Monday, July 31, 2006
"... an almost numbing account of the details—meetings, reports, payments—that point to the heart of the matter: Soviet espionage happened, on a large scale, and did so through the active involvement of American citizens, a disturbing number of whom held positions of public trust within the Federal government."
He might want to take a look at this, too: He'll have another one.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Sunday, July 30, 2006
The one about carrying a potato around is interesting. Doesn't Mr. Bloom do just that in Ulysses?
Ptolemy may have been wrong, but he was hardly a "folk scientist." And I would submit that ancient astronomers did quite a creditable job given their lack of instruments. "Folk astronomy, for example, told us that the world is flat," the piece asserts. Now when would that have been exactly? On my vacation I read a volume of ancient Greek poems. I remember one - dating several hundred years B.C. - that referred to the Earth's globe. I also remember that at the very beginning of the Summa Theologiae Aquinas bases an argument on the roundness of the Earth. Eratosthenes (third century B.C.) accurately calculated the size of our planet and Aristarchus (same time) advanced a heliocentric theory. Astronomers in ancient India postulated such a theory even earlier.
Then there's the inevitable evolutionary explanation. Only that explanation doesn't explain Aristarchus or Eratosthenes - and doesn't address the actual problems born of observation that led Ptolemy to devise his system. Instead, we have an assertion - in this case one with little or no factual data to back it up - and then an evolutionary fairy tale to explain it. As for how we get from Ptolemy to intercessory prayer is anybody's guess. The folk science here is Michael Schermer's.
But David Montgomery of Crime Fiction Dossier thinks highly of Daniel Silva's The Messenger: A terroristic thriller goes below the surface. (David by the way has just welcomed a new member of his family: Okay, I promise this won't turn into a baby blog...
NBCC president John Freeman of Critical Mass thinks Douglas Coupland's JPod deserves to be taken seriously: A wake-up call for cyber ciphers.
Inquirer staffer David Cohen thinks well, on the whole of Dunstan Prial's The Producer: John Hammond: A man who read the stars.
Sandy Bauers looks at a new development in audio books: Courses and radio plays give a novel meaning to 'audio book'.
Michael McHale thinks T.C. Boyle is at the top of his game: A vengeful hunt for her identity thief.
Sheri Melnick thinks Janet Evanovich is as good as ever: Romantic detour for a Trenton bounty hunter.
And Rita Giordano thinks Jason Goodwin's The Janissary Tree is just great: Book Review In Istanbul, 1836, eunuch detective works a murder mystery.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
"While reading this piece, it struck me how a lot of the meaning of texts is lost in translation:
The Qur'an is a multilayered Arabic text. Even those who hear it understand it in numerous, sometimes divergent ways, and those who cannot hear it in Arabic grasp no more than a fraction of its intended message.
The limits of human experience affect the way we approach the text. The Qur'an as written in Arabic is less than the revelation given to Muhammad; it is a second-order revelation. The Qur'an written, then translated from Arabic to English, becomes a third-order revelation. Distance from the source handicaps us, yet we can still learn about Islam by engaging with the Qur'an, even as a written text, translated from Arabic to English.
The Hindu religious texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads are all originally in Sanskrit. Sanskrit texts are more readily translatable to Hindi because of the closeness of the languages. Could it be then terrorists can misinterpret Islam because most Muslims don't have access to its original version? As they say, that which is rendered in translation can at best be a loud echo of the original.")
Don't miss the pieces linked to below on the right.
... rather than defining an ideal Atlantic poem or endorsing a particular House aesthetic, he has aimed to publish poems, in any style, that, as he puts it, strike him with their “inflected intensity… ideas, originality, verve.”
My sentiments exactly.
The fact that the earth's climate changes in cycles from warm to cold to warm, etc. ("Hockey Stick Hokum," editorial page, July 14) was noted in the late 18th century by Edward Gibbon in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire": "The reindeer, that useful animal, is of a constitution that supports, and even requires, the most intense cold. He is found on the rock of Spitzberg, within ten degrees of the Pole; he seems to delight in the snows of Lapland and Siberia; but at present he cannot subsist, much less multiply, in any country south of the Baltic." In the time of Caesar, Mr. Gibbon wrote, the reindeer was native to the forests of Germany and Poland, but in Gibbon's time the animal was nowhere to be seen in those parts. And between the Age of Caesar and the Age of Gibbon, the Medieval Warming Period and the "Little Ice Age" had taken place.
New Haven, Conn.
If you want to know more about Charles Hill, read the links on this post: Gibbon on global warming
Friday, July 28, 2006
"The study found that students in the program performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills — including thorough description, hypothesizing and reasoning — than did students who were not in the program. "
"Yet the study also found that the program did not help improve students’ scores on the city’s standardized English language arts test, a result that the study’s creators said they could not fully explain. They suggested that the disparity might be related to the fact that the standardized test is written while the study’s interviews were oral."
How could their literacy skills be improved if they had troubkle with a written test. You would think the Times's editors would have wanted to look a little more deeply into this before rushing into print.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Thanks to Dave Lull for pointing out that the link was faulty - and for sending the original link.
There have, of course, been writers who were both successful dramatists and novelists - Somerset Maugham, Thorton Wilder, John Galsworthy. I have heard it said that D. H. Lawrence's plays are better than used to be thought.
(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Vikram also sends along this note: "As part of his argument for phonetic spelling, Bernard Shaw was fond of pointing out that 'fish' could reasonably be spelt 'ghoti' - gh as in trough, o as in women, ti as in station."
As it happens I did know this, but it's worth mentioning because it is a wonderful example of how an excess of reason can lead to absurdity. I have a fondness, not only for English orthography, but, like Auden, for irregular sytems of measurement. I'll take inches and ells over centimenters and liters any day.
Shaw is a wonderful example of how genuinely silly a highly intelligent man can manage to become, fond of dictators and fads, a proto health puritan living long enough to finally yearn for death. I think it wonderfuly ironic that his most lasting play has proved to be the one in which ideology gets least in the way: Pygmalion.
Update: I understand that Marley and Me is out in Britain and has hit No. 1 there also. As well it should.
Update: Read what John has to say about his recent trip to the UK - and much else - at his blog.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
... which we did yesterday, here is a fine portrait of him by John Kascht, from a show of Kascht's work at Lizza Studios in Tunkhannock. I plan on doing a more substantial post about Lizza later on.
As a counterpoint to the Nobel winner's rather stern visage, here is picture, too, of Betsy Green, the gallery director.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Now, let's be honest: Only a deluded cutting-edge intellectual could possibly regard this as anything other than unadulterated crap. And please, don't tell me it's Beckettian. It's to Beckett what Naugahyde is to leather - and saying so probably does a disservice to Naugahyde.
I do not myself find Patrick White unreadable. And while I think a good many of those who have won the Nobel have been overrated - think Harold Pinter, Dario Fo, and Elfriede Jelinek - others who have won have been quite good. Among the lesser known I would cite Par Lagerkvist and Gabriela Mistral. (I think the GOB would like Lagerkvist's The Dwarf.)
But I think the point is that one doesn't win the Nobel because one is widely read - though Kipling was - but rather, usually, because one has a certain cachet among a certain set. Come to think of it, how the hell did Kipling ever win it?
I remember seeing , when I was a kid, a Gene Autry serial that featured, mirabile dictu, an army of horsemen from a civilization that lived underground. Any codgers out there besides me who recall this?
Update: Thanks to Google I have found the name of that serial: The Phantom Empire. The Thunder Riders "disappear 25,000 ft. below the earth's surface to the 'Scientific City of Murania,' an underground empire lorded over by Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy), a blonde Amazonian who constantly compares her superior society with that of the pitiful world above. "
Hah! And you thought I was becoming delusional! There's more here and here. Wacky I'm sure it is, but it says something that it has stayed in my memory all these many decades. I must have been a more impressionable child than I thought.
(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)
Monday, July 24, 2006
And also this, which we might call Thus rhymed Zarathustra.
I shall have more to say of our trip by and by - there is so much to do when you get back from one, have you noticed (I even had an appointment with the chiropractor) - but for now let me just say that we did a good deal of gallivanting around this time. An especially good time was had at Lake Carey, about 10 miles north of Tunkhannock, where Betsy Green, of Lizza Studios, invited us for a visit with her family. Here are some shots. Lake Carey is the second largest natural lake in Pennsylvania and Betsy's family has a place there for more than a century. She, however, lives on Lake Harvey, about 40 minutes south, the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania. I forgot the story about the gingerbread house, but will call Betsy and get the details.
Mike Hammer Checks Out and One More Post About Mickey Spillane and This Time I Mean It About It Being The Last Post About Spillane. The third has a link to a fine tribute by Edward Champion.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Some shots of where we were for the past two weeks. The two vista shots are from the Wyalusing Rocks overlooking the north branch of the Susquehanna. The meadow shot is from the Woodbourne Forest Sanctuary in Demock, in Susquehanna County, north of Tunkhannock. I'll have more tomorrow.
My thanks to John and Gene for filling in for me in my absence.
Thomas Lipscomb examines Mark Fuhrman's take on that perennial mystery, the JFK assassination: Fuhrman views JFK's murder as 'a simple act' .
Suzanne Blair thinks rather well of Robert Phillips's Circumstances Beyond Our Control: Robert Phillips, poet behind the wheel.
Speaking of poems, here's one by C.E. Chaffin: Paradigms .
Katie Haegele thinks highly of William Nicholson's Seeker: Young Adult Reader 3 questing warriors, so misunderstood.
Marietta Dunn has high praise for Garry Disher's Snapshot: Lonely Aussie cop hunts killer of loathsome woman
Dianna Marder serves up a menu of culinary novels: For the beach: A feast of culinary novels .
Elizabeth Fox is disappointed in Scott Smith's The Ruins: Mayan mystery dissolves in pointless, relentless gore .
Desmond Ryan, however, is much impressed with Lindsey Davis's See Delphi and Die: Book Review Murder in ancient Greece, and a private oculus on the case.
Garr Gentile has mixed feeling about Pierette Domenica Simpson's Alive on the Andrea Doria: An immigrant's tale, and a new theory .
Friday, July 21, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Nod to Dave Lull.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
What the townsfolk want to do about it though has to my mind, the makings of a classic American comedy, a la Christopher Guest.
Graceful curtsey to Dave Lull.
The Danielle Steel of this group seems to be Mary Oliver with 7 titles in the top 30.
Not sure if Ms. Cope has an American publisher. One is long-overdue if she doesn't.
Hat tip to Dave Lull
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Ayn Rand in ‘The Romantic Manifesto’ quotes from MS’s description of New York at night as an example of his skill- ‘The rain was misty enough to be almost foglike, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy yellow lights off in the distance’- and then compares it to a passage by Thomas Wolfe- ‘The city had never seemed as beautiful as it looked that night. For the first time he saw that New York was supremely, among the cities of the world, a city of night. There had been achieved here a loveliness that was astounding and incomparable, a kind of modern beauty, inherent to its place and time, that no other place nor time could match.’ Rand says, ‘there is not a single emotional word or adjective in Spillane's description; he presents nothing save visual facts; but he selects only those facts, only those eloquent details, which convey the visual reality of the scene and create a mood of desolate loneliness.’ Wolfe, she said, used only estimates, ‘and in the absence of any indication of what aroused these estimates, they are arbitrary assertions and meaningless generalities.’
Monday, July 17, 2006
Don't Leave Me This WayOr When I Get Back on My FeetYou'll Be Sorry
by Julia Fox Garrison
HarperCollins. 352 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by Marta Salij
The struggle of a young stroke survivor
Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé:The Correspondence
Translated by Edward Snow
and Michael Winkler
Norton. 424 pp. $39.95
Reviewed by Bernhardt Blumenthal
A Novel of Money, Madness,and the Inventionof the World's Favorite Soft Drink
by John Barlow
Morrow. 353 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by Dan DeLuca
By Bobbie Ann Mason
Random House. 224 pp. $22.95
Reviewed by Beth Kephart
Now You See It...Stories from Cokesville, Pa.
By Bathsheba Monk
Farrar Straus & Giroux.
228 pp. $22.
Reviewed by Karen Heller
Antiquarian Books has what must be the most unusual marketing lure - if that's the word - in the business. Thanks to Maxine for the tip.
Hmmmm, unassuming billionaire, eh? Yeah, that's more like it. It would give me just the patina of understated excess that I now realize is missing from my self-image not to mention my cash-flow position.
And speaking of billionaires, I guess it's no secret that the surest way to your first billion is to master the ukelele. Dave Lull points out an interesting piece at First Take on the world's preeminent uke picker here
Friday, July 14, 2006
Mary Beard, classics editor of the Time Literary Supplement has an enjoyable take on Latin's usefullness
Dave Lull and Maxine Clarke, save me. Ah, there you are pointing out timely and diverting pieces on Czeslaw Milosz and literary moonlighters
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Hat tip to Dave Lull.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing. Jim submitted 64 entries into this year's contest so it just goes to show how bad you can be if you really, really put your back into it. Way to go, Jim.
Hat tip to Dave Lull again.
I would have added Kenneth Branagh's Henry V along side Olivier's version to the mix if only to illustrate how fascinatingly varied are the interpretations of the plays. Same words; two great performances; totally different impressions left with the viewer.
And speaking of William Walton's score of the Olivier version, there's a lot to be said for Patrick Doyle's musical contribution to the Branagh too.
Hat tip to Dave Lull.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
... Debbie and I are about to take off for a couple of weeks of R&R in Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains.
While I'm away, two of my colleagues - John Brumfield and Gene D'Alessandro - have generously agreed to take over my blogging duties. John and Gene are both actors, raconteurs, and all-round bon vivants. Welcome them, please, and don't treat them any better than you would me.
If I manage to find myself near a computer while I'm away, I may just pop in and say hi.
A nation, a couple, hell-bent on revenge.
Nadya Tan brings a knowing eye to Dao Strom's The Gentle Orderof Girls and Boys: Four novellas find Asian Americans at various crossroads
I gather I'm not supposed to like Paulo Coelho, but I found The Devil and Miss Prym quite intriguing: Parable about good and evil.
Carlin Romano takes a close look at Eviatar Zerubavel's The Elephant in the Room: Exploring what all see, but no one acknowledges.
David Walton is impressed with Justin Kaplan's When the Astors Owned New York: Tracking the Astor family in New York.
Katie Haegele finds much to admire in Keith Donohue's debut, The Stolen Child: A child stolen by fairies mourns his lost life.
Katie thinks highly of Allison Whittenberg's Sweet Thang: Young Adult Reader Preteen drama, set against a backdrop of family grief
Elizabeth Fox thinks little of Andrew Tree's Academy X: Report card's poor for teacher's 'Academy X'
Gordon Marino sizes up Teddy Atlas and Peter Alson's Atlas: Boxing bio goes to heart of what it means to be a man
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Many years ago, I accumulated so many rejection slips I thought I might be able to make a book out of them.
It is useful to remind oneself from time to time that anything worth doing is worth doing for its own sake, as an end in itself, and not for anything that may come of it.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Friend a Book's First Anniversary Contest!
Buy a Friend a Book -- the site that urges visitors to surprise their
friends with the gift of books during four quarterly BAFAB weeks a
year -- is throwing a week-long puzzle contest to celebrate the
site's first anniversary. Every day from July 1st to July 6th a new
puzzle will be unveiled at one of the literary sites helping out with
BAFAB's First Anniversary Contest. Books, Inq. is your co-host for
the fourth day of the puzzle. Contest participants will be asked to
solve six puzzles during the course of the week and to answer a final
question on the contest's seventh day.
Three winners will be drawn at random from all the correct responses
received. The winners will win hundreds of dollars worth of
literary stuff--stacks of books and free memberships in
LibraryThing and even a text editor. See the complete prize list here and the official rules here.
If you're discovering this contest a little late in the week, don't
worry. After they are initially announced, all six puzzles will
remain available for the duration of the contest. Thus contestants
who learn of the puzzle later in the week will not be barred from
Here's the complete schedule of events:
July 1 -- Puzzle #1 introduced at Grumpy Old Bookman
July 2 -- Puzzle #2 introduced at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
July 3 -- Puzzle #3 introduced at This Writing Life
July 4 -- Puzzle #4 introduced at Books, Inq.
July 5 -- Puzzle #5 introduced at Refrigerator Door
July 6 -- Puzzle #6 introduced at No Rules. Just Write
July 7 -- Final question posed at Buy a Friend a Book
Today's puzzle is a secret picture.
First go to Buy a Friend a Book to print out a larger version of the picture you see to the right. Then shade in all the blocks in the picture in which there appears the title of a work written by Patricia Highsmith, whether it be a novel, short story, or collection of stories. Don't be fooled by the made-up titles that are scattered about the picture! Nor by the fact that at least one of Highsmith's novels was published under two different titles: both appear here.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Simony and casuist should be familiar to anyone raised Catholic. In Conrad's Nostromo, a rowboat in fog emerges into "a recrudescence of obscurity."