Picturing others as children can prompt…moments of identification. It is no coincidence that, next to scenes of the Crucifiction, Jesus’s babyhood is the most frequent theme in Christian art, his infant innocence and sweetness contrasting poignantly with the way we know his story will end. Images of Jesus sleeping in his mother’s arms subliminally reinforce his counsel that we should learn to regard all our fellow human beings as if they were children. Our enemies too were once infants, in need of attention (rather than bad), fifty centimetres long, breathing softly on their stomachs, smelling of milk and talcum powder.
Alain de Botton - Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion
A woman approaches me on the sidewalk, pushing a shopping cart and murmuring as she comes.
“Sixty-nine cents, five dollars and sixty-nine cents,” she repeats. There’s more, but that’s all I catch from half a block away. I’m hoping the signal will change so I can cross the intersection before she reaches me, because I think she might ask for money. She’s almost certainly homeless. “Five dollars and sixty nine cents,” she sighs. I start to imagine that she just passed a takeout place and saw a menu board pasted over with illustrations advertising a lunchtime platter-a Philly cheesesteak, say, with fries and a Coke-and she’s lamenting the sum that separates her from the sandwich and soda. Or, perhaps she’s already been somewhere and tried to order, but came up short; I see her standing at a lunch counter, clutching a five dollar bill and fishing in her pockets for change she knows isn’t there, utterly bereft. Fuck. I think I might have a couple of ones in my wallet.
She has drifted closer to the street corner where I’m standing, so I can make out more of her soliloquy. ”I can’t believe you didn’t do it,” she says, “it was just five dollars and sixty-nine cents. The TV gave you twenty-nine cents; I saw it. We could have painted the whole thing. Now look at us! I just don’t understand.” Although I already know what I’ll find, I glance quickly over to see if I can spy the tell-tale bluish blink of a wireless earpiece, or the slim black cable of a hands-free headset trailing down the breast of her coat, or even a cheap, gas station mobile propped up in the drugstore trolley’s child seat-anything that could help put the nonsense into context, really-but there’s nothing and she’s talking to no one.
She is very nearly at my side and if she’s going to interrupt herself to ask for me something it will be now.
I affix my gaze across the way, directly ahead.
She passes behind me without stopping, and then I hear her shopping cart clatter over the pebbled threshold that separates the sidewalk from the street. She crosses it and continues on her way, but from the corner of my eye I see her, still chattering to herself and gesticulating into the breeze.
Later, I’m sitting with my thermos and soup at an iron picnic table in a public plaza. Behind me, a fountain coughs phlegmatically into service, runs, and stops abruptly, on and off in senseless, jagged bursts. Suddenly, as if by revelation, I see myself as a passer-by might and wonder what I’m doing eating lunch alone in this park, in this city, while all around me the afternoon tries to figure out if it’s winter or spring.
All this time, I thought I was the only one who found inordinate joy in seeing two of the same car side by side. The world just became slightly less lonely.
That massive metal cross is a monument to Christ, but it’s also a cellphone tower.
A Ford Focus station wagon the color of Mary Kay or Pepto-Bismol.
On this day full of red, white, and blue in the US, it’s interesting to note that, in a large number of languages, when colors start getting their own words, red is usually the first color defined after black and white (or light and dark), and that blue and green are often not defined individually, at least at first. Those facts and more in this super long/interesting article about color and language and how colors got their names and and and…just read it already. Here’s part 2.
The figure above is really telling a story. What it says is this. If a language has just two color terms, they will be a light and a dark shade - blacks and whites. Add a third color, and it’s going to be red. Add another, and it will be either green or yellow - you need five colors to have both. And when you get to six colors, the green splits into two, and you now have a blue. What we’re seeing here is a deeply trodden road that most languages seem to follow, towards greater visual discernment (92 of their 98 languages seemed to follow this basic route).
What is the color of honey, and “faces pale with fear”? If you’re Homer—one of the most influential poets in human history—that color is green. And the sea is “wine-dark,” just like oxen…though sheep are violet. Which all sounds…well, really off. Producer Tim Howard introduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! Tim pays a visit to the New York Public Library, where a book of German philosophy from the late 19th Century helps reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last.
Two men: slim, brown, middle-aged, walking down Germantown Avenue, one pushing a mountain bike while the other carried an oversize can of beer in the kind of flimsy black plastic bag you get from a corner store. It was the second or third time I’d seen them this week, at the same place on the same route, walking, laughing, and sharing a tallboy.
The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night of April 14, 1865: two pairs of eyeglasses, a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a linen handkerchief, a watch fob, a brown leather wallet, nine newspaper clippings, $5 Confederate
The contents of Trayvon Martin’s pockets on the night of February 26, 2012: $22 U.S., a bag of Skittles, a can of iced tea
I first happened upon The Dubliner Irish Pub (520 N. Capitol St., Washington DC) during a layover between Megabus rides en route to North Carolina. The Au Bon Pain in which I’d planned to pass the time turned out to be closed, and since it was Sunday, pretty much everything else in that sector of Federal City was as well. Having few other options, I walked another couple of blocks, saw this place, and figured it was as good a place as any to have a beer, a Scotch, and a soup (my standard bus travel restorative). I liked it, and I’ve stopped back in a few times since.
As soon as I heard that President Obama had dropped in at a local Irish pub to have a Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day, I knew it had to have been at The Dubliner; they proudly proclaim to be America’s largest purveyor of Guinness Stout, a good number of the bartenders are actually Irish, and really, with a name like that how could he have gone elsewhere? What I did not expect was that I’d be able to see a Google Maps Street View of the interior.