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I really don't like the way today's image turned out - sometimes line art looks great when it passes through my green filter, the goal being a neon appearance; but this is horrible - Charlie Brown in blackface. Click it for a whole "Peanuts" strip in its normal appearance (one where Linus articulates a feeling I know well).

Great This American Life on the radio this weekend - at least, the first half, of a show called "Welcome to America," about the culture clash when "...a group of Austrians come to New York City to teach in the public high schools, and how their experience here is nothing like Americans think it will be." One thing that comes out is the contrast between the attitude of the media covering the event and the teaching world, how there's a lack of ironic posturings among the educators, both domestic and Austrian. "No one acts like they've seen it all before... We in the media have all been portraying the Austrians as heading off into a Blackboard Jungle, all cynicism, institutional neglect and violence; when in fact they're entering a world none of us reporters imagined, where being earnest, and avid, and passionate is anything but embarrassing." Sometimes I get really fed up with the currently over-trendy attitude of ironic detachment, which seems to counter and put down any genuine enthusiasm, just because it's too emotional and hence obviously not cool. In fact, I think it's effect on the young is mean and harmful. Anyway, the segment was also an illumination of how provincial and naïvely condescending most Americans are - it seems the one & only thing many associate with Austria* is "The Sound of Music." (Personal observation from Österreich: The Sound of Music Tour is an institution in Salzburg, a traditional stop for the busloads of American tourists; naturally I've eschewed it the several times I've been.) In fact, narrator David Rakoff can hardly wait to ask members of the contingent what they think of this show, and he's dismayed when many don't even know what it is:

"We have this idea that Maria Von Trapp is some kind of great folk hero in Austria."

"No - no one knows her."

"Do you know who Julie Andrews is?"

"Yes - Mary Poppins. And Victor/Victoria."

He takes them to the New York Panorama at the Queens Museum, on the site of the World's Fairs, and concludes with some thoughtful musings about the metropolis itself. Someday I must see that vast model, which depicts the entire city and every structure thereof - they all have fun locating their own apartment buildings.

While we're on the subject of things European, a few words about the Kosovo crisis - I believe our mucking about in the Balkans is a big mistake. Five years ago US forces began flexing their muscles under the NATO banner in Bosnia; then as now I think it's a local problem for their neighbors to resolve, but it's not our neighborhood and down the road this interference is just going to mean more trouble. I'm glad the Czechs, Poles, and the Magyar are getting it together and joining the European Community, but rather than letting 'em into NATO that organization should've been disbanded with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. What's happening now is since our team's warrior class hasn't been demobilized they're just looking for an excuse to use their weapons - to justify NATO's existence an enemy must be found. (Kurds? Tibetans? North Korea? Chechnya? Sorry, fellas, assisting you directly would be too awkward, politically - the status must remain quo.) Bonds between the Serbs and Russia are quite strong, and this conflict could get out of hand and escalate quite rapidly - it's really scary.

Made some updates to my places page - there's an okay-for-now photo of the Sushi House (I may redo it some day), and a new section for the Stanford Theater.

Check this link for information about the new phosphorescent drinks!

  pic du jour

Mar 22
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* And some even confuse that country with Australia.