Recommended reading
A Cronkite Moment? by Jonathan Tasini, on signs that the conservative middle class is turning against Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld's war.


Downward spiral of depression?
A colleague in the National Writers Union asks if others, like her, suffer periods of tremendous doubt of their writing and enter a downward spiral of paralyzing depression. But she wasn't just looking for company for her misery; she wanted solutions. This is what I told her:

Yep. I'll bet we all do, sometimes. What I do about it is dose myself with virtual Prozac ©. In my case this comes in the form of a shelf of poetry. Howard Nemerov is very good for this ailment, at least in my case. And Antonio Machado helps me remember that you just have to keep going on. (That's what Samuel Beckett said, too.)


The funny paper
Kudos to Deborah Solomon. The NYT Magazine is sometimes amusing, but rarely so laugh-out-loud hysterical. Check out her pursuit of the wizened Harvard prof of withered brain, Samuel Huntington. He's the old coot who's sounding the alarm that the Mexicans (of all people) are stealing our country away from White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, to whom, Huntington assures us, it rightfully belongs. Solomon is skeptical, and finds it too, too easy to work up old Huntington to a froth. Having established his WASPishness ("The Huntingtons arrived in Boston in 1633"), she asks him:
Do you think that there is any truth to the stereotypical view of WASP's as emotionally cold people?

Wait a minute. You're talking about people. I am not talking about people. I am talking about ideas and practices.

What do you say to the fact that about 10 percent of the U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq are Hispanic?

Again you are talking about people.

What else is there besides people?
What indeed? Thank you, Ms. Solomon, for shedding such a strong light on such a murky old waspnest encrusted mind. How could anyone take him seriously enough to bother to put together a whole panel debunking him? (See blog for 4/22, below.) The man is a self-parody. See the whole silly interview: Three Cheers for Assimilation


"Dogville" is America
"Before I go to prison, the America that I know is a beautiful country and Americans are such beautiful, kind, humble people. When I go to prison, I see there is a different face of the United States of America." This is what Javaid Iqbal, on the telephone from Faisalabad, Pakistan, told Nina Bernstein of the NYT. Bernstein's article this morning, 2 Men Charge Abuse in Arrests After 9/11 Terror Attack, is another tale of horrible abuses -- degrading, painful and life-harming -- by American officials. Iqbal and Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian, were both living and working in New York legally and happily when their lives were interrupted by "federal agents in an anti-terror sweep." Other federal officials ultimately deported them even though they were cleared of the original charges-- deemed guilty because of their national origins and religions, that is, because they were outsiders.

In the powerful fable "Dogville," which we saw last night, Nicole Kidman plays an outsider who comes to the remote mountain hamlet of Dogville while on the run from gangsters. The Dogvilleans at first protect her grudgingly, then come to like her and even begin to depend on her services. But when outside events ("Wanted" posters tacked up by the sheriff on a rare visit to the town) make them think their generosity might entail some risk, they begin exploiting and punishing her horribly, including regular rapes, all the while regarding themselves as righteous. The violent ending comes as an immense relief to the entire audience, but mixed with the relief must be a disturbing recognition: this must be the kind of relief that so many in the Muslim world felt when the Twin Towers fell.

Don't see "Dogville" if you want to sleep peacefully snuggled in a Dogvillean cocoon of righteousness. The acting is too good, and the bare-bones stagecraft never lets your mind drift from horror of the story to the scenery. Dogville official website