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A Klezmer Christmas - Oy to the World!
Topic: Music 10:11 am EST, Dec 27, 2004

Put a little "OY" in Christmas. It couldn't hurt.

"Think of it as Santa meeting the fiddler on the roof."

"A perspective that is utterly different, yet utterly fascinating."

A Klezmer Christmas - Oy to the World!

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
Topic: War on Terrorism 7:11 am EST, Dec 27, 2004

Like the furor over improved armor for trucks and Humvees, the Mosul mess tent attack rouses the instinct to make force protection the immediate priority for United States forces in Iraq. No American wants Americans soldiers to be vulnerable.

These instincts are wrong.

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

A Jacques Barzun Reader
Topic: Literature 10:09 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

This is a staggering tribute to uber-critic Jacques Barzun's legendary intelligence and cantankerousness.

What truly impresses here is Barzun's breadth of knowledge; in an age of academic specialization, he is a rare, confident master-of-all-trades.

These essays constitute one of the great critical collections of recent times and amply showcase one of the outstanding scholarly intellects of the last century.

Barzun combines a depth of knowledge and a rare facility with words. A selection of Barzun's most inventive, accomplished, and insightful essays, compiled in one impressive volume. A feast for any reader.

Demonstrates again the depth and breadth of his learning, the originality of his thinking, and his commitment to speak to the general reader in engaging, intelligent prose.

Challenging, satisfying, elegant.

A Jacques Barzun Reader

I Can
Topic: Music 9:57 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

... Listen up
You can be anything in the world, in God we trust
But nothing comes easy, it takes much practice
Timbuktu, where every race came to get books
Read more, learn more, change the globe

You Can't Even Remember What I'm Trying to Forget
Topic: Literature 9:47 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

We have all heard. We have listened, gasped, and formed ourselves new lives.

Or not.


"I don't have a cell phone," I said.

Seven cell phones, handed to me from all directions, dropped in my lap.


They call this a ferry flight. We are in uniform, but there are no passengers. This means anything goes. A pilot pretends to do the safety announcement. Another pilot pretends to do a drink service, tossing us cans of coke and water. The pilots take off with the cockpit door open. A flight attendant holds onto the front seats, standing on a safety information card. The plane tips upward on take-off and he slides, laughing, to the back of the plane. We do not wear our seatbelts.


"It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history. Human life -- and herein lies its secret -- takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch."


People say to me, "Whatever it takes." I tell them, It's going to take everything. And still I see a woman in row four, cutting an apple. With a four-inch knife.


She tells me she's ready. She may be small, she says, but she's mean. She outlines her plans for fending off terrorists. She says, "I kind of hope something happens, you know?"

She wears an American flag pin on the lapel of her blazer. She sits on the jump seat, waiting for her life to change.


As absolutely as we need the ordinary tasks of living -- the post office, the grocery store, food and sleep -- we need just as much the extraordinary: to destroy complacency and ignorance, to give us the chance to make something new. Or maybe just to remind us that nothing is ever ordinary.

You Can't Even Remember What I'm Trying to Forget

The Art of the Essay
Topic: Literature 7:46 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

He knows hundreds of stories, and one reads him looking forward to the next, as well as to what he has to say about it. Perfect unions of example and generalization, his essays have fascinated centuries of readers. It’s the same combination of thinking small and thinking big, of incident and rumination, that makes people like me love essays as much as fiction, and for many of the same reasons.

The Art of the Essay

The Lost Art of Reading
Topic: Society 7:31 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

"If a well-read citizenry is essential to a vibrant democracy, the decline of literary reading calls for serious action."

Is the situation really so dire?

Blame it on the Internet ... right?

Five percent of respondents to a Gallup poll claim to have read 70 or more books during the past year. But the poll makes no distinction regarding the quality of the books read.

“Serious reading had always been a minority matter."

Are you one of the five percent? Are you doing Serious Reading?

The Lost Art of Reading

Beating the retreat on democracy
Topic: International Relations 7:22 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

Torn between the demands of realpolitik and its vision of changing the world, Bush’s team is consistently opting for compromises on both.

For any foreign policy to be effective it must be credible. Bush's mantra of promoting democracy is one of those policies that simply will not be credible if allies such as General Musharraf are allowed to redefine democracy.

Beating the retreat on democracy

Topic: International Relations 7:14 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

I would like to radicalize the discussion by proffering a thesis so contrarian in the current context that I should probably begin by asking readers’ indulgence. It is this:

There are no fundamental disagreements or differences between the United States and Europe.

Existing differences are often more apparent than real. When real, the differences are in all consequential cases actually agreements to disagree. And in any case, the views of Americans and Europeans have been converging for some time and will continue to do so.


Hating America
Topic: International Relations 7:11 pm EST, Dec 26, 2004

Fukuyama was right when he noted that the collapse of the Soviet Union also meant the collapse of the great ideological debate on how to organize economic and political life.

There is always a market for an ideology of discontent.

Hating America

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