Monday, March 31, 2003

What's in a Name?

When did we all change our pronunciation of the word "Qatar?"

The last time I looked, I pronounced it "catarrh." On CNN today, everyone pronounces it "cutter." I can imagine that residents of Doha are glad about this. After all, the new pronunciation evokes the image of a steel-edged scimitar instead of a wad of mucus.

Is this a British thing? On the BBC World Service - and the anglophile NPR News - I believe I've heard the news readers pronounce the word "carter."

I remember a similar instance occurred around the late 1980s. Seemingly overnight, the American pronunciation of Moscow shifted from the curt "Mos-co" to the more drawn-out "Moss-cow." An Utne Reader writer even remarked upon the change.

Who makes these decisions and why? Did I miss the memo?
The Original Homeland Security...

At time of writing, Project Underground, is selling these t-shirts for $15. Details are on its Shoshone webpage. Tell them I sent you.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Maybe I'm Just A Frat Boy Too...

The peace march picture from my previous blog post I took from this website. It's full of pictures that capture much of the creativity and joyfulness of the marchers.

Of course, when I saw my friends in one the pictures, I couldn't resist sending them to the URL with the following message.


Subject: Urgent Message From Homeland Security

Dear Mr. [last name deleted] & Ms. [last name deleted]:

Due to a traitorous amendment to the Patriot Act I by Ted Kennedy and other Commie-terrorist-Democratic operatives in the Senate, I am legally obliged to inform you that the following picture of you two demonstrator/traitors is now lodged in the intelligence files of the Fatherland, oops sorry, Homeland Security Department.

We are watching you. Watch what you say. Watch what you do.

Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Ashcroft!

Patriotically yours,

From All the Friendly Folk at Your Homeland Security Department

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Soundtrack: Blondie "Best of..."
One Peaceful Saturday

I have been fairly studiously avoiding anti-war activism. Peace issues are not my forte; challenging corporate power is. While the two are often connected, my time is limited. Since I'm serious about having a life outside of my political vocation, I just don't do peace events as a rule.

I honor this rule as I honor most rules: in the breach. Church is a key part of my life outside work. It's through my church - the Arlington Street Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Boston - that I'm dragged into anti-war events.

I nearly did not attend this Saturday's peace rally on Boston Common. However, my minister and many from my congregation decided to meet at the church (conveniently located at the corner of the Boston Gardens) and join the rally as a group with banners. I just couldn't resist coming along.

I was very glad I came. The rally was a truly joyful expression of opinion against the war in Iraq. I missed the speakers and instead wandered around greeting fellow activists, old friends, and any strange, slobbery dog. Soon I was on the march and helping by handing out leaflets.

The march was when my joy kicked in. There's something wonderfully surreal about marching down city streets at an event like this. I loved the giant puppets and the clever banners. It's also affirming to be surrounded by thousands of people who are peacefully expressing similar views. Walking down Beacon Street, I just felt the joy welling up in me into a permanent grin and laugh.

Here's a picture of where I was marching. My friend, Angela, is carrying the "What Would Jesus Bomb?" banner. The guy almost obscuring the banner with his head is another friend, Dan. I probably just missed being included in the shot because I was handing out a leaflet to a bystander. Oh, well.

The few counter demonstrators were notable for their ineffectiveness. A group of them gathered where Arlington Street meets Boylston Street and shouted lame epithets like "shave your pits!" at the women peace marchers. Almost all of them were young white men under 30. They looked and behaved like a bunch of dim, ill-mannered frat boys. (As a Buffy fan, I yearned to sic Anyanka on them.) Meanwhile, the trusty bell-ringers at Arlington Street Church rang out "La Marseillaise" and "Frere Jacques."

(After a lifetime and a thousand years of hatred, it's so strange for me, as a British subject, to start to like the French.)

The marchers wound back into Boston Common as if it were a celebration. With no draft and few casualties, this war has touched few Americans' lives deeply. The battles in faraway Iraq are like a video game we all experience solely through our TV screens. So far that's taken the heat out of the protests and the debate in the United States. If the body bags return in the thousands or terrorists hit a target in America, it will become very ugly here and very fast.

Soundtrack: Blur "Leisure," Oasis "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?"

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I am impressed with people who post anything in their blogs. I've read vivid accounts of polymorphous sexual escapades, wicked critiques of bosses and co-workers, and plenty of bizarre opinions on the state of the world.

Many of these bloggers hide their names. However, some reveal their identity. I'd describe the latter group as brave, principled, unemployable and alone.

In the pages of this blog, I choose to share none of those four qualities. Just in case you didn't catch the title, I am open about my identity.

So I'm going to be restrained, oblique, and self-censoring. There will be shout-outs to those in the know. Where I don't need to be reserved in public - such as in political commentary - I'll likely let rip a bit. But you won't read anything here that I would not want to see published in the pages of the Boston Globe. Besides, I've been quoted quite enough there already.