The Nation, August and September 2009

It’s been a busy few weeks in the Acilius household, and the blog has suffered.  Here are quick notes on four recent issues of The Nation.

nation 21 september 2009

21 September: A special issue on food brings a bit of New Left- Old Right convergence as Michael Pollan writes in praise of Wendell Berry. 

Alice Waters writes about the idea of “Edible Education,” and describes what happens in schools where the cafeteria not only serves wholesome food, but involves students in the processes of preparing and cleaning up after the meal.  Waters quotes Thomas Jefferson on the virtues of the yeomanry, and concludes with a claim that “Edible Education” can help to build an ocietyethic of stewardship and with it a caring society. 

nation 14 september 2009

14 September: A call for an investigation of the CIA’s conduct in recent years addresses claims that such an investigation would demoralize the agency’s staff.  The article quotes former NSC official Richard Clarke:

Richard Clarke has little patience for it. “What bothers me,” he says, “is the CIA’s tendency whenever they’re criticized to say, If you do your job, if you do oversight seriously–which Congress almost never does–then we’ll pout. Some of us, many, will not just pout; we’ll retire early. Our morale will be hurt.” And if morale is hurt and the agencies are gutted, they argue, the country will be exposed to attack. In other words: “If you, Congress, do oversight, then we’ll all die. Can you imagine FEMA or the agricultural department saying we’re all going to retire if you conduct oversight?” Clarke asks in disbelief.

A harshly negative review of a retrospective of the works of artist Dan Graham mentions a work the reviewer considers superior to Graham’s,  Mel Bochner and Robert Smithson’s Domain of the Great Bear, which appeared as an article in Art Voices magazine in Fall of 1966, and thus “inaugurated this genre” of magazine piece as conceptual art, the genre in which Graham would earn fame.   

A review of a new selection of Wallace Stevens’ poetry mentions many poems,but leaves out that we might have expected to see discussed in a magazine with its issue date, “The Dwarf”:

Now it is September and the web is woven.

The web is woven and you have to wear it.

The winter is made and you have to bear it.

The winter web, the winter woven, wind and wind.

For all the thoughts of summer that go with it,

In the mind, pupa of straw, moppet of rags.

It is the mind that is woven, the mind that was jerked

And tufted in straggling thunder and shattered sun. 

It is all that you are, the final dwarf of you,

That is woven and woven and waiting to be worn,

Neither as mask nor as garment but as a being,

Torn from insipid summer, for the mirror of cold,

Sitting beside your lamp, there citron to nibble

And coffee dribble… frost is in the stubble.


nation 31 august 200931 August: Benjamin Barber points out that public space

is not merely the passive residue of a decision to ban cars or a tacit invitation to the public to step into the street. It must be actively created and self-consciously sustained against the grain of an architecture built as much for machines as people, more for commercial than common use.

He argues that public art is an essential part of public space.  Getting rid of cars is the easy part; filling a space with art, and with people who are alive to that art and to each other, is harder.

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