Monday, October 31, 2005


If you're near the Big Apple you can enjoy malarkey at the Met.
The Met's show includes a fine selection dedicated to those mediums at work. Tables soar, chairs take flight, men in old-fashioned suits levitate, apparitions appear, and ghostly light flashes between outstretched hands. Most striking of all are the visions of ectoplasm snaking out of mouths, nostrils, and other orifices quite unmentionable on a respectable website. These grubby pieces of cotton, giblets, and who knows what were a messy but logical development, manufactured miracles for what was, in essence, a manufactured religion. Like the photographs, like dead Walter's mysterious thumbprint (don't ask), they were evidence. The immaterial had been made material, and in a supposedly more skeptical age, that's what counted. In great part, the enormous popularity of spiritualism in the later 19th century was a response to the threat that science increasingly represented to the certainties of traditional belief. Science had made Doubting Thomases of many, but spiritualism, by purportedly offering definitive proof of an afterlife, enabled its followers to reconcile ancestral faith and eternal superstitions with, they thought, fashionable modernity and the rigors of scientific analysis.


A long piece about the way the Mexican government interferes with US policy.
Sitting in his expansive office in Mexico’s Los Angeles consulate, Deputy Consul General Velázquez-Suárez gamely insists that he and his peers observe the diplomatic duty not to interfere in America’s internal affairs, including immigration matters. “Immigration is an internal discussion,” he says. “We have to respect that regardless of whether it pleases us.”

Well, at least one part of the deputy consul general’s statement is true: immigration is an “internal discussion.” The decision about who can enter and permanently reside in a country is central to its identity. The rest of his statement, though, is utterly false.