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By Nathan Bierma


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The Books & Culture Weblog

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This Week:

TIMELINE: JULY 2003

No, the police didn't actually shut down Avigayil Wardein's lemonade stand in Naples, Florida, as everyone from Matt Drudge and the Associated Press indignantly announced last month. But before long 6-year-old Avigayil had appeared on Letterman and the box of a toy lemonade stand. The story was seized upon as a sour parable of a mean society, though plenty of others were at hand in July. A not-so-professional baseball player reached his bat out of the dugout and felled the nearest mascot, a 19-year-old dressed as a sausage. A New Mexico family sued the priest who gave a scathing eulogy for a man he claimed hardly went to church (second item here). And was it in the chambers of Congress or on an elementary school playground where one lawmaker told another last month to "shut up" and was asked, "Are you big enough to make me, you little wimp?"—which prompted a committee chairman to tearfully apologize. If elected, Jerry Springer, who made plans to run for U.S. Senate, may be in better company than we thought. What we need is a renewed spirit of bipartisanship, seemingly exhibited by presidential advisor Karl Rove at a Fourth of July parade, exhorting his boss' presumably most beatable opponent: "Go Howard Dean!" And the willingness to forgive and forget, as was offered by the Holiday Inn executive who declared a "national towel amnesty day" for all the guests who have ever swiped the signature souvenirs.

Simplify, simplify, said Thoreau, whose 186th birthday passed last month. To him, that meant getting back to the land, as New Yorkers do in Central Park, which celebrated its 150th anniversary. The world was simpler in 1984, when Terry Wallis fell into a coma. "Mom" was his first word in 19 years. July brought other surprises. The remains of a mysterious 39-foot sea creature washed ashore in Chile. A mother opened her mail to find a subpoena from the recording industry listing the songs her 14-year-old son illegally downloaded. And we learned the answer to the question, "What Would Jesus Drive?" Jesús Rivera drives an SUV, reported a full-page ad from the SUV Owners of America.

James E. Davis, a city councilman shot and killed in New York City Hall, and Iranian twins conjoined at the head who died in surgery to separate them, were mourned. Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam's sons who were apparently killed by U.S. troops, were not.

Lance Armstrong's victory in the Tour de France was his narrowest, his most arduous, and his fifth straight. Michael Phelps set a world record for world records, establishing five at the swimming world championships, one more than Mark Spitz at the 1972 Olympics. (Another water record was harder to see—a Texas diver held her breath for nearly four minutes during a 400-foot dive). For the first time, baseball's All-Star Game determined home field advantage in the World Series. Later, a switch-hitter became the first big-league player to hit grand slams from both sides of the plate in the same game. Martina Navratilova, playing mixed doubles, won her 20th Wimbledon title. It left Vancouver to wonder what athletic feats would grace its soil after the city was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Bob Hope, entertainment legend, guest of U.S. troops and golfing partner of presidents, died in July at age 100. Bawdy comic Buddy Hackett appeared in everything from The Love Bug to The Music Man. Singer Barry White, whose bass voice rumbled in subterranean octaves, died on July 4. Celia Cruz, "the Queen of Salsa," was mourned by thousands in a Fifth Avenue funeral procession in New York. Children's author Robert McCloskey wrote Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. Hartley Shawcross was chief prosecutor of the Nazis at Nuremberg. As the familiar voice of telephone company recordings, Jane Barbe spoke to millions. Television art director Matt Jeffries designed the starship Enterprise for TV's Star Trek. An African bushman named N!xau had seen three white people in his life before being chosen to star in The Gods Must Be Crazy.

As a missionary surgeon in India, Dr. Paul Brand advanced the study of leprosy, tenderly regenerating bodies and restoring souls in a field from which others recoiled. Brand died in Seattle on July 8 at age 88. "It is indeed possible to live in modern society, achieve success without forfeiting humility, serve others sacrificially, and yet emerge with joy and contentment, wrote Books & Culture editorial board co-chair Philip Yancey, who co-authored three books with Brand. "To this day, whenever I doubt that, I look back on my time with Paul Brand."

In memory of William Bierma 1923-2003

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