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23 November 2007



from Los Angeles Times/World in Brief

30 August 2007


Wholly holy?


Even holy water from the Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes, France, can’t get by airport security screening passengers for suspicious liquids.

Passengers on a new Vatican-backed charter airline had to hand over containers of water collected at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral to security officials at the airport in southern France before boarding a return flight to Rome….

The pilgrims protested that they had waited in long lines to fill up their bottles with holy water from the grotto.

Airport officials said regulations banning containers with more than 3 ounces of liquid are applied across the board. [Los Angeles Times headline was the more tasteful “Those blessed security workers!”]




The New York Times

19 November 2007


Child Matadors Draw Olés in Mexico Bullrings

by Mark Lacey


MERIDA, Mexico—Michelito Lagravere Peniche, 9, put his fingers to his head to create mock horns and charged Jairo Miguel, 14, who gracefully dodged him on the first pass. But Michelito was an aggressive bull and he circled back, this time striking his friend Jairo in the leg. Both boys erupted in laughter.

The first bullfight of the season in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula was rained out, which is why two of Mexico’s youngest bullfighters, disappointed to not be confronting real bulls, found themselves playing in the middle of the Plaza of Mérida after most of the spectators had gone.

They are not allowed to fight professionally in Spain, but baby-faced bullfighters are the rage throughout Mexico. Even though some of the school-age children appearing at the country’s scores of bullrings are not much taller than the bulls they confront, these mini-matadors have begun getting top billing from promoters, who view them as a new way to bring people to the arena….

Still the children confront very real danger in the ring, and their fights still end with the traditional killing of the bull. As their appearances have grown more frequent, so, too, has criticism from those who say they should find a safer extracurricular activity.

Jairo, an apprentice bullfighter who is following in the footsteps of his father, knows the danger better than most. A Spaniard who began his professional career in Mexico at 12, Jairo was gored so seriously on April 15 in Aguascalientes that he was near death. The bull, named Hidrocalido and weighing in excess of 900 pounds, pierced his left lung, coming within an inch of his heart….

The Third Excerpt

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

A new translation
by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Translation copyright © 2007
by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

A Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf

If the world could write by itself, it would write like Leo Tolstoy.—Isaac Babel



On the eighteenth and nineteenth of November, the troops made two more marches forward, and the enemy’s outposts retreated after brief exchanges of fire. In the highest spheres of the army, an intense, bustlingly agitated movement began from noon of the nineteenth, continuing until the morning of the next day, the twentieth of November, when the memorable battle of Austerlitz took place.

Until noon of the nineteenth, the movement, animated conversation, running, and sending of adjutants were limited to the emperor’s headquarters; after noon of the same day the movement spread to the headquarters of Kutuzov and the staffs of the leaders of columns. By evening this movement had spread through adjutants to all ends and parts of the army, and during the night of the nineteenth to the twentieth, rising up from its night camp, humming with talk, the eighty-thousand-man mass of the allied army undulated and set off in a huge six-mile sheet.

The concentrated movement which began that morning in the emperor’s headquarters and gave a push to all subsequent movement was like the first movement of the central wheel in a big tower clock. Slowly one wheel started, another turned, a third, and the wheels pulleys, and gears were set turning more and more quickly, chimes began to ring, figures popped out, and the clock hands started their measured advance, showing the result of that movement.

As in the mechanism of a clock, so also in the mechanism of military action, the movement once given is just as irrepressible until the final results, and just as indifferently motionless are the parts of the mechanism not yet involved in the action even a moment before movement is transmitted to them. Wheels whizz on their axles, cogs catch, fast-spinning pulleys whirr, yet the neighboring wheel is as calm and immobile as though it was ready to stand for a hundred years in that immobility; but a moment comes—the lever catches, and, obedient to its movement, the wheel creaks, turning, and merges into one movement with the whole, the result and purpose of which are incomprehensible to it.

As in a clock the result of the complex movement of numberless wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and measured movement of the hands pointing to the time, so also the result of all the complex human movements of these hundred and sixty thousand Russian and French—all the passions, desires regrets, humiliations, sufferings, bursts of pride, fear, rapture—was merely the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called battle of the three emperors, that is, a slow movement of the world-historical hand on the clockface of human history.


pages 258-259


EACH WEEK we scan ads from an actual catalog, a catalog selling junque. (That's junk with cachet.) These ads are real. Maybe they don't seem real, but they are. This week the venerable Hammacher-Schlemmer proclaims, You are fat, stressed and sleepless. Worst of all, you have unsightly nose hair; send us your money. Feel good about yourself, at long last, slob. And trim that nose hair for god's sake. What are you going to do, plait it?

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