A Rebel By Any Other Name

Jul 31 2014 @ 9:03am

Rebels

Will Moore looks at the labels applied to insurgents over time:

I plugged the words “bandits,” “communists,” “guerrillas,” “insurgents,” “rebels,” and “terrorists” into Chronicle and produced the graph [above]. We see that the US Civil War produced an enormous use of the word “rebels,” and though the count today is a much smaller percentage of the total number of words published in the Times,[1] we see that “rebels” grew dramatically in prominence in 2011. “Communists” first appears around 1918, and then explodes after 1945. The impact of 9/11 upon the word “terrorists” is equally prominent.

The Eight Billion Dollar Store

Jul 31 2014 @ 8:27am

On Monday, the national discount store chain Family Dollar announced that it would buy out its competitor Dollar Tree for $8.5 billion in cash and stock:

Both Dollar Tree, which sells items $1 and less, and Family Dollar, which sells $1 items but also higher priced goods, have struggled amidst a weak economy. While years ago recession boosted deep-discount stores’ sales, Family Dollar reported in April declining second-quarter profits while announcing that it could cut jobs and close nearly 400 underperforming stores. Earlier this month, its third-quarter report noted a 33% drop in profit. Difficult economic conditions have become financial headwinds for discount store shoppers, who are forced to choose between discretionary and necessary items. … [A]verage shoppers have an annual income under $40,000, and 50% receive government assistance.

But the recession bonanza for discount stores has faded, Annie Lowrey observes, and now some of these chains are struggling:

So what’s happening in the consumer economy that might help explain the malaise? The answer is “not much” — that is, not much is happening, and that’s hurting retailers.

Read On

“Sartorial Slumming”

Jul 31 2014 @ 8:02am

Kate Dries observes that denim-on-denim, or the “Canadian Tuxedo,” is so hot right now. Marcotte is unconvinced:

Meanwhile, Judith Thurman – in what could well be the first New Yorker piece illustrated by Kim Kardashian in open-thigh jeans – examines the history of denim and other forms of “sartorial slumming”:

You may suppose that dressing like the indigent, in rags and tatters, to make a statement about art, politics, or identity, started with the punks. But Count Tolstoy adopted the rough homespuns of Russian serfs, along with a credo of “voluntary poverty,” inspired by Christ and Buddha, that wasn’t popular with his family members. In the nineteen-twenties, Paul Poiret accused no less than Chanel of perpetrating a look that he called la misère de luxe: costly couture outfits made from jersey tricot, a proletarian fabric formerly used only for work clothes and men’s underwear. It was suddenly chic to look as though you had something better to do, and to think about, than changing an effete toilette three times a day.

Readers – not to mention Dish staffers – can relate to a recent post:

I’ve worked from home for 15 years and I can’t imagine working any other way. The thought of having some middle manager keeping tabs on when I enter or leave the workplace, how long my lunch is, and when I choose to take off early for the day is now repugnant to me.

As a self-employed home-based freelancer, exactly the type reviewer Jenny Diski is describing, I decide how much my time is worth. When I want to take a few days off, I take them. When I’m finished with work at 2pm, I don’t sit in front of my computer trying to look busy for someone else – I go outside to play with my kids. If I want to take a vacation or pay off a credit card, I don’t have to figure out how to slice up a fixed monthly income differently; I can just take on an extra project or two, spend a couple weeks working longer hours, and get a fat check for my efforts.

I admit I’m extremely fortunate; I’ve been working this way for a long time and have a large stable of clients and steady work. Building up to that from nothing can be a tenuous and nerve-wracking prospect. And there are, of course, downsides.

Read On

The Best Of The Dish Today

Jul 30 2014 @ 9:15pm

I have only one thing to add to the endless news of Israel’s brutal, unrelenting onslaught in Gaza: and it’s at the very end of a live TV interview Chris Gunness did today. Gunness is the head of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza. Israel bombed another of their schools today, killing children sleeping in a place they thought was safe. This seems to me to be the only human response:

I’m trying to restrain my emotions for the sake of intellectual clarity. In that spirit, a reader rightly noted how the US, in Afghanistan, has also killed children in collateral damage. That’s undeniable, and because we do not have video or photographs of the aftermath of drone strikes, we may be, in Gaza, seeing something that we too have done in counter-terrorism, and not fully owned. An independent study – at variance with official statistics – came to the following, harrowing conclusion:

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

I cannot verify this – but I do not dispute the core point it makes. Singling out Israel for blame in atrocities is unfair when the US has done exactly the same – and when the level of sheer annihilation and misery in, say, Syria rivals and easily surpasses the gruesome toll and utter devastation in Gaza. But there are differences as well. The grimmest survey finds that the US killed 176 children over eight years; Israel has now killed over 250 children in a few weeks. And Syria is a full-scale civil war with evenly matched forces. Gaza is utterly at the mercy of Israel, whose Iron Dome has kept civilian Israeli deaths to a bare minimum. So this is truly a Goliath vs David moment in Gaza. And Goliath is still pounding David into the dust.

On another note, another reader noted that my own position on sex and Christianity has a rather orthodox adherent – C.S. Lewis, in fact, in Mere Christianity (Book 3, Part 5):

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.

The “pleasures of power” – what a wonderful phrase. How much more energy do today’s Christians expend excoriating the very human impulse to sex, and how little they spend warning against the entrapments of power?

Four other posts worth revisiting: the gathering punch of Obama’s calm sanctions against Russia; a new thread on whether all kids should get trophies; and why one great place to read is an empty pub – maybe with a talking Kindle Flare.

The most popular post of the day was So It Really Is All About Sex, Then, Rod? followed by The Shifting Israel Debate.

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 24 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here. Dish t-shirts and polos are for sale here (full details here). A new subscriber writes:

Hi Andrew. I’m a regular Dish reader but seemed to have resistance to subscribing (to this and other blogs). But tonight I had to sign up, mainly to acknowledge your courageous and constant coverage of the war in Gaza. I am heartsick about this inhuman carnage and can think of nothing to do about it. At least you keep trying to show the pictures – and the excerpt from Tony Judt have been so prescient. Thank you.

See you in the morning.

Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 30 2014 @ 8:45pm

No surprise about this hugely popular choice in the in-tray:

I nominate Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”:

The Leonard Cohen version was beautiful, no doubt, but Buckley’s version made it gorgeous!

How another reader puts it:

It’s a revelatory interpretation that takes a poetic, if unremarkably performed, slow dirge and turns it into a soul-incinerating prayer. It’s an amazing example of a good song finding its most powerful expression in the hands of another artist.

Another notes, “I don’t even think ‘Watchtower’ has a whole book written about it.” Another piles on the praise:

To date, Cohen’s song has been covered over some 2,000 times according to leonardcohen.com. It has been covered professionally by the likes of everyone from Willie Nelson, K.D. Lang, Bono, and Justin Timberlake just to name a few. Buckley voice brings harmony and soars to the hauntingly beautiful words of Cohen. No matter whatever mood I am in, this is one song that’s on all my playlists. It is truly the best cover ever.

But the contest isn’t over yet.

Dish Shirts Are Here!

Jul 30 2014 @ 8:35pm

shirt-combo

[Re-posted from earlier this week]

Finally – after lots of your input – we’re psyched to offer you a choice of four custom Dish shirts. If you’re dying to take a look and want to skip the descriptions below, head straight to our storefront and buy your shirt now!

We thought we’d start our store simply enough by offering two t-shirts. The first is a light blue one emblazoned with the Dish logo across the chest (see above on the left). Or if you prefer the baying beagle by herself, check out the gray Howler Tee (modeled by the dashing bear on the right). I love the lone howler myself – only other Dishheads will get it.

andrew_howler-teeWe picked American Apparel t-shirts that use high-quality screen-printing and a higher quality tri-blend fabric that’s super soft, durable, and has a bit of stretch that retains its slim shape. There are sizes for both men and women – no generic “unisex” option this time around, as you insisted. We’ve also lowered the price by half compared with the t-shirts we did a few years ago.

Want something a little more formal you can wear to the office, church, or restaurant? Check out the polo shirts, which come in white (see below left) and navy blue (see above right). Both of these classic polos are made with a “Silk Touch” poly-cotton fabric and embroidered with the familiar Dish beagle on the left breast. The polos run a little large, and the high-quality fabric is shrink resistant, so keep that in mind when you pick your size. For the perfect fit, consult the sizing chart.

andrew_white-poloBecause we’re doing the higher-quality screen-printing option with a bulk-ordering process, in order to keep prices down, these particular shirts will only be available for a limited time, so you need to order very soon to be part of the first printing. So if you’re interested in a shirt, don’t hesitate – buy now!

As always, we welcome your feedback in the in-tray. And send us a pic of you wearing your new shirt! You may see it appear on the blog.

But first go here to grab your new t-shirt or polo. It’s one critical way to keep the Dish independent and running for years to come. And they’re pretty sweet as well.

Sullybait Extra

Jul 30 2014 @ 8:31pm

Yes, from an AP story about a botched male genital mutilation:

Axon declined to answer questions about specifics in the suit, including whether the man had a penis when he left the hospital.

The firehose of social media allows both reporters and citizen journalists to reach massive audiences in real time. David Carr weighs the ups and downs of this immediacy when it comes to war reporting:

Bearing witness is the oldest and perhaps most valuable tool in the journalist’s arsenal, but it becomes something different delivered in the crucible of real time, without pause for reflection. It is unedited, distributed rapidly and globally, and immediately responded to by the people formerly known as the audience. It has made for a more visceral, more emotional approach to reporting. War correspondents arriving in a hot zone now provide an on-the-spot moral and physical inventory that seems different from times past. That emotional content, so noticeable when Anderson Cooper was reporting from the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has now become routine, part of the real-time picture all over the web. …

Read On

Working Overtime? Blame The Team

Jul 30 2014 @ 7:42pm

Margaret Talbot has an interesting sidebar to the study on gender and overwork we highlighted a few weeks ago:

[Researcher Kim] Weeden told me, “A lot of times, in the new team-based work environments, it can be hard for bosses to tell who is responsible for what on a project, and so the easiest way for employees to show loyalty and signal productivity is to work long hours.” Employers may be drawing a correct conclusion that time equals worth, or they may be using time as a proxy because it’s hard to evaluate worth otherwise, and because long hours, and constant access through technology, have become values in and of themselves. At the same time, some of those men may be reading mystery novels – or whatever – online.