September 4, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Soup? Art? The Quandary Thickens. (Tom Jacobs, 8/30/12, Pacific Standard)

Talk about coming full circle. Beginning Sunday, most Target stores will be selling special-edition cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup featuring colorful labels that evoke the work of Andy Warhol. [...]

So what does it say that a mass-market company (which, according to its in-house historian, had a surprisingly cordial relationship with Warhol) is bringing visual flair to the canned-food aisle? Has the difference between the Tate Modern and the Target Midtown been completely obliterated? that the original Campbell Soup can is an iconic work of art, while the Warhols are just garish imitations.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 AM


Chicago's Michael Clarke Duncan, an Oscar nominee for 'The Green Mile,' dies at 54 (BILL ZWECKER,  September 3, 2012, Chicago Sun-Times)

He often loved recalling a favorite youthful stunt. In 1979, Mr. Duncan was part of Steve Dahl's famous "Disco Demolition Night" at Comiskey Park. He was among the first 100 people to run on to the field and he slid into third base. Unfortunately, during the ensuing melee, his prized silver belt buckle was stolen. "Security came after me, so we had to run," he laughingly told the Sun-Times in 2006. "It was death to disco that night. I am part of history."
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Posted by orrinj at 4:57 AM


Seeking the Endemic Birds of Jamaica and St. Lucia : 1 man, 2 Caribbean islands, 7 days, 33 elusive birds. Can he spot them all? (JONATHAN FRANZEN, SEPTEMBER 2012, Conde Nast Traveler)

My goal for the trip was straightforward: to see every endemic bird species on two islands, one Greater Antillean and one Lesser, in the seven days I had at my disposal. Species endemic (i.e., exclusive) to an island are of special interest to bird-watchers who keep lists of the birds they've seen. Endemics that we miss on a particular island are species that we're likely never to see, because there are so many other places to go bird-watching before we return to that island and because, in the Caribbean, many endemics are in trouble and will become only harder to find in the future. If I'd had two weeks, I could reasonably have expected to see every one of Jamaica's twenty-nine and St. Lucia's four endemics. But to get the job done in a week I would need some good luck.

Although I'm generally not superstitious, I felt as if I'd made a substantial withdrawal from the karma bank by locating my suitcase at JFK, and I do adhere to the superstition that my luck as a bird-watcher is improved by giving generous tips to cab drivers and hotel staff. Unfortunately, after I'd been conveyed from the Kingston airport up into the Blue Mountains, I was too slow on the draw to tip the driver; missing this chance to replenish my karma account did not bode well.

I was staying in a guest cottage at a coffee farm called Lime Tree, managed by Suzie Burbury and her husband, Charlie. After a long ride up a terrible road, Suzie gave me quiche and red sorrel iced tea and then sent me out to look for birds.

Even if you're not a regular bird-watcher, you can take some cheap binoculars and spend a night or two away from Jamaica's coast and easily see many of the country's most spectacular endemics, including the national bird, the Streamertail, a hummingbird whose males have tail streamers longer than the rest of their bodies.
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Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


All the Ayatollah's Men (Ray Takeyh | August 22, 2012, National Interest)

Many Western observers of Iran don't understand that its foreign policy has been fashioned largely to sustain an ideological identity. Thus, we can't understand Iran's foreign relations and its evident hostility by just assessing its international environment or the changing Mideast power balance. These things matter. But Iran's revolutionary elite also seeks to buttress the regime's ideological identity by embracing a confrontational posture.

The question then becomes why the Iranian leadership continues to maintain this ideological template so long after its revolutionary emergence. After all, other revolutionary regimes, after initially using foreign policy for ideological purposes, later moved away from that approach. Why has China become more pragmatic but not Iran? The answer is that the Islamic Republic is different from its revolutionary counterparts in that the ideology of its state is its religion. It may be a politicized and radicalized variation of Shia Islam, but religion is the official dogma. Thus, a dedicated core of supporters inevitably remained loyal to this religious ideology long after Khomeini himself disappeared from the scene. Revolutionary regimes usually change when their ardent supporters grow disillusioned and abandon the faith. It is, after all, much easier to be an ex-Marxist than an ex-Shiite. In one instance, renouncing one's faith is political defection; in the other, apostasy. Although the Islamic Republic has become widely unpopular, for a small but fervent segment of the population it is still an important experiment in realizing God's will on earth.

To understand this, it helps to review some pertinent Iranian history, beginning with the thought and actions of Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini offered a unique challenge to the concept of the nation-state and the prevailing norms of the international system. The essence of his message was that the vitality of his Islamist vision at home was contingent on its relentless export. Moreover, because God's vision was not to be confined to a single nation, Iran's foreign policy would be an extension of its domestic revolutionary turmoil. For the grand ayatollah, the global order was divided between two competing entities--states whose priorities were defined by Western conventions; and Iran, whose ostensible purpose was to redeem a divine mandate. Of course, no country can persist on ideology alone. Iran had to operate its economy, deal with regional exigencies and meet the demands of its growing population. But its international relations would be characterized by revolutionary impulses continually struggling against the pull of pragmatism.

Khomeini's internationalism had to have an antagonist, a foil against which to define itself. And a caricatured concept of the West became the central pillar of his Islamist imagination.

As Reagan went to the USSR, so should his successors go to Iran.  We are all that props the radicals up.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Physician-assisted suicide poisons the mission of medicine (J. DONALD BOUDREAU, 8/28/12, The Globe and Mail)

Our angst is not limited to cases of assisted-suicide. It is rather that engaging in it alters the mission of medicine. It strikes at the very core of our beings as healers. It would leave an indelible imprint on dialogues with all patients. Our worry is anchored in the deep recognition of the vulnerability of sick persons and the power differential that exists in the doctor-patient relationship.

Doctors can become angry with patients. Patients can desire to please their doctors. Such feelings, and many others, can profoundly affect decision-making in directions contrary to patients' best interests.

The risk is too great. The medical profession is able to make mistakes and to act from dishonourable motives; its members are far from infallible. To apprehend these facts one need look no further than the German Medical Association's May, 2012 apology for the complicity of (many) doctors under the Third Reich in abrogating their obligations as healers. [...]

The Hippocratic Oath includes a stern injunction: "I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect." This constraint has guided medical doctors for more than 2,400 years. For example, it provides the inspiration and motivation for the steadfast refusal of the vast majority of physicians from participating in capital punishment. We do not administer the lethal injections that kill convicted criminals. Neither should we accept to administer it under scenarios envisaged by Judge Smith.

Physician-inflicted death is unnecessary and potentially harmful and I do not want to teach medical students how to end their patients' lives. If society concludes that it is advisable, it must not foist it lock, stock and barrel onto the medical profession. Physicians must not become the agents of implementation. Euthanasia and assisted-suicide must not become "medical" acts.