by Matthew Sitman

Reading all the reader responses to my question about the books, poems, and stories that have meant the most to you has been such a rewarding experience. My reading list certainly has grown even more unmanageable. What I’ve appreciated the most, in addition to the gratitude for books on display, are the anecdotes that have accompanied many of your suggestions. Not only can a story or poem be a consolation, but they remain connected to what we were going through when we read them – and perhaps even shaped how we perceived and understood what was happening. Thank you all for sharing. Here’s more of your responses, with this reader reminding us of a recent classic:

I nominate David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon commencement address. Though a commencement speech, I encountered it as essay. I’ve been rather amazed at how it has stuck with me. “This is water. This is water,” has become a personal mantra, a constant reminder to practice mindfulness.


I’m late to the thread (as usual!), but I’ll throw on the pile anyway – Theses on the Philosophy of History by Walter Benjamin. Its theme, and the famous passage that reflects it, is undoubtedly dark, but in a way I have always found liberating rather than depressing:

Coll IMJ,  photo (c) IMJA Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

At a time when I was always looking for an answer, a solution, a neat narrative to tie everything together – I read this book and realized that I could (obviously) be wrong, that there are no answers, no fix, no solution to magically make things whole, to return to whatever came before. Understanding that that’s not possible helped me, in its own way, face forward.

By the way, I didn’t actually see Angelus Novus until years later, in Jerusalem. To say it wasn’t what I was expecting would be putting it mildly.

Another reader writes:

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Tax Scam, AKA Business as Usual

Aug 27 2014 @ 7:53pm
by Bill McKibben

Tim Dickinson is out with a superb piece of reporting in Rolling Stone today–a long investigation that picks up where yesterday’s headlines about Burger King and Tim Horton’s (and last month’s about Walgreens) left off. It turns out that these corporate “inversions” are huge business, and part of a trend that dates back at least to the Clinton administration where corporations have bent tax law to make sure their profits stay overseas and beyond the reach of the IRS. The numbers are staggering:

More than $2 trillion in U.S.-based multinational profits currently sit in offshore accounts, representing, by credible estimates, in excess of $500 billion in unpaid taxes. If that money were deposited in federal coffers tomorrow, it would wipe out the deficit for 2014. And every year that Congress dithers on a crackdown, America is forfeiting an approximate $90 billion in revenue.

The offshoring is a complete fiction. The money often comes from US sales, and even though it’s technically in Lichtenstein or the Jersey Islands or Ireland,

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The View From Your Window

Aug 27 2014 @ 7:23pm
by Dish Staff

Seward, AK, 526pm

Seward, Alaska, 5.26 pm

by Dish Staff

George Packer unpacks what the world lost in the murder of James Foley, and continues to lose as journalism in the Syria-Iraq war zone becomes ever more dangerous:

Among the many reasons to mourn Foley’s death is the loss of his reporting, and of reporting in general, from Syria. News of the civil war from Western media organizations has been dwindling as security has deteriorated, and it is now likely to dry up. Local Syrian reporters face an even greater threat. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least eighty journalists have been kidnapped since the start of the war and at least seventy have been killed, almost all of them Syrians, and almost all in 2012 and 2013. So far this year, the confirmed number of journalists killed is down to six, Foley being the most recent. (Solid information is increasingly difficult to get.) This cannot be because working conditions in Syria have improved. One likely explanation is that few reporters, and even fewer who reach Western audiences, are still covering the war. This would be disastrous under any circumstances, but it is especially calamitous now.

He also laments how thoroughly the chattering class has politicized the crisis:

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Faces Of The Day

Aug 27 2014 @ 6:16pm
by Dish Staff


Yes and Better Together supporters exchange views with one another as Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (not seen), speaks on his soapbox during his “100 Towns in 100 Days” tour on August 27, 2014 in Dundee, Scotland. Mr. Murphy, Labour MP, is touring Scotland on behalf of the Better Together, spreading his message about the benefits of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom and informing the public of the risks that independence poses for the country. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Naava Mashiah finds that as some European Jews, fearing anti-Semitism, move to Israel, some Israeli Jews are moving in the opposite direction.

So I see two sectors of the Jewish population, one in the diaspora, one in Israel, which believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. You wonder whom is deceiving themselves and whom will actually follow through and make the move. Will the exodus from Israel be larger than the inflow of immigrants from Europe? Will the immigration from North America still continue to make up the gap? Even as I write this, after the beginning of the cease-fire, a plane has landed with a planeload of new immigrants.

The Israelis whom move to Europe, as I did four years ago, will find out that the policy of the Israeli government will inevitably affect their life in Europe, even a small remote village. For the local population will remind you that you are Jewish and therefore connected to this homeland. It really doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the Israeli government’s policies. … Many in Europe say that it reminds them of Europe in 1936, and are reminded of those whom were proactive and departed, ending up as survivors. Some do not think we have reached such a drastic situation. While in Israel, it is no longer considered ‘against the stream’ to emigrate as it was in the 70’s when the immigrants were considered traitors to the country.

Here in the States, though, surely things are different, right? Perhaps for the most part – and anyone who thinks anti-Semitism is this country’s principle bigotry has been living under one of those proverbial rocks – but then there are moments like this, in response to a NYT story about rising European anti-Semitism:

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Cool Ad Watch

Aug 27 2014 @ 5:11pm
by Dish Staff

The city of Toronto lets the litter do the talking:


One more:

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Parental Whoa-vershare, Ctd

Aug 27 2014 @ 4:46pm
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Alex Goldman rounds up some responses to the latest parental overshare debacle, and provides a note of clarification:

The original article was written mistakenly as though the [author] had written about his son using his son’s real name. He was, in fact, using a pseudonym for his son, though critics note that his son’s real name can easily be found online with the information given in the article.

Slightly less nausea-inducing, then, but not much. Goldman sort of defends sharing of this nature, because stigma:

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Mental Health Break

Aug 27 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

For teens that don’t think they have anything to learn from Mozart:

A War Without A Winner, Ctd

Aug 27 2014 @ 3:55pm
by Dish Staff

Juan Cole casts doubt on how much of a victory the Gaza ceasefire really is for Israel:

[W]hat the Israeli military was going for was a result similar to its 2006 war on Hizbullah in Lebanon; since that conflict Hizbullah has not fired any rockets into Israel or Israeli-occupied territories like the Shebaa Farms (which belong to Lebanese farmers). It is not at all clear that the war produced any such similar cessation of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. In part, there are undisciplined small groups in Gaza perfectly able and willing to construct some flying pipe bombs and send them over to Beersheva and Sderot (former Palestinian cities from which Gaza refugees hail that are now Israeli cities). One drawback of Israel reducing Hamas’s capabilities is that it also reduced its ability to police the Strip. Hamas itself has in the past honored cease-fires as long as Israel has observed their terms. In part, that 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugee families from what is now Israel and that 40% still live in squalid refugee camps means that they are very unlike the Shiites of southern Lebanon, who are farmers with their own land.

The Dish looked at the hazy definition of “victory” in Gaza during the previous ceasefire earlier this month. Mitchell Plitnick observes how Netanyahu failed to achieve his strategic goals:

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