By Wistar Watts Murray
July 21st, 2008
1. The American Human Development Project has published its first report, entitled The Measure of America. The report includes such fun factoids as “More families with children are homeless today than at any time since the Great Depression” and “The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s people – but 24 percent of the world’s prisoners.” Pick and choose from a wealth of disturbing trends:
A baby born in Washington, D.C. is almost two-and-a-half times more likely to die before age one than a baby born in Vermont. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die before age one than either white or Latino babies.
Or, if you prefer: “State and federal prison inmates average just eleven years of schooling.” What do to with this information besides jump off a bridge?
The. . .Project’s mission is to stimulate fact-based public debate about and political attention to human development issues in the United States and to empower people to hold elected officials accountable for progress on issues we all care about.
3. Sam Anderson prepares us for the next chapter in Barack Obama’s speechifying candidacy:
A major reason that Obama’s rhetoric seems to soar so high is that our expectations have sunk so low. . . . Since 1913, the length of the average presidential sentence has fallen from 35 words to 22. Between Nixon and the second Bush, the average presidential sound bite shrank from 42 seconds to 7.
Will Obama have to start hiding his intelligence in order to connect with the next wave of voters? Plus, a design expert comments on the infamous New Yorker cover.
Today, to France’s worry, Paris is no longer the place to be. . . .Its temples to the arts are indeed filled.
But the worshippers these days are consumers, not creators. They are mainly foreign tourists who come to see the eternal Mona Lisa, post-modern American artists, the French Impressionists and Moliere. The city chemistry that produced rawness, dynamism, change and challenge seems absent.
Is my baguette getting stale? Is my Monet poster curling up at the corners? Where will I buy my brie? These are end times. I bet the Amazon River is silting over too.
6. For God’s sake, people. Listen to the man. The internet is our friend. Unless, of course, you plan on running for office one day. “Would you still vote for someone after viewing a photograph of him passed out in his own vomit?” Maybe. Also, please stay offline unless you can commit to defending your popularity from minute to minute, freshman.
7. The answer to the modern feminist’s conundrum about balancing work, family, personal ambition, and dirty laundry might just be to “run your house like a man.”
8. Finally, literary critics aren’t dead; they’re rock stars.