THREE WEEKS, VOLUME 1 ISSUE 1 - October 15, 2001
"The glory, jest, and riddle of the world."
An Introduction, by Henry William Brownejohns
Addendum, by Alexander Swartwout
Secondary Addendum, by Jonathan Ephrain Underhill
Tertiary Addendum, by Alexander Swartwout
Quaternary Addendum, by Eliza Anne Bonney
The Condition of the World, by the Editors
Predictions from the Early Days of a New Age, by the Editors
Practical Pacifism, by Ephrain Underhill
Flavorful Baked Goods and the American Family, by Ephrain Underhill
Foreign Correspondents, the Editors
Watercolors by Hitler, by Alexander Swartwout
The Niceness of New York, by Henry William Brownejohns
The Weather, by Eliza Anne Bonney
Return to Three Weeks Issues
To the literate citizenry, outlaw and legitimate,
of our city of New York, and America,
From the desk of
Henry William Brownejohns, gent.
October 15, 2001
Those of you who are cynical, or astute, will instantly realize that what we are here doing has been done before, and it shall be done again, countless times; but it has not yet ever been done by us. And so it is with a nod to either destiny or inevitability that we print these inaugural lines of the chronicle THREE WEEKS.
It is the style of the times to roll one's eyes and denounce anything that even smacks of novelty or ambition, and no doubt you, intrepid reader, have already dismissed us on account of this - only hold on until we have explained ourselves. You will soon be satisfied to see that we hold you in equal disdain, and that we expect nothing from you at all except a small portion of your money, and the occasional letter of complaint. Considering this, you would surely ask us, if you were not too slothful to formulate the question: Why, then?
Because: nobody has asked us what we think, and it occurs to us, as we get a little older, that probably nobody ever will. Therefore, we will not sit idly around and wait for our hope to spoil, but rather fire up the presses ourselves - towards our own purpose, unsponsored, and at nobody's request.
Our overriding criteria is to satisfy ourselves. We realize that to do so at the cost of great suffering is called Martyrdom, while to satisfy oneself at the expense of only pleasure is a sin, which we hear makes said martyrs weep. But unlike either of these crimes, our self-satisfaction is not an ignoble end, for in our unique case, it will not be achieved until we have given an adequate voice to Reason, and benefited humanity with a few notes in the name of Enlightenment. Our intentions are nothing but admirable, to our minds - it is only that human expression in general is, necessarily, a self-important pursuit.
Happily, such liberty of expression and devotion to one's self can still be exercised in America. Only let it be noted, the production of a quality newspaper is a complicated ordeal, and is only for the stubborn of heart, and the deep of pocket. Thus, THREE WEEKS shall only appear as rich as it feels. We simply ask our readers to suffer for whatever deficiencies are born of the difficulty of our undertaking.
In every age, the fashions are dictated by the young, and these fashions contribute to the prejudices of that same generation, once they grow old and become unfashionable, and are finally saddled with the custody of society. We, the editors, have witnessed firsthand the fashions of the current age, being as we are full of charm and vitality and social energy, and not lacking in other qualities favored by the youthful and attractive; and our reaction to the accepted styles of this era is one of deep concern, even horror, for it bodes poorly for the age to come.
We have found that it is currently unfashionable to have an opinion, or to be too well informed. It is even a point of pride to discuss - over sugary liquor and micro-brewed lager - the impressive breadth of one's ignorance. Among today's young, handsome, most promising specimens, there is no shame in not knowing, for example, the boiling point of water at sea level, the location of Wisconsin or the name of its capital, or the name of one's own congressional representative, as long as this ignorance is admitted with a smirk, a flourish, and a fragment of sarcastic wit. This elaborate conceit to intellectual midgetry is loosely known as post-modernism, to perpetrators in the graduate school set, and it is, astonishingly, not only socially acceptable, but even admired.
THREE WEEKS shall change this fashion, or else have our opinions in spite of it, and tell them to you without provocation. We shall comment on the news of the day, with a well thought-out, informed perspective. We shall also lay down our innermost musings upon the most profound issues known to confront humanity, with every expectation that nobody either knows or cares what we are driving at. And we shall simultaneously attempt to enrich our reader's knowledge and awareness of the world, by reiterating items of current interest that may have been overlooked elsewhere, and by reporting on our own account incidents and situations that other publications have neglected, as a result of their biases, their editorial strictures, or the insistent yelping of their fact-checking departments.
As we both confront the important issues of the day, and needlessly magnify trivia, we shall boldly operate without that contemporary aversion to sincerity that has become the contagion of millions; nor shall we shy away from wit or irony, when such tricks become useful, simply because the psychologists will accuse us of utilizing defense mechanisms.
We shall, in short, establish a foundation of modern rational thought, by the light of which, we hope, a lazy generation will navigate out of the shoals of intellectual famine, and yet we shall do so with a healthy skepticism that says the majority of our readers will soon fall off, unworthy.
As for our style, we shall not stoop to the common ear, nor do we know enough to ascend to the divine heights of literary splendor. We shall muddle through in between, where the best American prose has always and shall always be found. We shall avoid the vast amount of tiresome devices currently proliferating in the literature, such as innumerable lists of clever and nonsensical things; prose written to sound as if it were being spoken in an interesting dialect; and foreign words in italics to emphasize the worldliness or cultural sympathy of the author. We shall also avoid the use of the editorial 'We' for effect, except in situations such as this, where we are in fact editorializing, and there are actually several authors presiding, huddled like the Framers about the parchment.
For it should here be mentioned that we are four in number, though Mr. ALEXANDER SWARTWOUT is currently disposed in the kitchen, fixing himself drinks; Ms. ELIZA ANNE BONNEY has stormed out with something better to do with her afternoon; and only Mr. EPHRAIN UNDERHILL remains, quibbling over phrasing, article agreement, and other things.
It is we four who have been possessed with this need for enlightenment and the consequent need to enlighten, and it is we four who have bound our fortunes into this newest voice of American literature, THREE WEEKS. Therefore, if the reader has complaints or doubts the validity of what this journal states, know that your gripe is not with an uncertain solitary speaker, but with a quartet of them.
Additionally, while we are literary in nature, we ought to state that we shall not print what is these days called fiction, which we have observed usually takes the form of a thinly veiled sordid confession, penned by some overschooled acquaintance of the publisher. We consider literary fiction, and also poetry, to be dead forms - or at least ones on life support and incapable of novelty - and unnecessary ones in this fascinating age; and this statement is not made haphazardly, considering that we are literary folk and enjoy both stories and verse, when we are not being watched. We simply refuse to delude ourselves that such things will be read, especially considering the literary talents of those of our friends who would have their work printed by us.
This leads us to explain the form we have chosen to assume. We fully expect, barring imitators, to be America's only tri-weekly current events publication, and that is because we have concocted a very questionable, yet high-minded theory on this unorthodox span of time.
It seems significant to us that in our lives and in our language we have demarcated 'days,' and 'weeks,' and 'months,' and some of the dodgier individuals present will even pay homage to the 'fortnight,' but that the intermediate period of twenty-one days is left without a single worshiper. And that, ever devoted to this vestigial influence of the Mayan, Egyptian, Arabic, and Hindu calendars, our modern American commentators, publishers, and literary trendsetters all adhere to a publication schedule that is either overwhelmingly too frequent, or else, agonizingly, too precious.
We shall not waste our reader's time with the weekly refuse of our minds, nor shall we condescend to them by releasing a self-important monthly paper; or worse, waste both their time and their esteem by periodically offering an impeccably printed 'quarterly' or 'semi-annual.' To ensure both spontaneity and thoroughness, and to keep pace with the rapid evolutions of our society, without succumbing to the cheapness and half-hearted malaise so prevalent there; and to be free of the systematically enforced 'news cycle' without losing track of the news itself, and consequently to keep our minds clear and safe from sinister influence, it is our belief that the most perfect and efficient cycle of publication is trihebdomadalic.
Not so lazy as a monthly, not quite so incessant as a weekly, and never as precious and obsessive as one of those capitalized Reviews, THREE WEEKS will appear, to the best of its editor's abilities, in that last gap of the information continuum after which it is named - careful and thoughtful, and also carefree, and impulsive.
Lastly, to demonstrate the sincere spirit of our suicidally poor business acumen, and as a gesture symbolic of our stubbornness and pride, THREE WEEKS regrets to inform those paler members of our prospective readership that it shall not appear, under our authorization, anywhere upon that modern manifestation of the human unconscious, the Internet. We are of the opinion that words read off of a computer screen are, for reasons unknown, worth less than those printed, even if they are the same words; and that it would please us more to know that forests are being cleared in our name, than to suspect that either the electric company or some pasty-faced software mogul might be profiting by the long-windedness of our prose. Nevertheless, we wholeheartedly support any renegade individuals who would take it upon themselves to cannibalize our work, and digitize it by their own accord. Given due credit, we cannot envision ourselves ever litigating over such a nebulous complaint as a breach of 'intellectual property.' We feel our intellects are worth sharing even at a loss, and that their fruits are inherently the property of humanity at large. We shall gleefully steal what we need, and we are happy to be stolen from.
Our single concession to the age shall be the maintenance of an electronic mail address, which we prefer as a method of communication, but only just barely, when compared to that frigid contraption of emotional detachment and disembodiment, the telephone. Anyone, honestly, with the time to tell us what they think of things, also has the time to write it down and mail it to our mailbox, where we will not only be able to read your thoughts, but smell them, touch them, and wear them hat-wise upon our heads.
We, the editors of THREE WEEKS, thus look ahead with full hearts to our correspondence with the collective cerebra of this unparalleled city, and its adjoining nation, and we only hope not to let ourselves down, and not to do any greater damage to human society than would be wreaked by our continued absence.
Henry Wllm. Brownejohns, Alxdr. Swartwout, Eliza Anne Bonney, Ephrain Underhill
FURTHER THOUGHTS UPON THE COMMENCEMENT OF PUBLICATION OF THREE WEEKS
by Alexander Swartwout
I feel it is my obligation to post this addendum onto the manifesto of THREE WEEKS that the reader has just completed - breathlessly, in all likelihood. My reasons for doing so are twofold: one is to rectify a few minor points where Mr. Brownejohns has fudged or misstated the facts; and the other is to clarify for the reader just what it is that he is currently holding in his hands, and what his requirements are in regards to it.
It is written that, during the drafting of the preceding document, I was fixing drinks for myself in the kitchen. I wish it to be known that this is a falsehood. It is true that I was absent during the creation of this statement, but the fact of the matter is that I was out of the country at the time, attending to unavoidable private business in Europe. The presiding editors - Mr. Brownejohns in particular - apparently felt that this was too complicated to explain, or else was a poor display of solidarity amongst us at a critical early point in our partnership, and favored a simple deceit to a complicated truth. I disagree with that decision, and I consider myself fortunate to have returned in time to even read through the statement, and spot the bent truth, and do as much as I have to straighten it, and preserve our clear conscience until at least the second issue.
Now, I expect that such a petty falsification will not cause our readers any hesitation in putting their faith in our integrity in the future, but, to my mind, it is worth reinforcing our purity in excess, so that it may be squandered at a more practical time. Of course, any reader who depends upon anything but his own sense and judgement to determine what is true is not the sort of person we are interested in corresponding with in the first place.
This brings me to my addendum’s second purpose. That is to reiterate, and probably clarify, the mission with which we have undertaken this venture, and how it entails you, the reader, if it does so at all.
THREE WEEKS is to be a cosmopolitan paper; in it we shall assume a certain level of prerequisite knowledge on our reader’s part, while always knowing in our hearts that we outstrip them at every turn. It shall be laden with an unsurpassed journalistic integrity (as evidenced by the haste with which I have already confessed to our first fabrication, and righted ourselves), at the same time that it shall revel in the liberation of imagination that is such a pillar of American literature. This is not a paradox as some of you may think (and by doing so you only prove yourselves insufficient to our demands). Rather it is a novel, and potent, concoction: of human invention, and that most unforgiving restraint ever placed upon a soul by itself - that is, a code of ethics, and an obligation to tell, in general, the truth.
In these pages, in the coming weeks, shall be found such flights of literary glory that the perspiring reader will doubtlessly find it impossible to believe that the words are also true; that they also represent the clearest and most sensible opinions to be had on subjects great and crude; that in baring such bold and poetic conjecture, the authors will have also revived the lost creed of Humanism, and stripped away all superstition, and irrationality, and suggested once more that the race may be its own salvation. THREE WEEKS is a small publication, and we concede that our immediate effect will be proportional. But, whether naive or prescient, we also enjoy thinking that some small flame will be set by our actions now, and one day when our children, or their children, are despicable perversions of the ideal we represent, that flame will spread and incinerate human ignorance, petty fears, and this species’ unforgivable herd-like obsession with being fashionable.
Some still further Thoughts to Ensure a Complete Accounting
by Jonathan Ephrain Underhill
As an associate editor and minority shareholder in this bold venture of Mr. Brownejohns’ and Mr. Swartwout’s, I feel that I have nothing more to add to the general statement of purpose as it has been laid out by those two worthy gentlemen. However, at the risk of overwhelming our reader’s incredulity, I wish to add a few small points which I mention only to totally complete the accounting of our origin; and in revealing, almost to a fault, the veracity of our station and our purpose, will all contribute to the greater legitimacy of our cause, and to our grasp upon the trust of the public.
Firstly, regarding Mr. Alexander Swartwout’s insistence that he was overseas during the initial drafting of the editor’s mission statement: this is true. However, as a conscientious pedagogue, I feel it is only proper to reveal the specific nature of Mr. Swartwout’s trip abroad, taken as it was at such an inopportune time, for both THREE WEEKS and his country. We, Mr. Swartwout’s contemporaries, are unanimously uncertain about how he ever acquired his considerable comforts, but we are aware that he is frequently called out of the country to attend to “conferences,” and we believe that he takes these opportunities to shuffle his assets from country to country, and from bank account to bank account. Myself and Mr. Brownejohns, fearing for the integrity of this paper, have confronted Mr. Swartwout about the legitimacy of his business doings, and he has assured us that he is involved in nothing illegal or immoral, and that his frequent absences are merely the result of his highly developed taste for travel, and the pleasure he takes in visiting foreign lands, and immersing himself in exotic cultures. He asserts that his sustenance is provided for by a family fortune, and that in his heart he is ashamed to have been so blessed while so many others are not, and so he conceals his wealth, and is circumspect about revealing his spending habits. We asked him whether these glimmers of conscience ever compelled him to philanthropy, and he replied with nothing more than a twinkle of his eye. To me, this means he probably gambled away large sums at a charity event in Monte Carlo, and isn’t sure if this was a good deed or not. Alexander Swartwout is a decent man with a superior heart, and I admire him as much for his hidden conflicts as for his manifest triumphs.
To move on, I would only like to broach the subject of my name, which is in a confused state, and which is bound to cause our readers some considerable perplexity in the future. I have been listed so far by Mr. Brownejohns only as Ephrain Underhill, but I would like it to be known that I am as commonly called Jonathan Underhill as by any other name. Ephrain is a middle name, given to honor a distant great relative of mine, and is something I rarely go by, except when I am seeking a measure of distinction from amongst the teeming Jonathans of this world. Mr. Brownejohns opted to list me as Ephrain Underhill, rather than the more accurate and complete Jonathan Ephrain Underhill because, frankly, he wished to be the only editor who was known by a triplicate appellative. I objected that our fourth associate, Ms. Eliza Anne Bonney, also carries three names, and Mr. Brownejohns retreated to an irreconcilable position involving an argument about syllables.
I conceded, wishing no more strife, and to get more quickly to the important work we had been charged with. When he asked then if I would like to write for THREE WEEKS under the name Jonathan Underhill or Ephrain Underhill, I chose Ephrain, for no reason other than that he put me on the spot, and said I had to choose immediately, and my decision would be irreversible. I did not realize that this statement would in fact be so readily amendable, until, as the reader is by now well aware, Mr. Swartwout returned and bullied his way to the proofs. I consider myself fortunate to have ridden in on his coattails, and to have gotten in my own addendum, which I here conclude.
A Brief Rebuttal of the Secondary Addendum
by Alexander Swartwout
The truth is an indistinct thing, and between any two persons, and any two moments, its exact determination is impossible. However, since my colleagues have taken this opportunity to continually belabor minute variations in our subjective experiences, I feel I have nothing to lose by once more correcting to my satisfaction THREE WEEKS’ official accounting of its nascence, and my part in it.
It is agreed, by parties official and un-, that I was attending to business abroad at the time the first draft of this formidable document was conceived. What my business was exactly is of no importance; that it was legitimate, and within the realm of moral and ethical behavior, I will swear to. My fellow editors have an exaggerated notion of my material condition, and seem to believe that I am in a category of finance and luxury that, I can assure the reader, I am not. That my family was blessed with good fortune, and that they were both pragmatic and virtuous enough to secure for me a reasonable standard of living, sparing me from the worst indignities of perpetual menial labor, are both truths. That I am plagued by some form of bourgeois guilt for my well-being is untrue. I consider myself to have a very sound conscience, and I exercise it regularly to keep it so. Guilt is not useful, and so I do not own any. Nor am I quite the type of magnate that Mr. Underhill seems to insinuate that I am, and it rather surprises me that he spends so much of his considerable intellectual capacity on the breadth of my fortune. It would surprise me if I am even the most well-off member of this editorial staff. The refinement of my tastes should not necessitate an excessively rarefied tax-bracket, as Mr. Underhill seems to think. On the contrary, I hope to make myself an example to the more modestly disposed plebians of our society, to show them that they do not need to stoop to the crass depths of mass culture, simply by virtue of their scant earnings. The masses can also refine their tastes, if they can only summon the dignity to do so.
As to my whereabouts on recent dates of national significance, I would like it to be known that I was indeed at home in New York City, and not, at that time, still overseas. I was eating Eggs Benedict in my own kitchen in front of the radio when the terrible news came across, and lost my appetite straightaway. But I was in America, in New York, and I was as wounded as America, and as stricken as New York; and if my colleagues were unaware that I was already returned from my trip, it was only because I found myself unable to emerge from my home for five days, due to the shock and depression of those events. Still, I know of no place else on earth that I would have rather wanted to be during this time, if only because the majestic nobility of my city in response, and in spite of its injury, becomes partly mine by association. Let no one, even my eminent friend Jonathan Ephrain Underhill, misrepresent me by saying that I was anywhere but home when we were all so jarringly joined in grief and awe.
A Plea to Cease Introductions, and a Reiteration of Purpose
by Eliza Anne Bonney
Our opening salvo against the ignorance and depravity of the modern human condition has turned into a chorus of trifling ricochets, and bouncing off our own walls, no less. I only beg the reader to be sure that the indulgence he has seen displayed here is exactly what he shall never see from THREE WEEKS again. This shall be the final addendum to our Introduction, if only because I have taken the liberty of concealing the proofs until they are delivered.
I wish now to reiterate, for the sake of the reader’s truncated memory and foreshortened attention span, our aims and our duty. We shall illuminate the events of the day, with a clarity of thought that is both necessary and disconcertingly scarce during such emotional times. We shall elucidate trivia and minutiae in every branch of human knowledge, simply for the reason that it will be a revelation to the common mind. We shall frame ordinary thoughts with exquisite words, and dress the finest inspirations of human intelligence in monosyllabic dreck so that it can be grasped by the unfit. We shall soften the focus of the typical daily’s analysis, while yet seeing more sharply than the glossy monthlies of America’s doctor’s offices, or the dainty quarterlies of its coffee shops. We shall oppose prejudices and superstitions, and we shall assume a stance of provocation and skepticism. We shall insist on a return to the values of Humanism, and we shall realize that to insist too forcefully is to already betray those values. We shall do this every three weeks.
A GLOSS UPON THE CIRCUMSTANCES CONCURRENT TO THE PUBLICATION OF THIS FIRST ISSUE OF THREE WEEKS
In the first moments of our lives, we are each subject to the influence of an array of circumstances; for example, the alignment of heavenly bodies on the date of our emergence determines our astrological sign, and therefore the impression we are bound to make upon some certain devotees of the zodiac. But we are also somehow defined, more tangibly, by other circumstances: the geographical location of our birth, the season in which we enter the world, the overall mood and demeanor of our deliverers, and even the social and political climate of the world we are becoming citizens of. The newspaper THREE WEEKS is no different from any newborn in this sense, except that as infants go, it is the most articulate one to ever issue into the harsh light of this mortal coil. And as such, we, the editors, feel it is worth surveying the unusual state of affairs present upon our arrival.
Just over one month ago our own city was maliciously and devastatingly attacked for the first time in its American history. Our enemy is famously anonymous, but he is the enemy of a lot of people who have never had one before, nevertheless.
It is impossible to relate to citizens of the future the magnitude this event holds for us, as a profound change in the way we see ourselves here, and the way we see the world from here. To say that prior to this moment we were born with a sense of invulnerability and inviolability is a whopping understatement. We not only possessed the untested surety of being Americans and therefore safe, but we were even better - we were New Yorkers, Americans to the second power, and not even subject to whatever inconceivable harm might come to the heartland, in a fluke, from natural disasters or human malevolence.
Our grand-parents offer comparisons to Pearl Harbor, but that is to us really only a dutiful memory, and hampered by historical technicalities: Hawaii was not actually a state; Pearl Harbor was a military base; besides, that attack was as far from the continental United States as Peru, for one; and the most pronounced impediments to appreciation, time and the passage of generations. Especially in this case; the decades between 1941 and this month, as if by some form of historical inflation, seem equivalent to centuries, by the standard of history, and so Pearl Harbor somehow doesn't quite count; anyway, it doesn't console. Even the stories told to us by civil defenders from the Second World War, heard once with chills and awe, about German submarines that made their way deep into New York harbor and even into the Hudson River before being detected - a titillating near miss - are still relegated to a category of thrill not too different from an amusement park ride.
The late acts of war upon our city, by contrast, were perfectly real and absolutely present. So much so that they were met here with a full week of astounded disbelief, and only then followed by the slow recognition of an entirely new world. Eight million witnesses have already conceded that they can never adequately describe this to their children or their grandchildren - it is too bizarre, too utterly complex and new - and so we are all preparing to bear it by ourselves. Meanwhile, our reaction to a simultaneous attack upon the Pentagon in Washington is to raise our eyebrows, slowly whistle as we exhale, and shrug - a testament to how much the same we still are, even as we are changed so quickly.
For four days after the attack, there was not a sound in New York City. The vast rescue and response went about adorned with sirens, diesel generators, helicopters, and fighter planes, and yet it was somehow silent. Most noticeable among everything was the absence of a single honked horn; the vacuum where once there had been shouting or laughter; and the muteness of people's expressions. At last, on the fifth day, the neighbor's radio came on again, and there was some music to be heard on the reluctant air, and also a reason to bang on the wall, albeit with infinite politeness. And then, seemingly assured by these first signs of reemergent life, the Discussion erupted.
Not quite two weeks after the catastrophe, we found it impossible to read another word about it, let alone write any of our own. Special editions of every publication extant emerged, brimming with a new school of eulogistic literature, either hastily-made, too-sentimental essays, or overly-politicized, bone-dry diatribes on How This Happened and What Must Be Done. The better artists we know remained silent; their heightened natural sensitivities still too stunned to respond.
This new clamor shall probably continue for some time, effective as it is in masking the terrifying silence described earlier. As well, we are aware that September 11th was only the beginning of something unimaginable, and we expect the mass of people to continue talking ceaselessly throughout, as a way of containing this enormous new animal.
THREE WEEKS, if its editors have anything to do with it, shall not be hindered by topicality, or hamstrung by a need to be pertinent. By adhering to our original purpose and keeping our wits about us, we feel we shall do more good, and be of more use now and in the future, than if we let our indignation get a hold of us, and wax poetic for twelve months on the heartbreaking change in the Manhattan skyline. Nor do we have any claim to a solution for the world's problems, although we will certainly get to work on it. Exactly as a Sagittarius will tend to be opinionated, whether he is conscious of being a Sagittarius or not, so will THREE WEEKS be indicative of it birthdate in these uncertain, spectacular times, even when we are examining some piece of minutiae, and not blatantly editorializing on the immorality of terrorism. Our timeliness shall be achieved by osmosis, by the sheer effect of the circumstances of the world upon us as we are now emerging. For the record - though it seems a futile topic of discussion - we, too, vehemently dislike terrorism. Let that be the last we are obliged to say about it.
This newspaper was conceived in a time of nearly somnolent peace, but it is born in a time of war. What concerns us even more, though, is that history now does not seem to be repeating itself, as we have always been told it would, but is instead improvising for the first time in anyone's memory. The state of human civilization is today as uncertain and as complex as it has ever been. History, contrary to recent assertions, does not seem to be quite over.
If two months ago we felt it was important to offer a new and reasoned and clear and humane voice to a beleaguered American constituency, today it is nothing less than a duty. That our field is even more overcrowded now than it was before is of no concern to us, for we were prepared in any case to be born drowning in a sea of babble. Now, the cacophony is simply focused upon a single subject, but we find that is no richer than it was before.
Less than one mile from our humble office, the chaotic remnants of some very large buildings, which we were surprisingly attached to, are being picked apart and sorted out, and it shall be no easier for us to disentangle the innumerable complications of this new situation, this new vague world we occupy. But to be simplistic about how things stand would be to fail to rise to this challenge. THREE WEEKS shall not claim its infancy as an excuse to be any less able than what these harrowing days require.
For Lack of a Better Thing to Do
The inevitable by-product of fertile minds starved for actual facts
by the Editors, en masse
The thing most apparent to us in these anxious weeks is that nearly every member of the public has utterly lost the ability to think. The nation seems to be moving ahead only by the force of some primeval automatic pilot, while to a man, people fret and pace and skitter about like ants who have lost their hill.
All of this futility has persuaded THREE WEEKS that, as a public service, it would be worthwhile to do some of the people's thinking for them. Towards this aim, we decided that it would be diverting to make some groundless predictions about the repercussions of the historic events of late. Let it be known that this is for the purpose of reviving the minds of a hypnotized population, and so that the authors might possibly have some good reason to gloat, if any of the forthcoming projections come to pass. It is not an official statement of oraculization, and should be used for nothing more substantial than lunchtime conversation.
First of all, let us speculate on the war that we are now embroiled in. We predict that for many weeks, and even possibly months, the overt, publicly acknowledged U.S. military response will not exceed the routine of airstrikes and missile attacks that the public has become so familiar with, by way of the cable news channels. As the political climate in this country is thirsting for action, while the economic one is promising drought, we predict that the U.S. Government will reserve the political benefits of a widely broadcast, traditional military campaign for a time later on, when the economy has fallen to a true nadir. Until then - and indeed, likely already under-weigh - the U.S. will sponsor covert invasions of specific, unnamed targets, and announce them to the public only long after the fact, and only in successful cases. Any deep concern over our government's lack of accountability under such circumstances will do nothing more than nag at our consciences until those pesky inhibitors have been finally silenced. Criticism of such a policy will continue to be few and far between, as less skeptical media outlets persist in reopening the emotional wounds of the September attacks, by taking us to every funeral, and incessantly replaying the footage of the fires.
This unseen war, by the government's own admission, will drag on for many years. But while we are playing at the divining arts, let's be specific: say, ten years - anyway, well past the ebbing of public support in America, and well outside the boundaries of geography and ethos that are currently condoned by the other nations of the world. As we have all suddenly become armchair experts on Afghanistan, expect also to learn about Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, and North Africa.
Yet, no one shall know anything about the details of these engagements until they are long past. And we had only just begun to tire of the flood tide of post-Cold War tell-all memoirs made possible by the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the Freedom of Information Act, and the unemployment of a generation of American spies. Now, with the advent of this Hot-and-Cold War, we must wait another generation before the men who know today's secrets are persuaded to divulge them by publisher's advances and the morbid curiosity of the public, some fifteen or twenty years from now.
In a backhanded way, such a war as this is a boon for aggressive foreign policy-makers in our current government, and it is doubtful that the war will be officially ended by anything other than an election in this country. As there is no standard against which to determine whether victory has been achieved, only the state of our own economy and the public's impression of satisfactory military success will determine whether this occurs sooner, or later. But these are all obvious predictions made from very nearby our vests, and are not even outside the meager projective powers of the shell-shocked citizen of today.
As a challenge worthy of us, let us then foretell - less certainly but no less foolhardily- what might happen deeper in the future. Taking into account the astonishing instability of the rest of the globe, the repercussions of this deceptively quiet war are dire.
For all the discussion of biological and chemical weapons, we are reminded that for the past fifty years, the absence of any nuclear detonation has been a probabilistic fluke, and was only accomplished by the sheer force of two overpowering authorities, the American and the Soviet governments. Exactly half of that authority is now lost, and in addition, a considerable increase in political chaos has been added, without any decrease in the capacity for destruction held in mortal hands. We do not predict that it will happen in this country, but it would not surprise us to see some sort of macabre 'demonstration' of nuclear viability somewhere on the globe, in the next five or ten years. Americans take for granted the security of nuclear technology around the world, and they really have no reason to. Nothing could make us happier, of course, than to be proven wrong in this prediction.
Additionally, as these are unofficial and reckless speculations, we beg our readers not to take any impractical actions in preparation, or to become unnecessarily panicked. Obviously, events of this magnitude are well outside an individual's ability to protect himself against, or to prevent. We only seek to instill an appropriately heightened sense of awareness and care in the public, and to reserve the right to tell people we told them so, mournfully, when we all meet up in the afterlife.
To be more optimistic, let us project a vision even further ahead. (For indeed, by our standards, the next two or three decades are already perfectly ruined, and we cannot be positive about prospects any sooner than that.) We foresee the eventual establishment of unions around the Earth, similar to the European Union, which seems the only viable means of self-governance by the world's various populations, while maintaining their various cultural identities. When we compare the condition of Europe sixty years ago with its degree of stability today, we are persuaded that a similar approach can succeed in the Middle East. A union of Middle-Eastern nations, economically interdependent, and collectively accountable to the world, can minimize the influence of extremists within, and ensure the smallest amount of deleterious manipulation from without.
It only depends on our own government's response in the coming months, that they do not overrun their authority, and inadvertently reignite the scourge of imperialism, and fail to bring about this best possible long-term outcome. The realization of the happier predictions made here will only be determined by the number of times we are myopic enough to repeat the mistakes of history first. Any alternative outcome is anyhow too grim for us to mention at this early date.
As we conclude, we expect the reader will only feel disappointed and unfulfilled by our prognostications. Well, that is the nature of this type of exercise - it is empty speculation, the pre-formed meat of possibility entirely lacking the bone and marrow of actual fact. This disappointment you feel, however, is a positive sign than your mindlessness is waning, and that you are close to once again being able to form your own opinions, and mustering half-intelligent conclusions by yourself. In these times when every day is a protracted effort of coping and survival, this frustration we have hopefully generated in your gut is, to us, a glorious flag of victory.
ADAPTING IDEALS TO THE WAY THINGS ACTUALLY ARE
by Ephrain Underhill
If Moses had me by the ear and was forcing me to choose, I would say that “Thou shalt not kill” was my favorite of the commandments. I mean this to illustrate that I speak from a fairly well entrenched position within the ranks of Pacifism. But history is a very tall lady, and one who is constantly devising new ways of testing the nuances of our beliefs, and it is apparent that we have lately encountered the flaw inherent in absolute pacifism, and all stringent idealism at that. That is, that the pacifism of an individual is insufficient to deal with the ongoing sweep of history, which has not been uniformly treated with such high principle.
We cannot possibly be responsible for what transpired before our births, but we are saddled with the task of reacting to it. I, as an unwitting resident of today, am no more responsible for the failure of the Treaty of Versailles than is Madonna, but it does fall upon me to cope with any repercussions of that event still rippling through our world.
This is the heart of the problem with the new - rather reflexive - peace movement that has sprung up among the young and aimless in this country over the past several weeks. It is not only discreditable because of the fact that it was born in advance of any actual fighting, but also because of the political immaturity demonstrated by its ranks. The sense exists that this is a fashion statement, and not a political one, and that most of these new peaceniks would just as soon get to the good parts of being a dove - that is, the free love, relaxation of responsibility, and indulgent music that they have heard stories of from their parents - as continue the actual work of composing a philosophy and arguing it. Any automatic assumption of the stances held by one’s parents ought to be seriously and skeptically evaluated.
What has obviously not been considered by the members of this spontaneous peace movement is the very real possibility of continued, and escalated, attacks upon civilians around the world; the absolute peculiarity and irrationality of the extremist logic, which harbors no inhibitions at all about suicide, sacrifice, and even the use of catastrophic weapons, if they can be had; and the utter lack of a ‘high road’ that can be alternatively taken in response. There is nothing the U.S. can do that will suddenly persuade our antagonists that we are more ‘noble’ than they had suspected, and immediately sow in them the seeds of respect and peace. This is a far more complicated array of circumstances than can be reasonably met with flowers and simplistic pleas for Instant Peace. It goes without saying that we want peace; there needs to be a means to that end, however. Eggs are bound to be broken. But pacifism must surely not be abandoned, and we must never feel anything less than abhorrence for war. So how can an idealist extricate himself, intelligently and fruitfully, from such a web? He must adopt a more practical pacifism, a thing which at first sounds certainly tainted. Only consider the complexity of the modern circumstances, and then see if this is a tainted ideal, or rather a necessary pinch of realism in a traditionally impossible recipe.
What the practical pacifist must do is widen his view, beyond the date of his birth and past the point after which he will be gone. He needs to tally the occurrences of war in the past and the likelihood of it in the future, and he needs to act in such a way that it will be absolutely minimized, and even eliminated, in the short term, and the long term, future. The force of no single generation’s will is going to stop violence. However, if that generation is able to adopt the most practical and expedient course towards peace, there is at least a possibility that it may be achieved in the future. It is pointless to cease fighting outright in this current generation if it will only return, intensified, for the next one. The practical pacifist must consider where he stands upon the entire timeline of history. The dire situation the world now finds itself in is the result of narrow historical perspectives possessed by its past inhabitants.
We are born into an imperfect world, and we are bound to leave it that way. It is a disservice to future generations to treat history as if it begins and ends with our tenure. Only spend what time we have being realist and useful, and it won’t be left to the future to discover that history is redirected only slowly, and only over ages.
Weeks after the attack, still broken-hearted, this reporter decided to pursue some small consolation at a local doughnut shop. I purchased a chocolate glazed and a coffee, and had them handed to me in a wax-paper bag, tastefully emblazoned with the icon of this particular franchise. Not until I settled on a bench to wallow in my malnourishment did I notice a paragraph on the bag’s side. Reprinted in full, it said:
“So that the flavor of our products may be preserved for oven fresh home arrival, we use this uniquely designed Flavor Saver protective bag. Just keep the top closed for storage in your freezer, refrigerator, or bread drawer. Flavorful, delicious baked goods are an important source of energy for every family. Come see us often. Thank you.” The italics are mine.
Now, since that dark day last month there have been countless instances when reassuring signs of life have peeked through the gloom, and affirmed that in spite of trauma and tragedy, our society - our world - is sound and good. The giddy, perverse, fever-dream vision of a hundred movie stars backing Mr. Willie Nelson in a rendition of “America the Beautiful,” with their microphones turned off; the proud, uninterrupted gouging of tourists by New York City postcard vendors, who instantly began offering ‘bargain’ one-dollar World Trade Center souvenir cards; the appearance, among the devastation downtown, of a circus clown in full regalia, and his confrontation with a little boy and his father, the former announcing “I hate clowns,” and the latter slapping him upside the head, replying, “For Christ’s sake, he’s cheering people up. Don’t be such an ungrateful brat.” I can not possibly list them all, though together they form an inspiring picture of resilient American life; I can only say that, over this one bag of doughnuts I shed the last of many tears for this calamity, and they were tears of pride and hope.
A Note on the Extent of Our Reach
To those readers who are still unsatisfied with our purpose and the apparent prospects of our achieving it, we would also like to mention that we have enlisted a number of significant correspondents, in cities around the world - as is merely appropriate for any endeavor with its roots in this multifarious city.
If all goes well, we shall be able to bring regular dispatches from Berlin, Rome, Istanbul, and Jerusalem. Additionally, our surprisingly effective telephone etiquette makes us optimistic that we will receive notes from Paris, London, Cairo, and Bombay. We have also promised to mention that we also have several acquaintances in New Jersey who feel that letters from that locale can be as exotic as any from the other continents, but we haven’t yet made a decision on whether to accept them. If we do or if we don’t, it still pleases us to display the breadth of our influence, and to cease the mutterings of our naysayers. And to those most ardent snobs who will not look at anything unless it possesses a whiff of the International about it, you have now got no excuse but your own misosophy for closing your eyes to us, and banishing yourself to the dark.
The absence of any of our foreign correspondents in this issue is thus far a matter of little concern, and is probably the result of tangled communications around the world, if not by despondency among our colleagues. It will surely improve itelf, for all our pleasure.
A SURPRISING DISCOVERY, AND NOT AN UNPLEASANT ONE
The United States Army has let it slip that three small watercolors painted by Adolph Hitler are being kept hidden in a vault deep within the bedrock of Manhattan island. The occasion for their announcement is that somebody asked. It makes a person want to begin asking all sorts of odd questions, in hopes of learning more and more surprising facts, which seem to be everywhere hidden, wanting only the right question asked of the proper authority.
Thankfully, in this case, someone also asked to see the dictator’s doodlings, and the Army begrudgingly allowed it, although they will not let the pictures themselves out from their vault, for fear that they might still emanate evil rays, a la Spielberg’s Ark of the Covenant.
The paintings are neatly done, extremely careful renderings of European buildings and courtyards, bathed in sunlight and dappled with shade. That there are no people in any of the compositions could be easily misinterpreted, when one considers the prolific other career of the artist, but I hasten to sympathize, as an amateur sketcher myself; people are an annoying distraction to an artist when all he wants is the stringent satisfaction of making pictures of buildings.
The colors are somewhat impressionistic - puddles of hue - but they are accurate enough depictions of light and shadow. As I have said, they are careful and controlled drawings, tightly lined, but distinctly freehand. They are full of imperfections, as any good drawing ought to be. They are admirably ambitious in their adherence to objectivity, but the natural flaws of any human artist are present: hands that shake slightly, lines that are minutely distorted from perfect parallel, and the failure to translate mechanical precision from Plato’s reality to the eye to the hand. They are pictures that remind me of ones I tried to draw on a trip to Italy. The mechanicality and detachment of photography failing to satisfy my excitement, I attempted instead to sketch the sights, letting the scenery interpolate through my eyes and limbs. As flawed as those few sketches of ruins and temples are, they are worth more to me than a hundred photographs of me, standing and squinting in front of anonymous columns and in piazzas the names of which escape me.
Mr. Hitler’s watercolors have something of that personal, meaningful quality to them. They do not look crazy. They are not heavy, black, or manic. They do not suggest death or madness (other than that humble frustration any amateur draftsman knows, from trying to get it right, though he’s doomed to fail). What we know of their artist is that he was only half-human, a murderer, a sociopath and psychopath. In the pictures, we see what we don’t know about him.
I am in some way comforted by these paintings. Not because they’re serene images, or even because, as an idle sketcher myself, I can relate to the impulse that created them, but because, sixty years after this individual wreaked such destruction upon the world, something that he did in his quietest moments has surfaced, and in their benign attractiveness, in the simple, humble way that all drawn pictures somehow do, they now make the world a calmer place. Having shed their hateful and unstable creator, the pictures now work slowly and faintly to atone for his cruelties and crimes.
Sitting in a quiet room, staring at these simple watercolors, I am persuaded to sketch the view from my window, just for the sake of the possibility that as much as I fail during my lifetime, there still may be some worth in leaving behind me the benevolent, immortal ambassador of a pretty picture.
In this space, THREE WEEKS presents a regular diversion from the heft of the world’s trouble. Here, blessedly, the reader will find nothing of immediate import, and if he finds anything, it will have only a subjective, philosophical value, and won’t likely be remembered for long.
“The Eavesdropper” shall contain transcriptions of conversations which we have heard over the course of our circulations through the better circles of society. Devout purists, we will avoid providing the context in which these words were spoken and we will generally refrain from commentary - excepting as always those situations where we find ourselves too weak to help ourselves. Not even the identity of the speakers shall be disclosed, because we either don’t know them, or are afraid of misspelling their names, or prefer, for aesthetic reasons, to offer bare, unadorned words, free of the spittle and halitosis from which they may have emanated. Our only aim in this regular exercise is to stimulate more various portions of our readers’ cortices, per issue; and to illuminate the marvelous subtlety, and magnificent futility, of human discourse.
You, the reader, are invited to use these remarks in your own conversation, integrate them into any one-act plays you may be composing, or draw a picture of your impressions of them, and send them to us.
AN ACTUAL CONVERSATION
-What are you reading, there?
-It’s just a book, OK?!
-Alright, alright - I’m sorry...
-No, no. I’m sorry. It’s just, the pressure has been so great lately.
-It sure has. I understand. We’re all a bit on our edges.
-I’m just reading this book about old sea-pirates. Nothing much.
-If you don’t want to talk...
-No, I don’t mind. It’s probably good for me, to talk. For the pressure.
-It’s tremendous these days.
-Just a little bit longer, I guess.
-Anything good in that pirate book?
-I haven’t really been paying that close attention.
-It’s hard not to be distracted. Personally, I’ve been spending all my time in bed with Amanda.
-To keep my mind off the pressure, off of everything that’s been going on. She’s been great for me to have around.
-But - why are you telling me this? I don’t want to hear about what, about what you do...
-Well it’s more interesting than reading a book about some old sea-pirates!
-Look, I’m only reading it to keep my mind off of the pressure! I’m not even reading it!
-Alright, alright... I’m sorry. Me too...
-Hey, what’s going on in there, you two?
LOOKING OUTWARD FROM THE GREAT CITY
While All the Rest Look In
Much has been said lately about how nice the citizenry of New York has suddenly become under the pressure of the recent crisis. This is only interesting to people who had previously subscribed to the fallacy that residents of this city were rude; while for the rest of us, who spend our days and nights here, and know firsthand how nice we are already, this global epiphany is worth less than gravel.
New Yorkers are merely impatient. When a visitor feels he is being subjected to inconsiderate behavior, he ought to realize that it is nothing more than the timely expiration of the native’s patience that has left him out to hang. What has caught the world’s attention these past weeks, and mine as well, is the degree to which New Yorkers’ timing has been thrown off. Witness not only individuals who are typically raggèd and lacking any temperament at all drifting into reverie at street corners and tolerating affection-ate caresses and handshakes from strangers; but also see persons like myself, normally patient to an almost beatific degree, losing our self-control without provocation, and shouting in frustration while waiting for lights to change, and kicking at the dirt when we miss a bus. If the larger world thinks we are suddenly changed, and become nice, they simply cannot have ever seen, as I have long before any catastrophe ‘unified’ us, perfect strangers escorting salty old ladies across city streets and then running off before they ever hear a ‘thanks’ croaked after them.
Eight million fast fuses have simply been overwhelmed, and now some run long and others run short, but the level of benevolence has remained constant, at somewhere near 70%. As the rest of the world peers in at us through television cameras, their sympathy ever increasing, we are slowly re-learning our old reflexes. Sooner than any other people could possibly accomplish such a task, our beloved New York shall accomplish this one, and no doubt, in our haste to heal and get the hell on with it already, we shall surely reestablish ourselves as a model of intemperance around the world. H.Wllm.Brownejohns
Betwixt ubiquitous ‘five-day forecasts,’ errant computerized climate models, and the rampant fantasies of junior-collegiate television meteorologists, we see no one considering the weather more broadly; its ongoing effect upon our moods, its aesthetic quality as an expression of Nature, and its agonizing grip upon the stalled imaginations of thousands of blocked writers. As we are acquainted with a few of the latter, and ourselves enjoy scribbling out, in our lazier moments, the occasional monotone about the sky and the clouds et al, we purport to include for our reader’s benefit this regular column on the weather. We only hope that no one will use our weather reports as a guide to their daily preparations for excursion, because, if the reader does not yet realize, this is a tri-weekly publication, and the weather simply will not wait for us, so any predictions we make will inevitably tend towards incorrectness. What we can offer are pragmatic and even poetical musings on the course of the weather over the passing three weeks. We will tell you how it made us feel, how we think it might have made you feel, and how this all-encompassing element of our natural environment has factored in the workings of our tiny, windblown, and rainswept society. We will give you the weather in a broad, tainted, and highly personal manner, as no one has had the courage or gall or misplaced ambition to do so anywhere before.
Every tutor of literature from Mr. Twain to Mr. White has given his students the sound advice to avoid writing about the weather, as it is an idle waste of one’s linguistic energies. It is true that tired or uninspired writers will universally revert to musings on the fluctuations of the atmosphere, and how it is setting a mood, or affecting the reflective soul. Apparently, college and postgraduate ‘creative writing’ courses are very often nothing more than mills for the production of meteorological ponderings, in metered prose, and with the occasional political undertone. We oppose, wholeheartedly, all such noodling.
However, as we intend to provide our readers with regular updates on the weather, and without the benefit of radar or a barometer, we should explain promptly why we feel it is okay for us to do so, and not for anybody else.
Perhaps, in the European tradition, fraught as that place is with history and significance, it is considered a more shameful waste of intellectual energy to confabulate upon the weather, which is always there, but rarely doing anything as interesting as eccentric kings and incestuous aristocrats are wont to do. Here in America, on the other hand, the weather is really more closely tied to the condition of the people, and besides that, it is capable of far more impressive performances than the stable climate of the Old World. In this land of extremes, the atmosphere is more inclined to provide us with biblical deluges, and equally biblical droughts; it is more apt to muster up supernatural storms that suck our very homes into the sky, and drop them down where they please; and the weather here, as opposed to old Europe, is often the first thing spoken of by strangers in conversation. In this land of ethnic diversity and intellectual laxity, the weather may be the only thing two people are sure to have in common, and the easiest thing for them to agree upon. It certainly is hot, isn’t it, Julio? Yes, yes it is. A scorcher, in fact, Chang.
There is nothing more American than to be fixated upon the weather, and there is nothing we aspire to more overheatedly than to be the essential American literary voice of today. Thus, we bring you the weather.
Let it be noted here, if it has not been done so anywhere else, that for all the calamity and anxiety of the past month, it has been a period of the most beautiful climatic conditions to be found at any point in the year. The sun has shone through crystalline skies, and what clouds have appeared have been as brilliant dabs of wool as have ever scudded through the stratosphere.
It is well known that the most beautiful day many of us have ever stepped outside to witness was September 11th itself. After a long bout with the hazy doldrums of summer, the morning of the 11th was utterly infinite; mild, sharp, and clear. Even the jaded and preoccupied took notice when they first stepped into the sun that here was a special day, a gem of autumn. Shortly, the glorious weather was a background detail, which only allowed a city to stand and gape comfortably in its shirtsleeves, and see the spectacle clearly for miles in every direction.
While the intermediate days were all almost self-consciously lovely, the city did not awake to a morning of equal magnificence until October 7th. Again, the sky towered above, blue and unblemished, and the very most crotchety of us were startled by the clarity and luminosity of the air. A neighbor unwrapping his newspaper mentioned the loveliness of the day to me, and innocently, I pointed out that such pristine mornings now made me wary. Not three hours later, news came across that war had begun.
Twice, notably, during this string of jewels, it rained. The night three days after the attacks brought a brilliant electrical storm, carried on a brutish wind, that was so stunning to watch and so forceful that it seemed as if Nature was reasserting her dominance over our affairs. The second time came on the night Mr. Bush gave his first strong, coherent speech of the whole affair, and somehow reassured even his harshest critics, insecure all. At the risk of anthropomorphizing insentient phenomena, it felt remarkably as if Nature was emoting, manifesting a dramatization of human sense and emotion - displaying a kind of benevolent, maternal anger on our behalf. Reassuringly, though, we know for a fact that it was really nothing more than low air pressure.