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Category: Newsletter

The “Beautiful Madness” that is Exarcheia (newsletter)

Street map of Exarchia Neighborhood in Central Athens from openstreetmap.org
Street map of Exarcheia neighborhood in Central Athens from openstreetmap.org
“The walls here are like a daily newspaper, trying to make us get off the couch and roam the streets demanding all that is written on the walls.” — Níkos Tρavvós
Breathlessly stumble down the western flank of the Athenian tourist destination Mount Lycabettus and soon you’ll find yourself slack-jawed, taking in a part of the city that looks and feels a whole lot different from the tourist haunts just blocks away. You’ve entered the twilight zone, a compact triangular enclave called Exarcheia, home to artists, poets, intellectuals, immigrants, communists and anarchists, a creative churn of radical visions, defying authority, making its own rules, perpetually decolonizing itself. Wikipedia tells us that in Exarcheia:
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Bringing Home the Bacon (newsletter)

Uncooked meaty bacon, courtesy of Science Meets Food blog

Dear Friends,
Before I get going, let me update you on last month’s used car quest. Craigslist came to the rescue with an ad for a Forest Green 2010 Toyota Corolla EX sedan without frills but in great condition with new exhaust system and tires. Turns out it was traded in by a local couple at 115,000 miles and our seller took it off the dealer’s hands. He’s a Ugandan dude who drives around in a flatbed tow truck, which is how he delivered the Corolla. The next week he returned to make off with our old Honda, which he bought for himself as an extra car. Interesting fellow; at about 130 pounds, he’s thin as a rail and dark as night with handsome chiseled features and likes to share his carefully construed life philosophy. And I when wanted the car checked out, he trucked to my auto mechanic who, it turned out, had known him for years.

When she came down from Vermont to exchange cars, our daughter was delighted with it. I love it when things groove like that. In case you’re wondering, after the exchange of cars we were out around $5K, though sale tax, title fee, and registration bumped that up ten percent. We’re all happy with the deal and I’m particularly happy to be done responding to car ads by shady guys named Bob or Tony.

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It’s Only Money (newsletter)

Dear Friends,

How’s your summer panning out so far, dear reader? Mine already feels booked up, what with cataract surgery for both eyes (now half-completed but fully enjoyable), a big anniversary, and at least one major purchase that’s been taking a lot of my time. That would be a used car for our collegiate daughter, who drives a Honda Civic that’s old enough to vote and has started acting its age.

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Masters of Florid(ian) Political Prose (newsletter)

These are tough times for political progressives in that Disneyland of the Mind called the Sunshine State. (Wasn’t “Orange Sunshine” a popular variety of LSD?) Lefties there recently lost a cherished political journalist, but at least an equally acerbic progressive politician remains to entertain them.

Veteran Miami Herald columnist and gonzo novelist Carl Hiaasen’s retirement last March (read his parting shot) left a yawning sinkhole in Florida journalism. For 35 years his columns had the zing of wit and truth like those of his long-time colleague, humorist Dave Barry. Like his op-eds, his two dozen riotous novels—most with two-word titles such as Strip Tease and Skinny Dip—skewered corrupt politicians, greedy land developers, and know-nothing civic boosters, who often received their comeuppance from wild animals.

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A Penny for Your Ism (newsletter)

Thanks to continuing official outrages against People Of Color piped to me by the media on almost a weekly basis, the corrosive effect of racial prejudice never strays far from my overstimulated mind. Obama’s “post-racial” presidency didn’t change hearts and minds automagically; that takes struggle, such as opposing the hundreds of GOP-filed state laws restricting voting access if not rights, which rub the salt of racism onto our civic wounds, laws that all but Republican lawmakers seem to see as targeting POC.

But racism is a slippery concept, I’ve found. And looking into the word led me to want to know more about how applying that little suffix to a noun turns a thing into a concept, if you can pin it down. Perhaps there’s a better ism to describe racial prejudice. I’ll get to that, but first, a brief tour of the wonderful, wacky world of isms.

Ism is a little noun ending that means, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, a “distinctive doctrine, theory, or practice” at least since the 1670s, noting “the suffix -ism used as an independent word, chiefly disparagingly.” So right off the bat, to some extent, isms are objects of ridicule. Reasons for bashing isms vary, but it seems that their detractors are far more united than their proponents and their rationales for opposing a given ism are far less nuanced and coherent. Consider all the political brands those who embrace “socialism” have to choose from, while those who decry the term indiscriminately despise the lot of them.

The suffix–ism tends to occupy more neutral territory: OED (that is, the above website, not that OED) defines it as a “noun ending signifying the practice or teaching of a thing, from the stem of verbs in –izein [GR], a verb-forming element denoting the doing of the noun or adjective to which it is attached.” As I had expected, the Greeks coined it first.

You can find 322 isms listed at OED, from ableism to Zoroastrianism, many of which are breathtakingly myopic. Some of the more provincial ones include cledonism (literary), dudeism (sociological), incivism (political), melanism (medical), misoneism (cultural), naderism (eponymous), onanism (psycho-sexual), sciolism (snarky), thanatism (anti-religious), and verism (aesthetic—to which I tend to adhere, come to think of it).

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