God Loves Flags

by Kieran Healy on September 11, 2005

I went to watch the Arizona Wildcats beat Northern Arizona University in the first home game of the season last night in front of a happy home crowd. I’ve only been to one other American Football game in my life, so there was a whole novelty dimension. During the halftime show, as the “marching band”:http://www.arts.arizona.edu/band/athletic/marchingband.html played Led Zeppelin favorites and marched in complex, quasi-aesthetic formations (it looked and sounded like you might imagine), the “color guard”:http://web.cfa.arizona.edu/colorguard/ drew a disproportionate amount of attention. (The color guard join in the band routines, twirling and throwing large flags. It looks tricky.) The color guard wore blue pants and sparkly, ruby-colored bustiers … except for one of them, whose whole upper body was covered in sparkly goodness. His presence was hard to miss, partly because he was the only male in the colorguard, partly because he was about twice the size of his fellow flag-bearers, but mostly because he twirled more effusively and pirouetted more extravagantly than anyone else. He flung himself _en arrière_ and _en avant_, he pirouetted under the posts and _jeté _-ed across the fifty yard line. He was terrific. Some people in the crowd got a little wound up, apparently annoyed that a gender boundary might be in danger of subversion on the very altar of American masculinity’s defining ritual. There were some catcalls and cries of “Get that guy outta there!” But mostly people loved it. And the guy himself could have cared less, blissed out as he was in front of 40,000 people, having reached a kind of camp Nirvana.

Sigur Ros

by Henry Farrell on September 11, 2005

Any DC-area CT-readers who want to go to the Sigur Ros concert at the “Strathmore”:http://www.strathmore.org/ today? I have a spare ticket which I’m giving to the first person to ask for it in comments (I’ll be around the show at 6.45pm or so to do the handover).

110 Stories

by Henry Farrell on September 11, 2005

“110 Stories”:http://www.110stories.us/.

True Believers

by Henry Farrell on September 11, 2005

The NYT Magazine has a “long story”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/magazine/11BELIEVERS.html?ex=1284091200&en=e1fba3185dd284cf&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss on “The Believer”:http://www.believermag.com/ and “n+1”:http://www.nplusonemag.com magazine as apostles of the new seriousness in literary culture.

bq. In the end, this may be the common ground n+1 and The Believer occupy: a demand for seriousness that cuts against ingrained generational habits of flippancy and prankishness. Their differences are differences of emphasis and style – and the failings that each may find in the other (or that even a sympathetic reader may find in both) come from their deep investments in voice, stance and attitude rather than in a particular set of ideas or positions. For The Believer, the way to take things seriously is to care about them – “to endow something with importance,” in Julavits’s words, “by treating it as an emotional experience.” And this can lead, at times, to the credulous, seemingly disingenuous naïveté that Greif finds infantile. For n+1, the index of seriousness is thought for its own sake, which can sanction an especially highhanded form of intellectual arrogance. But, of course, this distinction, between a party of ardor and a party of rigor, is itself too schematic, since The Believer, at its best, is nothing if not thoughtful, and n+1 frequently wears its passions on its sleeve.

It’s an interesting article, which has a lot to say about the role of the little magazine in American culture. Still, its underlying argument misses the mark in its attempt to bundle two dissimilar publications into the same category. There’s a very big difference between sincerity, which is what The Believer is looking for, and the kind of seriousness that _n+1_ advocates. The one is more or less entirely apolitical, and (in my personal opinion) quite annoying – its underlying claim is that we should abandon our critical faculties and only speak when we have something nice to say. The other is a claim that both literature and politics _matter_ and should be subjected to harsh and ferocious criticism where they go wrong. Randall Jarrell, moved to sarcasm at an editor’s wrath on behalf of an aggrieved reviewee, wrote:

bq. I had thought a good motto for critics might be what the Persians taught their children: _to shoot the bow and speak the truth_; but perhaps a better one would be Cordelia’s _love and be silent_.

As best as I can tell, _n+1_ is of the Persians’ party, and _The Believer_ of Cordelia’s. Not the same thing at all.

(Full disclosure: a piece of mine will probably be published on N+1‘s website in the next month or two).

Update: “John Holbo”:http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/the_functioning_little_magazines reacts to the same article on the _Valve_.

As a result of the evacuation from New Orleans, thousands of displaced students around the country will be absorbed into elementary, middle, and high schools which are not ready for them. If the experience of my own city (Madison, WI) is anything to go by, these students are largely disadvantaged, and are being placed in neighborhoods which are also disadvantaged; and will hence attend schools with high proportions of disadvantaged students. Department of Education officials are figuring out what to do — according to Education Week there is talk of relaxing unspecified provisions of No Child Left Behind; there is some pressure to relax or waive adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements for schools that take in refugees, and also to relax or waive the ‘Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom’ requirements.

I want to recommend that D of E officials would do well to resist some of this pressure. They should try to get their hands on some of the relief money, and use it to give schools both the incentive and the ability to meet the requirements. (If they do give into the pressure, they should, do this anyway). Specifically:

* Give schools which take evacuees totaling 2-5% of their previous student population funds which they can use to retain and attract qualified teachers (with incentive payments)

* Reward schools in this group which have increased their percentage of qualified teachers by February 2006 with flexible funds (which the schools could use, for example, for supplies, residential field trips, bonus payments to the teachers most affected, etc).

* Establish a program to incentivize qualified teachers who have left teaching to return to the classroom (in refugee-qualifying schools). The Department of Education could request current employers of such returning teachers to hold their jobs open for them for 24 months, and could pay the returning teacher the difference between her teachers’ salary and her non-teaching salary (again for 24 months).

[click to continue…]

Intelligent Design

by John Holbo on September 11, 2005

A few days ago I finished The Right Nation, by Micklethwait and Wooldridge, a pair of "Economist" writers. Perhaps you recall their June 21, 2005 WSJ op-ed, “Cheer Up Conservatives, You’re Still Winning,” in which they declare “the right has walloped the left in the war of ideas.” Ahem:

One of the reasons the GOP manages to contain Southern theocrats as well as Western libertarians is that it encourages arguments rather than suppressing them. Go to a meeting of young conservatives in Washington and the atmosphere crackles with ideas, much as it did in London in the heyday of the Thatcher revolution. The Democrats barely know what a debate is.

Well, the book is not such a polemical and high-handed affair as that portends. Mostly. [click to continue…]