Parting of Ways
October 02, 2006
Old Joy (Kino International) The Beat movement in literature is said to have begun in 1952 with Jack Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes. No such specific date that I know is cited for the movement’s spread to films. (Underground film is something else.) The first Beat picture that I can remember didn’t come until almost forty years later, with Richard Linklater’s Slacker in 1991. Since then there has been a fairly steady stream. I’d dub them Listless Films, even though that term is easy to misunderstand. The people in these films, mostly in their twenties, are not dull or lazy.
March 27, 2006
Late last summer, Sam Bell set out to acquire an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It was an unusual shopping expedition for a private citizen, much less a 22-year-old only a few months removed from his political science and philosophy studies at Swarthmore College. But, ever since graduation, and even while in school, Bell had been working to do what the U.S. government and the United Nations had so far failed to: stop the genocide in Darfur.
January 16, 2006
When Eugene McCarthy died a month ago, I rushed to compose what I wished to be a meditation on what the man had meant to me, to my generation, and to our history. But eulogies always suffer from the press of deadlines, and so I decided to get an opinion of what I wrote from a truth-teller I've known since the 1968 campaign. I read my piece to John Callahan, a professor of English at Lewis & Clark College and the author of books on Ralph Ellison and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the harshest of the truth-tellers.
December 21, 2004
Jack and Hank are professors at a small college in rural Oregon, and they are best friends. Jack is sleeping with Hank's wife, Edith. Hank seems to know this and seems not to mind. In part this is because he wants to sleep with Jack's wife, Terry, who is also Edith's best friend. Not only does Jack not mind, he goes out of his way to push Terry into Hank's arms. Ah, academic life. Not that anyone much enjoys themselves.
September 13, 2004
Merrill "Tony" McPeak doesn't like George W. Bush. But it's more than that. McPeak has contempt for the president, which he freely expresses. Speaking from his home in Oregon, the John Kerry partisan describes Bush in terms usually employed by the likes of MoveOn.org. "Not even his best friends would accuse this president of having ideas," McPeak says. Mild stuff in the age of Michael Moore. Except that McPeak's first name is General. The former Air Force chief of staff is not the only general describing the president in such vivid terms.
August 04, 2004
KAMPALA, UGANDA--On a steamy Sunday morning, several hundred students are dancing in the aisles of a dilapidated college lecture hall. Dressed in shabby, secondhand sport coats, the men pivot their hips, flinging their elbows back and forth to a lively gospel tune. The women's cornrows bounce up and down. With a showman's sense of timing, Pastor Martin Ssempa sidles slowly onto the stage, grooving to the beat. "Thank you, God!" shouts the bespectacled, 36-year-old evangelist. He has unbuttoned the top button of his natty, cream-colored shirt, and his blue tie hangs loose. "Can you feel it?
May 03, 2004
ON MAY 17, by order of the state supreme court, the first same-sex couples in the United States will be legally married in Massachusetts. For many supporters of gay marriage, this is not only a cause for celebration; it is a manifesto for future litigation. Many people understandably see gay marriage as the great civil rights issue of this generation, and they are determined to extend it across the United States by any means necessary.
October 29, 2001
Electric razor in hand, barber Jane Hill offers up her prescription for personal safety in these tense times: "I think all women oughta carry a cell phone and a three-fifty-seven. Loaded." Everyone else at the Royal Barber Shop here in rural Front Royal, Virginia, bursts out laughing. Smoothing the near-bald pate of the customer occupying the shop's second chair, barber Marlene Daniels (Jane's older sister) recounts in disbelief a "20/20" episode her daughter recently saw about the run on anthrax medication. "That blew my mind," she says. The others murmur in assent.
Here's Looking At You
October 16, 2000
As its new term began this week, the Supreme Court heard two cases involving the boundaries of privacy in an increasingly transparent society; later in the term, it will hear at least one more. The constitutional question in all three cases is whether the government needs to have individualized suspicion before it can conduct searches using relatively unintrusive, extremely effective technologies-- thermal-imaging devices that can detect heat emitting through house walls, for example, or random checkpoints with drug-sniffing dogs.
February 24, 1997
When President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in November, 1993, the South Lawn basked in a bipartisan glow. Designed to overturn the Supreme Court's widely criticized decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held, in 1990, that the state of Oregon could forbid Native Americans from using illegal peyote as part of their religious rituals, RFRA was supported by an improbably broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans, from Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy to the National Islamic Prison Foundation and B'nai B'rith.