Apr. 12th, 2006

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I was born on the 14th of January, so there I go.

Three historical events of note:
1514 - Pope Leo X issues a papal bull against slavery.
1784 - American Revolutionary War: The United States ratifies a peace treaty with England.
2005 - Landing of the Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan.

Three births of note:
1875 - Albert Schweitzer, Alsatian physician, missionary, and musician, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1965)
1925 - Yukio Mishima, Japanese writer (d. 1970)
1941 - Milan Kučan, Slovenian statesman

Three deaths of note:
1742 - Edmond Halley, English scientist (b. 1656)
1898 - Lewis Carroll, English writer and mathematician (b. 1832)
1977 - Anaïs Nin, French author (b. 1903)
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With luck, [livejournal.com profile] mollpeartree is right to suggest, in the comments to my previous post regarding the Bush Administration's plans for Iran, that Hersh's revelations might not be gospel but, instead, anything ranging from an effort to intimidate the Iranian leadership to an effort to undercut the Bush Administration. This makes me feel somewhat less concerned.

Even so. In 1998, Clinton was impeached for cheating on his wife. Bush is considering nuking Iran, but is he going to be impeached any time soon? Proportion matters, as always; politics needs a theory of aesthetics even if it rejects morality.
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It's perhaps revelatory that of the three hundred pages of text in A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival, written by York University's Stanislav Kirschbaum, almost half is devoted to the experience of Slovakia and the Slovaks in the past century. In his readable history of this often-overlooked central European nation, Kirschbaum makes a convincing case that it's only recently that the Slovaks have become actors in their own right.

Throughout the Slovak lands' millennium of incorporation in the Kingdom of Hungary, the territory was rarely thought of as anything other than Upper Hungary, populated by speakers of a Slav idiom needing to be subjected to Magyarization, while in Czechoslovakia the Slovaks were thought of as little different from the Moravians of what is now the easternmost Czech land. In both cases, the dominant population groups in the state inhabited by the Slovaks were very reluctant to concede the Slovaks' language and culture equality with that of the state-forming nation. In the end, Kirschbaum convincingly argues, Czechoslovakia fell apart because the Czechs were unwilling to recognize the fact of Slovak distinctiveness.

There are some conclusions that seem somewhat premature and surprising to me, for instance the author's statement that "[t]he Warsaw Pact invasion on 20 August [1968], which ended the process of liberalization, compounded the problem [of federalization] as some felt that there were more important matters to deeal with than the federalization of Czechoslovakia" (243). His treatment of the Slovak First Republic, a Nazi satellite, and of the Slovak National Uprising of 1944, might also be taken issue with. Simple fact-checking would also have been nice to deal with simple mistakes like the statement that "that per capita foreign direct investments averaged $648 million US" over 1989-2000 (290). Nonetheless, A History of Slovakia is generally of such a quality to deserve its status as the standard historical reference in English on Slovakia. It's certainly a good enough start.
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I got a friction blister on my right index finger at work today. I'd foolishly pressed the digit too closely against the hooked metal ersatz screwdriver supplied by IKEA, pressing hard on the upstroke when I felt the epidermis tear lose from the flesh of my finger. The sudden pliability of the skin before the cavity began to fill up with lymph was alarming.
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I finished a Caffè Americano at Starbucks, cut with whole milk to make it drinkable, before I headed just down Church Street to This Ain't The Rosedale Library (483 Church Street) for tonight's 8 o'clock reading, featuring Canadian writers Royston Tester and Matthew Fox reading selections from their latest collections, Summat Else and Cities of Weather. Tester went first with his grimly funny story "Now Showing", a pleasantly dry and witty first-person recounting of an errant emigrant son's coping with the death of his mother in her English council home, a story that itself introduced the Summat Else collection. Next came Fox, assistant editor of maisonneuve, who read a compressed version of his story "The Clearing." The problem with compressing a story is that complicated and critical structures can get obliterated; and indeed, comparing my memory of his reading with the story in Cities of Weather later tonight at the Indigo at Bay and Bloor, I can say this did happen. Although both writers did competent jobs, Tester seemed the more confident of the two, giving a nicely inflected and animated reading that made his audience laugh more than a few times. The only real disappointment was that the entiree event lasted only three-quarters of an hour; that, and the sadly light attendance.
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I walked up to the Bloor-Yonge station tonight, descending to the bottom level to take a westbound train on the Bloor-Danforth line at 9:28, only to be told at 9:35 as I paced about bored commuters that someone stopped the train at the Castle Frank station and that crews were responding. I shortly afterwards gave up and ascended to board a southbound train on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. People were talking, and acting.

  • Someone was checking academic papers, goatee and all. "'I am half sick of shadows," said The Lady of Shalott,'" I read on the third page of the essay. It wasn't printed on regular printer paper, rather on rich cream-coloured stock. He, in turn, used a purple-inked pen to make corrections, gazing down from underneath the brim of his tan hat.

  • The young woman selling roses reminded me of the protagonist of Hans Christian Andersen "The Little Match-Seller", cradling a wicker cradle filled with roses and stems lying on a bed of newspaper, plastic foil covering the blue- and magenta-coloured roses and capsules mostly filled with water clipped around the raw bases of the stems. Perhaps it was her cheeks, faintly sunken; perhaps it was her youth and her short skirt. Imagine a reaction, then, when I saw a professionally-dressed woman talking to her about women's rights and the joys of this country. If you're curious, the rose-seller was white and her interlocutor apparently of South Asian origins.

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