By JAYSON JACOBY
Almost the whole of a century has elapsed and at last our final, feeble human link to the Great War has been cut.
The war is history, officially and irretrievably so.
The Methuselah’s name is Frank Buckles.
He died Feb. 27 at the improbable age of 110.
Buckles, who lied to a recruiter about his age to enlist in the Army
in 1917 (he claimed he was 18 when he was in fact 16ﬁ), was the last
surviving American veteran of the catastrophe we now call World War I.
(That moniker, “Great War,” initially attached to the 1914-18
conflict, lost its luster, so to speak, when Hitler’s blitzkrieg
pounced on Poland in 1939 and unleashed a far greater hemorrhage of
both blood and treasure.)
A conventional reaction to a milestone such as Buckles’ death is to
wonder whether our collective memory of the distant event will now
begin to wither more rapidly.
I doubt this.
The reason is that World War I was relegated decades ago to a sort
of historical purgatory — not so ancient as, say, the Peloponnesian
War, but no more relevant to today’s problems than is the War of 1812.
Public employee unions are much in the news these days, and quite a lot of the people who have something to say about unions say it with palpable passion.
I respect people who express themselves with conviction. By contrast, an opinion delivered dispassionately can be as unsatisfying as a meal of bland, ungarnished food. Boiled potatoes, for instance.
I’d like to believe that Thomas Jefferson, when he dipped his quill into an ink pot 235 years ago, was thinking about the health of the people living in the country that his words would soon help to create.
The phrase he wrote, of course, was “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That “health” is not among the inalienable rights Jefferson listed in the Declaration of Independence is, I suspect, an intentional omission.
If you would endeavor to understand Oregon, to know this place and
its people, then I believe your bookshelf must hold three volumes.
They are, in no particular order:
• “Oregon Geographic Names,” by Lewis A. McArthur and Lewis L. McArthur
• “The Oregon Desert,” by E.R. Jackman and R.A. Long
• “Trees to Know in Oregon,” originally by Charles R. Ross, Oregon
State University Extension forester; newest edition, released this
year, by OSU forestry professor Edward C. Jensen.
The juxtaposition of the two murder stories was pure coincidence.
Publishing a newspaper has on occasion much in common with putting together a puzzle.
But with a couple of crucial differences.
Puzzles rarely come with deadlines, for one.
(Although I suppose there must be contests — in a world where Scrabble spawns events with hefty cash prizes, pretty much any activity is apt to be the subject of a competition.
We published in this space in Wednesday’s edition a column that intrigued me because the author wrote about something almost all of us do regularly.
Which is to buy stuff.
It’s not only the subject of David Sirota’s column that piqued my curiosity, though.
Equally compelling is Sirota’s attempt to pass off as newfangled a facet of human behavior that most people understand is as old as the hills.
Here’s his revelation: Consumers don’t always buy the cheapest product on the shelf.
I was reminded recently why I ought to thank Teddy Roosevelt whenever I go for a hike in a national forest.
And, more crucially in a physical sense, that I owe Teddy my gratitude each time I down a glass of Baker City tap water.
I was alerted to my obligations to our 26th president in a particularly pleasant way — by reading a book.
An especially fine book at that.
The title is “The Big Burn” and the author is Timothy Egan.
I sure wish I knew how to make those little plastic cups where you deposit your urine sample.
Although in truth the list of things I wish I knew how to make is encyclopedic.
The plastic pee cup is merely the latest addition.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, my newfound interest in this type of receptacle, and in particular its manufacture, is purely capitalistic.
Hillary Clinton had the worst luck of any First Lady in the past 40 years.
Oh sure, she’s had a pretty good run since she moved out of the White House, racking up an impressive record of First Lady firsts.
Her current job has a certain prominence as well.
But Hillary had a bad time of it back in the ’90s.
And not merely because of her husband’s high-profile philandering.
The year 2011 could turn out to be the most significant in America’s love affair with the automobile, an infatuation well into its second century and showing no sign of abating.
The reason is a Leaf.
And a Volt.
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