Two trends have been at work in American culture over the past few years, and not much attention has been paid to the tension between them. On one side is the push for greater public health, manifested in limits on soda sizes and a stigmatizing of cigarette smoking. In many areas, local governments have outlawed smoking tobacco in bars and restaurants and near building entrances, and PSAs trumpet the health risks of smoking. On the other side, a push for greater acceptance of marijuana is gaining ground, with cities and whole states legalizing weed despite federal laws outlawing it.
President Obama strode to the lectern in the Rose Garden Thursday to announce a “historic” agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The preliminary deal made in Lausanne, Switzerland, the president said, “cuts off every pathway Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” I hope he’s right.
About a decade ago, Clive James came out to give a talk in the corner of academia where I was, at the time, pretending to be a scholar. The idea was that he would read some of his poems and then take questions, but things struck a sour note when some of us posing the questions seemed entirely uninterested in James’ poetry, and instead wanted to talk about his memoirs. James was visibly annoyed, though he later recovered over beers with a group of students, speaking with quiet passion on poetic and literary matters. He was in his mid-sixties at the time, but seemed much older, and not well.