The Sky is Falling

While doing some archival research for one of my professors (gathering contemporary newspaper reactions to the Dred Scott case), I came across a marvelous editorial in the April 16, 1857 edition of the Washington Union, which was an organ of the Buchanan administration. Some choice extracts:

Men seem determined to sound the profoundest depths of things in heaven, on the earth, and in the waters under the earth. But in this process many of them have adopted very questionable rules. What was heretofore considered settled, or taken for granted, as rules and principles of human action, are utterly discarded and thrown aside...

Mormonism, abolitionism, free-soilism, spiritual rappings, women's rights, socialism, free-loveism and know-nothingism, have sprung up from this corrupt state of political profligacy and religious infidelity, and are now, by their combined efforts, madly bent on ruling or ruining the country. No true patriot, no sober-minded Christian, no good man, no peace-loving orderly citizen, can look upon this state of things without a sentiment of the deepest anxiety, and a feeling of the most profound disgust.

There you have it.

Faulkner Variations

As I venture to finish off Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust tonight, I have some classical music playing in the background. Or so I intended. It is just so engaging, however, that it is distracting me completely from finishing this book.

It is a recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, perfomed by Murray Perahia. David Hurwitz has written a wonderful review of this recording:

I have no hesitation at all in acclaiming Murray Perahia's recording of the Goldberg Variations as the finest on piano since Glenn Gould's pioneering version of the 1950s. Both in its broad conception and individual details, it offers incontestable evidence of Perahia's penetrating musical intellect, sensitivity to emotional nuance, and exceptional technical gifts. A performance this rich and varied in expression deserves to be considered at much greater length than that of a simple record review, but perhaps a few general observations will suffice to indicate what an extraordinary listening experience this release represents.

Read the whole review, then get yourself a copy, put aside an hour one evening, and pay attention. This is not background music.

Objectively Adorable

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And With the 4th Pick...

bensonYou don't have to be the second coming of Walter Payton. I'll take a thousand yards a year for the next five or six years and consider myself blessed. Just please, please, please don't pull a Salaam/Enis on me. I told my wife that I'd almost rather the Bears just gave up their pick rather than draft another huge disappointing failure.

So this time my expectations are going to be more reasonable. Take a bit of the burden off of Grossman, average nearly four yards a carry for 20-25 carries, and Chicago will worship you. I mean, does anyone even remember Neal Anderson, the last consistent running back we had?

Anyway, here's what stuff CNN/SI had to say about brand new Chicago Bears running back, a bullet out of the University of Texas, ladies and gentleman, Cedric Benson:

An outstanding athlete who gave up a career in baseball, Benson has all the physical skills to be a premier NFL back. Has the abilities to be a three-down player effective in passing situations. Must pick up the tempo of his blocking and does not always show a fire in his belly, yet when hitting on all cylinders a franchise running back.

Alright then Cedric, let's light that fire in your belly.

DeLay Attacks Kennedy

In a rather rare attack on a named Supreme Court justice, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has sharply criticized Justice Anthony Kennedy:

The No. 2 Republican in the House has been openly critical of the federal courts since they refused to order the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube. And he pointed to Kennedy as an example of Republican members of the Supreme Court who were activist and isolated.

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio on Tuesday. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."

Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw, those bastions of judicial activism! If only DeLay could see the so-called "training sessions" offered in the computer labs of my law school! The unbridled indoctrination is outrageous!

Mock Drafts

I think there is something quite fitting about the numerous parallels in the present speculation surrounding two mysterious events that will alter the future of our lives: the NFL draft and the papal conclave. If only the 49ers GM could choose the pope and the cardinals could decide what to do about the #1 pick.

Economic Impact of China-Japan Rift

Tokyo is warning China about the economic consequences of the growing rift between the two countries:

China is Japan's biggest trading partner, but Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura has warned that bilateral ties, "including on the economic front, could decline to a serious state."

The diplomatic row could threaten to derail trade between China and Japan that last year was worth about $167 billion. According to Chinese government statistics, Japan has invested in more than 20,000 projects in China with total actual investment of more than $32 billion

The tension between the two Asian giants is being reflected on stock markets on Monday, with Japan's Nikkei 225 average down more than 3 percent in the morning session.

Taiwan -- for 50 years a Japanese colony and one of several bones of contention between Beijing and Tokyo -- is down 2 percent.

I still can't tell if there is something serious behind all of this, or whether this is a game of bluffmanship that is being taken too far.

The article also does not mention the potential economic impact this could have on the United States. My most simplistic thought is that to the extent both countries have to look for alternatives for trade and investment, the United States could benefit.

But I think that ignores the complexity of the global market, and fails to capture the negative cascading effects of a serious disruption in the Japanese-Chinese economic relationship. At least in the short-term, I think it would probably be a very bad thing all around.

UPDATE: At least I'm not the only one who doesn't know what's going to happen. NBC's three page analysis of the situation ends with this gem:

How America�s interest might be affected by the struggle for supremacy in Asia still remains to be seen.

So it seems.

Vexillology

I have recently begun spending inordinate amounts of time clicking through the Wikipedia for any random bit of information that strikes my fancy. Just now, a search on Gustav Mahler (who converted from Judaism to Catholicism to become artistic director of the Vienna Court Opera) led me to Sir Simon Rattle (a leading Mahler interpreter and the controversial successor to Claudio Abbado as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic) which led me to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (it rose to prominence with Rattle as conductor from 1980-1998) which led me to Birmingham (unbeknownst to me, the United Kingdom's second largest city) which led me to England (the only part of the United Kingdom without a devolved assembly) which led me to the St. George's Cross (a symbol on the flags of both England and the Republic of Georgia) which led me to the Union Flag (it is actually not symmetrical) which led me to the Union Jack (only the proper name for the Union Flag when flown from a ship's jack mast) which led me, most amazingly, to Vexillology:

Vexillology is the study of flags. A person who studies flags is called a vexillologist. The term was coined around 1960 by Dr. Whitney Smith of the United States, currently the foremost vexillologist in the world and author of many books and articles on this subject.

The word vexillology is a synthesis of the Latin word "vexillum" and the suffix "-logy" meaning study of (see List of ologies). The vexillum was a particular type of flag used by Roman legions during the classical era. Unlike most modern flags which are suspended from a pole or mast along their left side, the square vexillum was suspended from a crossbar along its top side, which crossbar was attached to a spear.

Vexillologists are active in several national associations under the umbrella of FIAV (F�d�ration Internationale des Associations Vexillologiques). Every second year, FIAV organizes an international congress of vexillology (ICV 2005 will be in Buenos Aires, Argentina). Internet activity of vexillologists centers around the Flags of the World (FOTW) Website and mailing list.

Who knew?

Wedding Photos

Our wedding photographer (Rob Garland) did an absolutely amazing job, and gave us a proof-book with more 600 photographs. A dozen of our favorites:

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Disturbing Protests in China

china_protestsI do not know what to make of the recent spate of anti-Japanese protests in China, but it seems there must be more to them than meets the eye:

About 20,000 anti-Japanese protesters rampaged in Shanghai on Saturday, stoning Japan's consulate and smashing cars and shops in a protest over Tokyo's wartime history and its bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat. Thousands of police watched but did little to restrain the crowd.

Japan filed an official protest, complaining that Chinese authorities failed to stop the violence.

The Shanghai government, however, blamed Japan for the protest, saying it was sparked by "Japan's wrong attitudes and actions on a series of issues such as its history of aggression," the official Xinhua news agency quoted government spokeswoman Jiao Yang as saying late Saturday.

It seems unlikely that such protests could occur without the acquiescence, if not the encouragement or initiation of the government. And why now? Who has been organizing them? When did the planning start? That said, I have heard an interesting analysis that says the Chinese government is fearful of interfering because any injuries to protesters might raise reminders of Tiananmen Square.

And though eyebrows certainly rise at the idea of China confronting any other government about a failure to confront fully historical atrocities (the Great Leap Forward, anyone?), this is not the first I've heard of Japanese schoolbooks white-washing their wartime aggression. This has been a major issue in Japanese-Korean relations as well.

This is troubling stuff. It will be interesting to see what comes of it and what role (if any) the United States plays in mediating relations between these neighboring Asian giants.

More on an American Hero

By now, most people are familiar with the heroics of Spc. Pat Tillman, who left a professional football career to join the US Army and was killed in Afghanistan. Even months after his death, the depth of heroism is still being revealed:

In December 2003, when Tillman was back home from his initial tour overseas, in Iraq, his agent had begun fielding calls from teams suddenly interested in acquiring his client for the 2004 season.

"And they all said the same thing: 'Frank, this kid can get out of it. He's already served in a war. Just file his discharge papers,"' the agent, Frank Bauer, told The Arizona Republic.

He urged Tillman to consider seeking a discharge.

"He said 'No, I'm going to stay. I owe them three years. I'll do one more tour,"' Bauer said. "And that's the last I ever heard from Pat."

It is so refreshing to find an example to follow, actions of excellence worth celebrating and emulating.

Fords for the Good Guys

I just finished watching season three of 24 on DVD. It was not as satisfying as the first two seasons, but it was worth adding to my Netflix queue. It made for good escapist entertainment.

Since I did not watch it when it was on broadcast TV, I did not realize that Ford was heavily involved in financing the show (apparently even supporting a commercial-free airing of an episode). It was not until the last few episodes that I noticed that all of the good guys drove Fords, and that all of the bad guys drove Chevrolets. Not only did they purchase Chevys, but when they happened to need to carjack another vehicle...alas, another Chevy. What a silly and subtly disturbing thing.

Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn

vanpersieA fantastic outing for Arsenal, crushing a nasty Blackburn side that ought not have even shown up:

A Robert Pires goal and a late Robin van Persie double saw Arsenal book their place in the FA Cup final.

A poor semi-final saw more bookings than goalscoring chances in front of a disappointing below-capacity crowd.

Pires finished off from close range after good work from defender Kolo Toure three minutes before half-time.

Van Persie came off the bench to seal it with a fine individual effort and then a curling left-foot shot past Brad Friedel after being set up by Pires.

I was a bit worried, seeing the Gunners go in without Henry or Campbell. But Vieira never took the bait offered by the dirty-playing Rovers, and we got a glimpse of the potential of our young Dutch sharpshooter. With the career of my favorite, Dennis Bergkamp, coming to a conclusion in the next year or so, I have high hopes that van Persie will carry on a proud Dutch tradition at the club.

Here's to hoping Manny-U can hold their own against Newcastle, so we can be the ones to add the last indignity to their sad season.