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Archive for March, 2007

February 19 & 26, 2007 

The article on the TV show “24” about how popular the show is with the military was enlightening. I’ve never watched it, but it seems to feature a lot of torture, and not just by the ‘bad guys.’ What I found most interesting is that a delegation of Army officers and WEst Point instructors actually sat down with the creators of the show to urge them to not portray torture as a positive and necessary part of defending America. In fact, many experts say that torture is not really that efficient as a way of getting information. Of course, the show is wildly popular, so why should they change anything?

I also enjoyed the story (by Peter J. Boyer) of the Physicist turned Origami artist, the Poetry magazine article and the one about Hewlett Packerd’s board of directors.

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The Style Issue

March 19, 2007 

How I hate the Style Issue of The New Yorker!  It used to just be a fall event, but now it is showing up in the spring as well. What a bore! As I’ve said before, I dislike the trend toward specialty issues, whether it be fashion, fiction or whatever. I read the magazine to get a broad overview of different topics, so these specialty issues irritate me, especially when the topic is fashion! That said, Patricia Marx is as amusing as always in her column “Dressin’ Texan.” Otherwise, nothing else of interest.

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Ideas

The Globe has a great Sunday section called “Ideas” from which I cull many suggestions for future reading (see page on right). I always enjoy Katherine A. Powers’ (hereafter referred to as KAP) quirky book reviews. This week she reviewed The Terror by Dan Simmons which is about two British  ships lost in the Arctic in the 1800s.  I don’t read historical novels anymore – there are so many bad ones – but KAP declares with her usual elan that “this tale of a doomed expedition is the best and most unusual historical novel I have read in years.”  The following quote from her review added a chilling contemporary dimension to the historical situation:

The Sir John Franklin of these pages is precisely the sort of man you would not want in command of a perilous venture.  Wealthy, pampered, and rigid, he is dismissive of unwelcome facts, even that the tinned food is putrefying and otherwise tainted. He is bored by details, including vital ones concerning ice conditions. He will not hear of advice that contradicts his druthers and is convinced of God’s involvement in his life. To  him, it is a given that the mission will be accomplished.

Sound familiar? Let’s just hope our ship of state does not follow too precisely the doomed trajectory of Franklin’s vessels.  

I’ve read many books on Antarctic exploration, especially firsthand accounts of the Scott and Amundsen race for the poll and the wonderful Endurance by Alfred Lansing, about Shakleton’s heroic escape from Antarctica after his ship was destroyed by the ice. So, I think I will add this one to the list.

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Jane Austen in Sarasota by Paula Marantz Cohen has the plot of Persuasion, with Anne Eliot transformed into Anne Ehrlich, a high school guidance counselor at a wealthy Westchester school. Having just gone through the college search and selection process, I found it absolutely hilarious. She is witty and insightful about the parent/child tensions and the ever-increasing pressures surrounding the decision of where to go and how to get in to college. The SAT tutor is particularly funny as is the character named Curtis Fink to whom parents pay thousands of dollars to ‘package’ their child for the elite schools. The actual plot device was really just a framework and not overly interesting, but Anne is very similar to the Anne, the sensible, strong-minded heroine revered by so many, and when you think of it, Anne Eliot was a kind of guidance counselor to all those around her. (The first scene at the Musgroves when each person traps Anne and complains to her about her sister Mary is priceless.)

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My new blog

Well, here I am on WordPress after stints on blogger and Vox. I have been blogging about books and life since August 2005 and I hope I will manage to stay put on this location for awhile. So far, I like WordPress because it allows you to save drafts and then have them dated when you post them. I like to have a few drafts in the pipeline but don’t want them to reflect the original date of composition. I also like the idea of adding other pages of content. So onward and upward with the new blog.

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com.  My old blog at Vox (see related link) had the tagline:  “How do I know what I think until I see what I say,” by Saul Bellow, which sums up for me the beauty of blogging. The habit of writing and clarifying your thoughts through writing is given shape and even some urgency when the upkeep of one’s blog is involved. It is mortifying to leave a trail of half-baked blogs in one’s wake, which makes me appreciate the ability to upload from blogger, which was my first blog (see below), from August 2005-July 2006. My next blog was at Vox, and went from November 2006-March 2007.  

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