by O Solovieva | September 26, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, on the playground of the Square Léopold Achille in the Marais, somebody stole our seashell. Not a big deal. But the incident has in a peculiar way stuck in my mind and has been returning to my memory for quite a while. This is how it happened.


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The opening editorial of Cahiers Juifs (Alexandria, January 1933): "Egypt, located at the crossroads of Europe and the Orient and on the threshold of Palestine, furnishes, without a doubt, by its very cosmopolitanism a favorable milieu for the effort of international understanding that must provide the basis of a new humanism, in which the Jew... >> Read more
Hostage Scenarios
by H Saussy | September 14, 2012
What could be less democratic than a hostage situation? There are the hostages, deprived of their liberty, and then there are the people connected to them who are forced to do something or to refrain from doing something in order to satisfy the hostage-takers' demands. Not much freedom or consultation in all this. But it's advantageous to group... >> Read more
I adore France. My deuxième patrie, whether she will have me or not. But don't come here with a list of things to do and a determinate time in which to do them. And I'm not talking about Peter Mayle country; this is the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, a city that contains about a quarter of the country's population and a third of its wealth. >> Read more
Art Brut
by H Saussy | August 24, 2012
I don't like it because I think it's more genuine, or heartfelt, or real. I don't think the untrained artist is superior to the schooled one. I don't think clumsiness is in and of itself a good style. But I do like the kind of art that is made by people who, usually, had no intention of becoming artists, but discovered art because it fell on t... >> Read more
There’s a new 25th anniversary edition of Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland out. Graceland, if you didn’t know, was probably Simon’s most popular album, and it still sounds great in 2012. >> Read more
The Walk
by H Saussy | August 09, 2012
Marcel Mauss's great essay “Les techniques du corps” mentions a special walk that Maori women have, which he calls the “onioi.” He reports that Maori mothers reprove their daughters: “Hey, you're not doing the onioi.” I just learned from some recent publications about Mauss that he had it wrong: according to ... >> Read more
The Memory Man
by H Saussy | August 08, 2012
I'm away on vacation, but what am I doing? Reading about Chicago. Maurice Halbwachs wrote one of those books that staked out a field: Les Cadres sociaux de la mémoire (The Social Frameworks of Memory, 1925), followed by the posthumous La Mémoire collective (Collective Memory, 1950). Durkheim and Mauss are not far in the background when you rea... >> Read more
For my owne part, besides the Jargon and Patois of severall Provinces, I understand no lesse then six Languages, yet I protest I have no higher conceit of my selfe than had our Fathers before the confusion of Babel, when there was but one Language in the world, and none to boast himselfe either Linguist or Criticke. >> Read more
by H Saussy | March 09, 2012
Some years ago-- how many? the Marcoses were still in power, that's a hint-- I read a magazine piece about people wresting a livelihood from the garbage dumps outside Manila. “Good Lord,” my first reaction went, “that's not a life for human beings, these poor Filipinos have been pushed into the role previously occupied by pigs... >> Read more
Data Dumped On
by RM | March 05, 2012
I like to think the best of people. I try to start with the assumption that everyone believes, honestly, in what she considers good reasons for something, even if that something and those reasons turn out to be misguided about something extremely important. The New York City Department of Education recently released performance rankings for 18... >> Read more
The suggestion that American-style liberal democracy is the best societal organization to carry the message of Roman Catholicism came from the American Jesuit John Courtney Murray, whose work had been rejected by the Curia until Vatican II. In his book We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (1960), Murray insiste... >> Read more
For Washington's Birthday, let me offer a scandalous eulogy. (Nothing could be less scandalous, you mutter, than a speech on Washington's Birthday. The guy who could not tell a lie, the one who threw a dollar across the Delaware River, the one who told us in his Farewell Address to eschew the spirit of party, the one with the wooden false teet... >> Read more
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Not That You Asked

1. Bring back the broadcasting Fairness Doctrine, abandoned in 1987.
2. Reverse Citizens United.
3. Reward fact-checking. Protect whistle-blowers.

There's Spam, and then Spam2

One of the most useless appeals to conscience I have ever seen. Cardinal Dolan's bowels of compassion must be curiously void. What more appropriate spokesperson could be found for the modern-day Republican party? As the fellow said, “They have their reward” (and to hell with them, as I'd add).

King Kong Was Not at Home

Empire State Building gunfest. Enough. Disarm those bastards. Or put a free six-shooter in the hands of every man, woman and child. In the second case, I'm selling out and moving to a civilized country.

Our Export Products

Like the US, France contains a goodly number of loose screws obsessed with racial hatred or resentment toward immigrants. Unlike the US, France is a place where it's hard to get your hands on genuinely lethal firepower. But just as Johnny Halliday took a leaf from Elvis's book, so too, in the South of France, a couple of drunks were inspired by the Zimmerman 'stand your ground' incident to go shooting at Arabs in the street. They claimed to have been insulted and threatened by the gaggle of teenagers whom they peppered with buckshot. A judge found their claims unconvincing and put them away (Monsieur, four years; Madame, who was helping to reload, two). Their friends set up a support page on Facebook and went trolling for donations, again following the Florida example. Read all about it in Libé (reporting by Alice Geraud).

I Told You So

You know, I said all those years ago that torturing terrorism suspects was a bad idea, because it comforted our enemies, because it debased our country's reputation, and because it banalized violence against people who couldn't hit back. Now, with “Delaware doctor arrested for waterboarding daughter, 11” I have the unpleasant duty of announcing that the chickens have, as usual, come home.

Namby-Pamby Newsy-Woozy

This is kind of sublime, in the sense of an infinite regression, or what Hegel called a “bad infinity”... OK, with that quotation I know I have y'all in the palm of my hand. Yes. The newspaper that can never figure out how to explain that somebody is lying goes deep into the background about whether lying occurs, by asking people whether it is they or rather their opponents who lie, and then throws up its hands at the ineffability of it all. “What is truth?”


“Ecrire est précisément cette contradiction qui fait de l'échec d'une communication une communication seconde, parole pour autrui mais parole sans l'autre.” R. Barthes, “Tables rondes” (Oeuvres complètes, 1:803). “Writing: exactly this contradiction that turns the failure to communicate into another kind of communication, speech for another but speech without the other.”

An Open Field

I proposed today that the University of Chicago should return to Division I football, from which we've been absent since 1939. Rather than playing the game, we'll go directly to arguing with the refs.

A Health Care Deal

I anticipate reading that after throwing out US universal healthcare on some originalist reasoning, the honorable justices of the Supreme Court will announce that they henceforth will accept no healthcare for themselves that was not current in 1784. Hold the anaesthesia, pack on the leeches.

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