Archive for September 29th, 2004

One of the many and various joys of being the father of a young reader is that you are introduced to some killer books that you would never had read otherwise. Tucker had me read Louis Sacher’s Holes long before it was a movie; that was great. But then I did have to suffer through the Animorphs. Even that series has it’s upsides, particularly Number 16 The Warning in which our heroes discover a Yerk-devised web site and are lead to the home of an AOL-like founder who may or may not be a powerful alien.
But one series of books, he has told me to avoid while he devours them. Of course, I too ignored the warnings and dug into the Series of Unfortunate Events. The latest book, which dear reader unless you wish to fall head first into a pool of your own tears made deep by this tragic story of the Baudelaire orphans you should definitely not read, called “The Grim Grotto” contains puzzles that cannot be solved unless you are well-read. The poetry of Eliot and of Lewis Carroll must be known to know the answers to one of the codes for example. And I do not mean “Cats” but the “Waste land”.
Each of the books, there will be 13 in all, has 13 chapters in which terrible things happen to orphans and others which I cannot write about without feeling faint. And I am feeling beyond faint now as I steel myself to warn you dear reader to prepare yourself for the coming in December of a movie with no happy ending, no happy beginning and not much happiness inbetween. Stay home and go to no movies for a while lest you are forced to see the trailer or worse that you wander into the wrong side of the cineplex and see the sad film itself.
The author, Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler, also did the interview/liner notes for one of my favorite CD collections, 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields put out by Chapel Hill’s Merge Records.

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The discussion that started between Bruce Lawrence and John Hood over the application of the word “insurgents” to describe people who are fighting against American forces in Iraqi has taken on more steam. Probably unbeknownst to Bruce, the folks in the Locker Room have been parsing out the meanings of the encounter and the alternative words. John Hood’s version of the crossing of minds was followed by a posting from Jeff Taylor in which Jeff asks “does dissident accurately describe Tim McVeigh?”
The answer is technically yes but precisely no. I mean and Jeff means I assume that it’s not strong enough to be accurate. I will say that what Jeff says is the military’s prefered term “anti-Iraqi’ forces both accurate and bogus at the same time.
I suggested to John that if he or Bruce had used the cognate for “insurgents,” “freedom fighters” instead we would have had an even more amusing encounter. John’s answer accurate, but I think not quite right, is that a “freedom fighter” could be fighting for freedom (how Reagan saw his Contras) or as fighting against freedom (unlikely reading by most contemporary English speakers I’d say.)
When I was a participant at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder in 2002, Norman Solomon enraged the thoughtful Stuart Schoffman by saying that if there were “suicide bombers” on one side then the Israeli’s who shot rockets from tanks or from planes should be called “homicide bombers.” Norman pressed on such reversals until Stuart, who had worked for reconciliation, was spitting nails.
Oddly enough, I, not long after, heard the term “homicide bombers” being used. But not refering to Israelis as Norman had suggested, but by Israelis seeking to put the focus on the crimes of the self-exploding killers. As the Disinfopedia notes:

The use of these two terms [actually three terms in the article: suicide bomber, homicide bomber and martyr -- PJ] by opposing parties to a violent conflict demonstrates the way that propaganda contributes to social polarization. Rather than sharing a common language, the people who use these terms have invented language which enables them to deepen their estrangement and even to erase awareness of their mutual humanity.

Language can be a weapon, but it is not your friend entirely. As Eliot says in Prufrock: It is impossible to say just what I mean! Wittgenstein agreed or at least that’s how I read him.

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