must know about Super Bowl XLIII or XLV or whatever, is that the coaches of both teams are brothers. Jim Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback, and coaches the San Francisco 49ers. The other Harbaugh, whose first name and biography I don’t know and refuse to look up, coaches the Baltimore Ravens. I will call him Cyrus.
Beyond that, I can’t tell you a lot. Ray Lewis plays for the Ravens. Not sure if he’s on defense or offense. Let’s say defense and that he will be a game changer. I don’t know the name of any other player on either team. Worse, I don’t care. Here are my predictions:
Cyrus Harbaugh may not have played in the NFL (honestly, no idea) but one thing is certain: when the game is in the balance, this 6’10” behemoth will stride onto the field and play whatever position he chooses. He can bench press 1700 pounds, runs the 40 in 0.8 seconds, and once ate a StairMaster on a dare. Expect some 4th quarter theatrics when the noble Cyrus dons a Raven uniform and—in neither pads nor a helmet—subdues the 49er offense in a chilling display of raw power.
The game will be at least 11 hours long. Most of that will be commercials, and man, they are going to be hilarious!
Jack Nicholson, nose enthusiast
I’m sitting in Cellar’s Market right now because I hate the smell. I used to write here fairly often during lunch (in this cafeteria beneath the Chicago Board of Trade; find the pun), but I stopped coming because of the odor. It's the scent of a disparate array of lousy food trapped beneath a nine-foot ceiling. The décor is ugly; plus it’s, you know, all in a windowless cellar. Though I could always find a table to write at, I just couldn’t handle the stank.
Lately my sense of smell has been bugging me. I’ve always thought that it was weak, but now I wonder if I am downright myopic, nostrilly speaking. On New Year’s Eve my girlfriend and I made dinner at her apartment and I bought/brought many of the ingredients. When I produced some Gruyere, she said, “Whoa, that is one stinky cheese.” Though mine was the hand holding it and she stood four feet away, I could smell nothing. Not until I unwrapped it, sliced it, and held it right above my lip could I detect a scent. Faintly.
Sure, I may have been a bit stuffed up. In fact, I have been since mid-October. But this moment troubled me. At last, perhaps understandably, I began to wonder if something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and if so, whether I’d be able to smell it.
“The radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
Tryin' to anesthetize the way that you feel.”
My tattoo, which I kind of regret
Right now on 97.9 the Loop, Chicago’s classic rock station, it’s Manfred Mann covering Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light.” Now it’s Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tightrope.” Now it’s “Sweet Emotion,” by a band that I refuse to name.
Take any classic rock band, from major to minor, from The Who to Foghat, and it’s safe to say that their hits have played on FM stations throughout America every single day for 40 years straight. Take any commercial FM station in the country, and odds are the playlist does not deviate—ever—from a narrow selection of hits. Most of my co-workers (the majority is around 60% to 75%, depending on the day/station) are A-OK with this. It’s probably just white noise to them, a barely-noticed, pleasant hum; but for me and a few others, we feel like Manuel Noriega hiding in his Panamanian compound while US Army Psyops blasts G ‘n’ R at us.
I bet I have heard all of the songs on this station— all of them—hundreds of times. Some songs (“Satisfaction,” “Purple Haze”) have to be up in the thousands. This is the format for all commercial radio stations: play songs over and over and over * ∞+1. Play them until the psychologically weak among us want to stab ourselves in the ears with the nearest letter opener.
“I’d rather be brave,” he suddenly said to me. “I’d rather be brave than almost anything. How does that strike you?”
“It’s nothing to laugh at, sir.”
-Tim O’Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
Richard Cohen inadvertantly poked a bear this week. A self-professed bear
, that is. One that goes by the name of Andrew Sullivan.
Andrew Sullivan, USA's #1 blog guy
“In the new James Bond movie, ‘Skyfall,’ Daniel Craig takes off his shirt and examines his wounds,” writes Cohen in the Washington Post
. “There appear to be two of them — small holes on his skin from bullets fired at the beginning of the movie. He touches his wounds and winces. So do I. Bond is in pain from his wounds. I am in pain from all the hours he has spent in the gym.”
Sullivan’s response is, in one post, everything I love and hate about him. It’s sharp and insightful while surprisingly obtuse. It’s pointlessly polemical and (hate the word, but lo here I am writing a response) provocative. And it’s a complete mess from the opening line
As the title says, this is incomplete. I started it in November, 2008 and fiddled with it until January, 2009. By the early months of the Obama administration Petraeus—and his hype—had faded into the background of America’s foreign policy news. At least, enough into the background for me to think the moment for this bit had passed.
I post this today because, in light of yesterday’s news. [EDITED MONTHS LATER TO ADD: yesterday was a while ago, so to remind you: Petraeus got busted for having sex with a married lady--hold on, it gets worse-- who was not the lady that he was actually married to.]
Without further ado, here’s the piece.
Gen. Geo. Washington, our likely Prefident
PAMPHLET 69, No. 12
On the Interefting Subject of
By Nathanial Silber
Writ Upon the Ifle of Manhattan
On the Sixth Day of January
In the Year 1789
Tomorrow, Americans will vote for the first President of our United States. Months of Campaigning are in Abeyance, and the Election shall at last be placed into the Hands the People. However, it is fitting that, one last Time, we peer into the Entrails of this Election Season and cipher another Augury for the Future.