Thursday, December 04, 1997

First sentence of a book review in the American Historical Review: "The study of ancient Greek music is a curious one, in that we have little idea how it sounded."

Another academic book for everyone on your xmas list: “A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance”. 20 bucks at finer bookstore everywhere. 372 pages, believe it or not.

You might check out the web site of the Museum of Bad Art.

The sooner they get Yeltsin out of office and into his own Pizza Hut contract, the better. The amazing thing is that only a day or two after his presumably drunken offer to cut nuclear warheads by one-third was disavowed by his handlers, his new offer to cut his ground and naval forces by 40% was actually reported as a serious news story.

No mention yet in American papers of Arafat's promise of a couple of days ago to declare independence in 1999 and NetanYAHOOOOO's threat to send in the troops.

Incidentally, the coverage of the Israeli Cabinet's fake commitment to withdraw an unspecified number of troops from an unspecified section of the West Bank at an unspecified date in the future got coverage almost as uncynical as Yeltsin's promises have been getting. If I were the Serbs or Saddam Hussein, I'd be issuing press releases during Free Ride Week.

As Nazi looted gold talks continue, little mention is being made of gypsies. A disproportionate amount of gold was taken from them, since gypsies are traditionally not great believers in bank accounts. Some of that gold was sent by the Catholics who ran camps in Croatia, where 28,000 gypsies were killed, to the Vatican.

There is a great battle going on as to who is the current Emperor of France, the inheritor of Napoleon's title (actually, Prince, but what the hell). The late Prince Louis Napoleon disinherited his son for marrying a commoner, and without permission yet. So lawyers for the grandson, age 11, are fighting it out with the disinherited Prince Charles. Say what you will, it's still probably of greater significance than the debate over whether Janet Reno should have appointed a special prosecutor over the burning question of which telephone Al Gore used.

In Maryland, lawyers are soliciting business by mail from people who are wanted by the police, but who do not necessarily know until then that they are wanted by the police.

Back to Israel: we'll see how this plays out, since Israeli censorship is pretty good at keeping information from the US as well as its own citizens, but it seems that last year a senior Mossad official almost started a war with Syria. For years he had used a fake Syrian source (or possibly a real source he just hadn't spoken to in years) to claim that Syria had no interest in peace. Last summer this right-wing loon decided to kill any possible pull-out from the Golan Heights by claiming that Syria was about to launch a military strike. Israel deployed its tanks, but didn't go over the edge. We'll see whether this gets any coverage in the US, where there has been almost none given to information from the Kremlin archives showing that the world was very close to a nuclear war in 1983.

A question for the lawyers: since when does this country convict people in absentia? France just refused to extradite someone convicted of murder in Pennsylvania, who would not have gotten a proper retrial.

Another lovely trend: an organization in L.A. is paying drug addicts $200 to be sterilized.

An interesting demographics story in today's Post and elsewhere observes that black male life expectancy in the District of Columbia is now 57.9 years, although a Sioux reservation has lower, while black men just over the border in Virginia live 14 years longer, and Asian women in upstate NJ live 97.7 years. Men of all races live 63 years in Baltimore (but it seems longer), which is lower than in Russia, while those in 2 Utah counties live 77.5 years (but it seems longer). There is thus a 40-yr gap in life expectancy between different groups in this country. By coincidence, British health figures in tomorrow's papers make a comparison possible. There is no racial breakdown, but the figures otherwise are much more closely grouped. Men in Cambridge live 7 years longer than those in Manchester or Liverpool, and the longest-lived women (by health district) live 12 years longer than the shortest-lived men, but that's hardly 40 years. No region deviates more than 5 years from the average male or female life expectancy. The NHS lives.

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