The week (July 7th): Nobody asked me, but…

With another tip of the cap to Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

AS WE LOSE AMERICA’S GREATEST GENERATION, we also see the passing of the last of the Righteous Gentiles, those who helped save some of the Jews of Europe from Hitler. The Associated Press reports the death, at the age of 88, of Jaap Penraat, “an architect and industrial designer who helped 406 Jews sneak out of Nazi-occupied Netherlands and withstood torture to protect fellow members of the resistance.”

Penraat had a simple explanation for his actions: “You do these things because in your mind there is no other way of doing it.” Sadly, Penraat’s courage stands in sharp contrast to the record in the Netherlands of collaboration with the Nazis, where only some 30,000 Jews (of a population of 140,000) survived. Had there been more Jaap Penraats, had the Dutch (and the French and Poles) acted more like the Danes, many more would have been saved.

The Dutch should remember Jaap Penraat as they consider the shabby treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the rise of Islamo-facism and anti-Semitism in Holland today.

SPEAKING OF COURAGE, the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has announced that its 2006 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning would be shared by Algerian cartoonist Ali Dilem and eleven Danish cartoonists. The announcement from CRNI is worth quoting at length:

Dilem, a cartoonist in Algeria for over 15 years, has faced jail time and threats to his life more than once. Although under death threats from paramilitary forces and legal pressure from the government, Dilem continues to draw and publish in Algeria. He was recognized for his refusal to choose exile or self-censorship in the face of intimidation.

The 11 Danish cartoonists produced 12 cartoons commissioned by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Last September, the Danish daily published the cartoons because, editors said, there was growing self-censorship in matters related to Islam. The feature triggered a diplomatic standoff between Denmark and several Islamic states by mid-October. In February 2006, riots and demonstrations condemned the cartoons. Dozens of protestors from Afghanistan and Libya to Nigeria and Indonesia died in the resulting demonstrations.

The cartoons sparked a crisis in freedom-of-speech circles that reverberates today. Their lives threatened, the 11 Danish cartoonists live under tight security.

ENGLISH HISTORIAN ANDREW DALBY is arguing that Homer, author of the Illiad and Odyssey, could have been a female, citing “a long tradition worldwide” of women “as makers of oral literature,” according to the Times of London. Dalby makes the claim in an soon-to-be published book “Rediscovering Homer” adding: “As a working hypothesis, this helps to explain certain features in which these epics are better — more subtle, more complex, more universal — than most others.”

Cambridge University’s Anthony Snodgrass, an archaeology professor, concedes that the Odyssey could have been written by a woman, because “a world at peace in general terms, with domesticity, fidelity . . . endurance and determination rather than aggression,” but calls the idea far-fetched for the Iliad with its “endless fighting and killings.”

Peter Stothard of the Times notes that the 19th century author Samuel Butler also believed that a woman had written (or sung) the Odyssey (although his reasoning were somewhat more negative in tone).

I could easily believe that Homer was a woman, primarily because writing talent isn’t gender-dependent. A poet or writer, male or female, can depict the interior or exterior life with sensitivity. As with those who argue that Shakespeare was someone else (Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford), how about some evidence, one way or the other?

THE WEBSITE METACAFE.COM offers this rather clever commercial: I never thought the German Coast Guard would make me laugh.

JOHN EDWARDS, former Senator from North Carolina and the Democratic VP nominee in 2004, seems to have Hillary Clinton worried, “running scared,”or at least that’s what Deborah Orin of the New York Post would have you believe. She thinks the recent Washington Post op-ed by Clintonistas James Carville and Mark J. Penn entitled “The Power of Hillary” that touts Clinton’s electability represents a defensive move to counter Edwards’ surprising recent first place finish in the Iowa poll. Orin also argues Senator Clinton is tacking leftward ( “She hired a lefty blogger and cozied up to anti-war activists by pledging to desert pal Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) if he loses a primary over Iraq and runs as an independent.”) to try to appease Democratic left-of-center voters.

It is true that Edwards’ stock has been rising (and Edwards has been visiting Iowa); the National Journal‘s White House 2008 ranking of Democratic contenders now has Edwards in second place, behind Senator Clinton, displacing Mark Warner. (“Non-candidate” Al Gore wasn’t considered for the rankings.) Yet, it is a long, long way to Iowa in 2008…

DEXTER FILKINS’ REPORTAGE from Iraq (“In Ramadi, Fetid Quarters and Unrelenting Battles”), datelined July 4 in the New York Times, offers a disturbing, gritty portrait of embattled American marines in hostile territory. His description of the situation on the ground: “The Government Center in the middle of this devastated town resembles a fortress on the wild edge of some frontier: it is sandbagged, barricaded, full of men ready to shoot, surrounded by rubble and enemies eager to get inside.”

You have to admire Filkins for going into harm’s way to bring back the story; he follows in a long, distinguished line of war correspondents (Ernie Pyle, Homer Bigart, Marguerite Higgins, David Halberstam, Gloria Emerson, and many more) whose battlefield reporting reflected the realities American soldiers faced in combat.

IN PARIS, THE HAUTE COTURE fall/winter 2006 season has kicked off and Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune critiqued collections by Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), and John Galliano (Dior). Menkes loved the Lacroix, I think she liked the Dior and didn’t like the Armani and Chanel, but with the way she writes about fashion, I’m not quite sure.

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Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders

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