Sunday, November 25, 2007


Today, because I couldn't find it in me to do serious work, at least not up until the time I finish this and post it, I started going through a big pile of magazines and whatnot in our bedroom. This included old issues of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, issues of the now sadly defunct, except on the web, Premiere, the New Yorker, The Nation, sundry fashion magazines, College English, and who knows what all else. Here are some things I found that might be useful to you all (also, a couple of things from today's paper and the newest Nation):

from an old New Yorker:

Walter Benjamin smoked hashish and also wrote about it.
from today's New York Times:

(headline:) "Farmyard Stills Quench a Thirst for Local Spirits"
(headline:) "Tightening the Beltway, the Elite Shop Costco"--an article about how lots of Washington, D.C. parties basically use Costco food to do it. I think there might be an extra fancy Costco, though: "We knew that we would attract government, we would attract ambassadors, we would attract military personnel, we would attract the parties and embassies," said Joe Potera, the chief operating officer, referring to the Pentagon City store. "We have thousands of sheet cakes during all the major holidays for Pentagon parties, for ambassador parties, for staff parties in the capitol. It's kind of a destination." Costco also has a chocolate shop that produces molds of the Capitol as well as the Pentagon.
In the Op-Ed pages, an article about human "hibernation," reports that in the 19th century, French peasants in the chillier provinces would often basically sleep through the winter. This was particularly true in, say, the Alps, where they used to say "Seven months of winter, five months of hell," meaning the "unremitting toil" of the spring and summer. After that, they'd settle in with the animals and eat only a little to lower their metabolic rate.

Another excerpt: "But the French seemse to have been particularly sleepy. They 'hibernated' even in temperate zones. In Burgundy, after the wine harvest, the workers burned the vine stocks, repaired their tools and left the land to the wolves. A civil servant who investigated the region's economic activity in 1844 foudn that he was almost the only living presence in the landscape: 'these vigorous men will now spend their days in bed, packing their bodies tightly together in order to stay warm and to eat less food. They weaken themselves deliberately.'"
Slash, whose guitar playing is featured in the game "Guitar Hero," reports that though he likes to play the game, he "stinks at it."
Katha Pollitt, in The Nation, "The Atheist's Dilemma": "There's no question in my mind that horror at militant Islam and fear of Muslim immigration lie behind at least some of the current vogue for atheism--you don't make the bestseller list by excoriating the evils of Lutheranism or Buddhism. The problem is that the more scorn one feels for religious belief, the less able one is to appreciate 'reformed' or 'moderate' variants of the faith. After all, pro-gay Episcopalians and liberation theology Catholics still believe in Christ, the afterlife, sin; reformed Jews still find wisdom in the Old Testament. Strictly speaking, an atheist should have no truck with any of it. But if all you can offer people is reasons to quit their religion--which often means their community, their family, their support system and their identity--you're not going to have many takers. For every brilliant angry teenager you strengthen in doubt, there's a mosque- or churchful of people who'll choose the old-time religion if the only other choice is nothing."
Sunday is better for reading and being desultory than for buckling down, in my opinion. Also: good for a little light napping.


  1. The Pollitt quote really nails it which really depresses me. Reminds me of how I just recently felt when I found out that "our" stake pres. had each ward hold a special mtg to discuss the evil nature of the new Golden Compass movies (they kill Adam and Eve!) and how my painstaking discussions about the attacks on this book will immediately be null and void if any religious leader labels the books as promoting atheism.

    On a postive note, you've inspired me to go through some piles--once the semester is over.

  2. I think I need to hibernate. Sounds good. But that means everyone in the house needs to be quiet! They just don't cooperate, those people.
    I also like the Pollitt quote. But she also seems to think that you shouldn't be opposed to gay-loving Lutherans. I love the gay-loving, but can't we just love gays because it's the right thing to do? Not because of some old book that tells us to love people? Can't we just say, yeah, that's good. Love not hate. Because we are sentient beings, with hearts and minds.
    Not that I mind Lutherans or Buddhists. It's just that whole afterlife thing that trips me up.

  3. I think I was struck by the Pollitt quote--and she's quite an enthusiastic atheist and anti-religionist herself--I think that that Christopher Hitchens' defection from the left is partly the cause of her double-take at atheism--anyway, I was struck by it because--and of course, I have read only Hitchens' excerpts on Slate, none of Dawkins (except counterintuitive's discussion)--anyway, I was struck by it because I felt there was something off in the big attack on religion--like, there are whole cultures that center around religion and really? you're going to dismiss all that? For instance, what about the role of the church in African American life (again, drawing on what I've read and what I know)? Anyway, I'm a Mormon still, though not practicing--it's not done with me, I don't think, and I suppose I'm not done with it. I don't exactly know *what* to do with it. It still resonates and has meaning for me, though. I personally am in favor of a mythology with an afterlife, because it allows me to believe/hope that at some point in time, the patently bad people will get what's coming.

  4. I agree that there is a cultural aspect to religion, so even if you leave the "religion" part behind, everything else is still with you. In that sense, I guess I'm still Presbyterian, though I haven't been to church since...let's see, 1987? (not counting the times I went at Christmas just to make my mom happy). But, culturally, I miss the Psalms and the church basements with coffee and cookies. It's part of who I am. And sometimes I want to go to church just for the singing. I mean really, where else do tone deaf people such as myself get to sing in public? (Besides karaoke?)
    I do believe in some kind of Karma. Because I really, really, really want the bad people to get it in this lifetime, so I can see it and feel smug. Which maybe makes me one of the bad people?



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