In Chicago at the 130th National Funeral Directors Conference.
Friday, January 13
On murder and mental illness.
Norma Claypool earned notoriety for welcoming 15 “hard-to-adopt” children into her Baltimore home. Norma Claypool is also elderly and blind.
Thursday, January 12
On touring America and the culture of trailer parks in the early 1950s.
On stolen bicycles, “a solvent in America’s underground economy, a currency in the world of drug addicts and petty thieves.”
On the utility of euphemisms:
In the upper reaches of the British establishment, euphemism is a fine art, one that new arrivals need to master quickly. “Other Whitehall agencies” or “our friends over the river” means the intelligence services (American spooks often say they “work for the government”). A civil servant warning a minister that a decision would be “courageous” is saying that it will be career-cripplingly unpopular. “Adventurous” is even worse: it means mad and unworkable. A “frank discussion” is a row, while a “robust exchange of views” is a full-scale shouting match. (These kind of euphemisms are also common in Japanese, where the reply maemuki ni kento sasete itadakimasu—I will examine it in a forward-looking manner—means something on the lines of “This idea is so stupid that I am cross you are even asking me and will certainly ignore it.”)
Wednesday, January 11
On Thanksgiving weekend, I received a phone call informing me that we had just captured approximately 300 al-Qaeda and Taliban. I asked all our assistant secretaries and regional bureaus to canvass literally the world to begin to look at what options we had as to where a detention facility could be established. We began to eliminate places for different reasons. One day, in one of our meetings, we sat there puzzled as places continued to be eliminated. An individual from the Department of Justice effectively blurted out, What about Guantánamo?
A profile of comedian Ricky Gervais.
Lessons learned about white-collar crime from an economist turned bagel salesman whose business relied entirely on the honor system.
How a family man dentist got involved in an underage prostitution ring.
Tuesday, January 10
On Clifton “Pop” Herring, the then-26-year-old high school basketball coach who famously left Jordan off the varsity squad as a sophomore.