As I've been in the midst of a move from Seattle to Virginia, I haven't been able to write much about the events of the past couple weeks. I'm hoping to return within a few days, but until then, a few thoughts.
Kurt Vonnegut. My friend Dave G. gave me a copy of 'Welcome to the Monkey House' when we were in 11th grade, I remember the physical sensation I had reading him for the first time, having been totally unaware that that sort of writing, and the expression of those kinds of ideas, was out there, was even possible. In 1993 I saw Vonnegut speak at UMass-Amherst, he walked out in a brown suit and shiny white patent leather shoes, no notes, and held forth for about an hour, ending with "Okay, that's my speech." Then he took four questions and left. 'Mother Night' was the book I gave to my future wife in the first days of our courtship. (She gave me Roahld Dahl's 'My Uncle Oswald.') I got choked up listening to Vonnegut's obituary on NPR as my brother and I sped through Kansas. There are better novelists, but none who did as much to point me toward the kind of person that I want to be. Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut.
Sadr and Sistani. Dilip Hiro writes that they've formed an effective alliance. While his would represent a significant reversal for Sadr, as he has made his own Arab ethnicity, and, by implication, Sistani's Persian background, a big part of his nationalist program, it makes sense for him, now that he's a much more established figure in Iraqi politics, to come to an accomodation with the much more senior cleric. I'll have to keep watching this development, but at the very least, a Sadr-Sistani rapprochement indicates that we could see a wthdrawal of U.S. troops much sooner than later, as both leaders have been very critical from the start of U.S. troops' presence in Iraq. Also interesting will be to see how Sadr positions himself in relation to Sistani's acceptance of popular sovereignty for Iraq, which is one of the more significant recent developments in Shi'i jurisprudence, unfortunately lost beneath the waves of continuing violence.
Finally, I'd just like to say that Kansas cops are exceedingly polite, even when they're making you wait around for a canine unit to come and sniff your car.