Out Of Tune
August 31, 2006
Since this blog is called "Open University," I might as well start my own contributions with a pop quiz. Question: Which American state has an official state song that praises the Confederacy, denounces Abraham Lincoln as a "despot" and "tyrant," and refers to the citizens of the Union as "northern scum"? Hint: it's not in the deep South. Yes, it's none other than my own home state of Maryland.
New Orleans Postcard
August 14, 2006
My wife and I were about to put our house on the market before Hurricane Katrina. I remind myself of this as we contemplate an act that has taken on the trappings of civic treachery--putting our house on the market now, a year after Katrina. It's true: We really were talking to realtors last summer. It was time to downsize, we said. Empty-nest syndrome, we said. That was our cover. Secretly, we were a bit freaked out about hurricanes even before Katrina. (At least I was.) Not so secretly, we were certain the national real estate bubble had reached its soapy and iridescent limit.
August 14, 2006
There are no drifting corpses this time, no families clinging to sun- baked roofs or huddling in the lightless squalor of the Superdome. But the year following Hurricane Katrina has been its own catastrophe--quieter, but in many ways more appalling than the storm's passage. If Katrina suggested a rot in American society--a decrepit federal government, a blunted sense of social solidarity, the entrenchment of poverty--the aftermath has confirmed it. We can no longer plead ignorance about broken, vulnerable New Orleans, yet we've done a shameful job of rescuing it.
July 11, 2006
If Democrats win back the House in the midterms today, they'll owe an enormous debt to organized labor, which has spent more than $40 million--and sent millions of voters to the polls--to help the party take control of Congress. The AFL-CIO alone has targeted more than 200 contests in 21 states this cycle, and unions, despite their declining power, are still acting as difference-makers in many races.
July 10, 2006
Boot Max Baucus from the Finance Committee.
Thank You For Sharing
June 05, 2006
Now celebrating her twentieth year as the host of the world's most influential talk show, Oprah Winfrey is to television what Bach is to music, Giotto to painting, Joyce to literature. Time magazine hit the nail on the head when it recently voted her one of the world's handful of "leaders and revolutionaries." (Condoleezza Rice wrote Oprah's citation: "She has struggled with many of the challenges that we all face, and she has transformed her life. Her message is empowering: I did it, and so can you.") Like all seminal creative figures, her essential gift lies in her synthesizing power.
December 28, 2005
Serenity, writer/director Joss Whedon's exuberant space opera, opens with one nod to the power of love and closes with another, the first concerning a brother's affection for his sister and the second, a captain's for his spaceship.
Paint it Black
November 29, 2005
It's rarely an attractive sight when a lifelong good guy decides it's time to show everyone he can be bad. For most men, such crises of character involve the midlife acquisition of a motorcycle or sports car, though in some cases an electric guitar suffices. (The leather jacket and sunglasses are givens.) The metamorphosis can be particularly disturbing in filmmakers, who after all have more vivid ways of dramatizing their states of mind than mere automobiles and accoutrements.
Past as Prologue
September 26, 2005
My street was deserted Sunday, when a couple of friends and I checked on it. A few military types were cutting away at the trees blocking a major intersection nearby, and, at one point, two guys who live around the block stopped by because they saw our cars outside. Beyond that, the neighborhood was a ghost town, just like most of the rest of New Orleans. The people who lived here until two or three weeks ago have gobbled up real estate in Baton Rouge. Or they're holed up with relatives.
September 26, 2005
Recent headlines have offered hope that President Bush may yet do right by the victims of Hurricane Katrina. After the first days of shameful ineptitude, he secured more than $60 billion in relief, named somebody with actual disaster experience to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema), and, rather uncharacteristically, admitted his administration made serious errors in the storm's immediate aftermath. But there is one reason to think the Bush administration hasn't learned from its past mistakes: its plan for housing the people that Katrina has rendered homeless.