A little light reading.

One of the best thing about this interval between the holidays is the lack of pressure, and freedom to do what I want, which today has meant a) eating tortilla chips with guacamole and b) reading. I do too much of the former and too little of the latter, and both are my own damn fault, but let’s not get into the self-laceration, yet. Let’s keep this to what it is, a breezy update on the two books I’ve completed in the last few days.

lifespanofafactThe first, “The Lifespan of a Fact,” I recommend highly, mostly to my journalist friends and anyone who writes for a living or a hobby, but really, to anyone who’s ever contemplated the difference between facts and truth. The book consists of the seven years’ worth (condensed and, to some extent, recreated) of correspondence between John D’Agata, writer, and Jim Fingal, fact-checker. D’Agata has written an essay about the suicide of a teenage boy in Las Vegas, although, being a capital-W Writer from the get-go, it’s really about a lot of other things. (Every story is really about a lot of other things, but D’Agata is on the muscle about his larger purpose — to create art, compose lyric sentences and riff on life and death and Vegas and so on. His essay was originally written for Harper’s, but rejected for factual errors, which is where Fingal evidently entered the picture. (It was later offered to The Believer, a magazine where Fingal worked.)

The two clash from the very first sentence, much of which Fingal can’t verify. D’Agata tells him to stop bugging him about this shit — it isn’t important, it doesn’t matter, anyway he’s an essayist, not a journalist, and he takes liberties, and who cares whether there really were 34 strip clubs in Las Vegas at the time, and whether the tic-tac-toe game with the chicken happened on this day or another one? Fingal does, and to his credit, doesn’t allow this University of Iowa professor to intimidate him. And so the process begins. Fingal isn’t editing; that’s someone else’s job. His task is to take every single statement presented as fact and verify whether it actually is.

A college classmate of mine did this job for a while in New York City; it’s a traditional entry-level position in the prestige-magazine trade, and it is thankless. (The fictional narrator of “Bright Lights, Big City,” the thinly veiled autobiographical voice of Jay McInerney, did the same job at a magazine similarly veiled, but obviously The New Yorker.) She was paid a poverty-level wage to take the hallowed prose of writers like Tom Wolfe and Christopher Buckley — to name but two of the unlisted phone numbers in her Rolodex — and peck at it like a chicken. If Wolfe wrote that the morning of July 2, 1973 was hot and rainy in Anniston, Ala., she consulted almanacs or weather stations to make sure it wasn’t really unseasonably cool under a high-pressure system. She called interview subjects to verify they had Remington bronzes on the credenza behind their desks, as described in the text. Were you wearing a navy suit with a pocket square that day? And so on. The only thing she didn’t fact-check were quotes, because people invariably got cold feet when confronted with their own words and tried to back out of them.

It’s a good job for a beginner because it teaches you research skills, and I imagine it also teaches you how to hold your own when some Bigfoot writer, confronted with his own laziness or lousy reporting, pushes back. In “The Lifespan of a Fact,” D’Agata pushes back again and again and again, but then, he gives Fingal so very much to work with. He seems to think that, by declaring he isn’t a journalist, he can do anything he wants with the building blocks of reality, those pesky facts. He changes the name of a school because he thinks the correct name is stupid. He changes the color of a fleet of dog-grooming vans from pink to purple because he needed a two-syllable beat in the sentence. When challenged on these points, he compares himself to Cicero, among others.

Before long, the insults are flying, and Fingal, who grabbed my early sympathy just by getting such spectacular rises out of D’Agata, is becoming something of a pedant himself. There’s a long section on linguistics and quibbles over whether a slot machine called Press Your Luck is named after a short-lived game show or the expression of playing out a winning streak. Was the carpet purple or red? Was Roxy’s Diner on the left as the boy passed the casino’s guest services desk, or down the hall on the left?

It all reaches a crescendo where the two are fighting over the nature of memoir as interpreted by James Frey (D’Agata, you should not be surprised to know, is on Team Frey), the nature of the essay as interpreted by D’Agata, and whether it matters that the kid leaned on a railing that was either four feet high or three feet seven inches high.

By the end, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. D’Agata’s was a powerful essay, but it’s a more powerful book.

On edit: I’m thinking I’m being too hard on D’Agata here. Part of me sympathized with him, because I’ve writhed under a too-tight editing thumb myself more than once — which, as I explained above, is different from fact-checking. There are editors who simply cannot leave a fact unattributed to a higher authority, and will happily lard a piece up with clunky phrases, destroying whatever narrative effect the writer might be trying for. One of my favorite illustrations of this came from a colleague who was doing a tick-tock piece on a spree killer. He wrote that the guy stopped at a local grocery and passed two bad checks. The editor asked where he got that information. From the grocery-store owner, he said, who still had the checks (they’d been returned, after all), and showed them to him. The editor insisted on inserting “police said” even though the police had said nothing of the kind, out of some knee-jerk fear that a guy sitting in Riker’s Island on multiple felony murder charges might sue us for libel or something. So I’m sympathetic to rhythm and flow in a piece of non-fiction writing. I just don’t think you have to change the color of a truck to get it. End edit.

All of this interests me because I was once seated at a wedding next to an executive from a large company whose name you would recognize. Some years earlier, another company this man worked for had allowed a famous writer, whose name you would also recognize, to embed in their plant for a book he was writing. The book was published, and contained an anecdote about a close call the writer had had with his personal safety on company property. He wrote that he had been so rattled a particular foreman (whom he named) had taken him to his car and given him his first taste of homemade whiskey.

The executive said he’d confronted the writer later, telling him that he remembered the writer’s first taste of homemade whiskey, because he, the executive, had been there: It had happened after work, off company property, outside a bar, in fact. He was upset because the business could be dangerous, and even bringing alcohol onto company grounds — much less nipping out during work hours for a shot — was a firing offense. The writer, he said, shrugged and basically said it made the story better, the way he told it. It was a bit of harmless embroidery in the service of making the book more readable. And it was, until there was a fatal accident at the company sometime later, and during negotiations with the survivors, the lawyers produced the book and said, “So, you allow your employees to drink during work hours?”

All this by way of saying that facts seem unimportant when you’re concerned with getting a two-beat note at the end of a sentence, but ultimately, they’re very important. And whether you’re a journalist or essayist, they deserve respect.

Book two is “Capital” by John Lanchester, the one on the nightstand, which I’m finishing now. It seems to be taking forever, even though I’m enjoying it quite a lot. A look at the residents of one block of Pepys Road in London, it traces events in a dozen or more lives in 2008, leading up to you-know-what. The throughline is a series of unsettling communications — postcards, a website, graffiti, dead birds — from an anonymous party or parties, proclaiming a simple message: “We want what you have.” I had high hopes for a mystery with mounting tension, but the book is more a Dickensian novel of manners and social mores at a particular point in time. And while it hasn’t made me think hard the way “The Lifespan of a Fact” did, it has been as delicious as a Christmas cookie.

(If you choose to buy either of these, as always, you’re welcome to use the Kickback Lounge to make your purchase.)

With that, I return to previously scheduled light duty, and I hope you are, as well. The snowstorm looks like it’s just about over, and I have to go fire up the blower.

Posted at 6:50 pm in Popculch |
 

115 responses to “A little light reading.”

  1. brian stouder said on December 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I think I shall press for Lifespan of a Fact.

    For Christmas I got Meacham’s book about TJ (I liked his lecture at IPFW, so we’ll risk his pro-TJ/conventional wisdom bio); Rachels Swarns’ book about Michelle Obama – American Tapestry; and Wilkerson’s book Warmth of Other Suns, about the 20th century movement of black Americans from the south to the north.

    As I unwrapped each book (in amongst a new pair of shoes, some socks, some slacks, a great sweater, and some other dad-type stuff), my SIL – who was sitting next to me – did an admirable job stifling the urge to groan (she was a huge supporter of Mitt; or more rightly – detractor of President Obama).

    I genuinely appreciated this, and made a point of not going on and on about how much I’m looking forward to diving into these books….and then when I came back to Fort Wayne (ahead of the snow storm), I realized I left the books behind, along with the young folks – who I will see again this New Years’ weekend.

    Anyway, I’ll see if I can get Pammy to get me the Fact book from Nance’s Lounge

  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    As Robert Burton says in “The Anatomy of Melancholy” (which should be on everyone’s bedside table), “No rule is so general, which admits not some exception.”

    But D’Agata wants so many exceptions that it’s darn hard to figure out what the rule is in the end, other than “it is what I mean it to be.” Which is a fine rule as to fiction, but . . . Fingal may be a pedant, but one I can understand.

    Likewise Peter Jackson, who did a nice job in so many ways with “The Hobbit,” except he doesn’t seem to understand that even fantasy has rules, or at least rule-sets that Constant Readers will needs must see observed. It’s one thing to watch a protagonist fall down a thirty foot shaft, bouncing off the sides and crumpling, slightly scathed, into a pile of debris and shakily rising to their feet — but when said protagonist falls precipitously three hundred feet, pinwheels off of rock faces, and slams into a stack of rough hewn lumber, and shakily rises to suddenly jolt off into another pursuit, you just think “I can see where this sequence serves the inevitable video game module, but no.”

    Too many exceptions makes Jack a dull boy. Too many exceptions makes Jack a dull boy. Too many exceptions . . .

  3. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Also noting, as I have before, that the cop who supposedly roughed up James Frey here in Granville, slamming him face first into a parked car and holding him down against the concrete to cuff him, and led to his three months in jail (as the “memoir” would lead you to believe) . . . which was in actuality a hour and a half in the conference room at the GPD offices — anyhow, Dave is a friend of mine. He’s not amused, but he doesn’t lose sleep over it. “Oprah doesn’t call, she doesn’t write.” Frey was drunk at the GranVilla as a Denison student, standing out in the street cursing someone loudly, and was led by the elbow down to the cop shop after insistently trying to kick the headlights out of Dave’s cruiser, which turns out to be harder to do than TV would lead you to believe. And needed to end up in a rehab center, where he did in fact spend some time later, and kudos on his recovery when others don’t make it out of the dark woods. But why defame hard-working bit players to jazz your narrative?

  4. Sherri said on December 26, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Frey wouldn’t have anything without hard-working bit players: http://gawker.com/5689764/welcome-to-james-freys-young-adult-novel-sweatshop?tag=james-frey

    I think there’s a good movie somewhere in The Hobbit, but Peter Jackson couldn’t decide which movie he wanted to make, so he made all of them at once. A cartoon? A video game movie? An epic adventure? The history of Middle Earth? I’ll just throw them all in there! Wile E. Coyote and Indiana Jones tell the story of the Silmarillion! The battle scene with the goblins was particularly bad.

    On the other hand, Martin Freeman was wonderful as Bilbo.

  5. Jason T. said on December 27, 2012 at 7:56 am

    James Lileks, stand-up comedian on the National Review’s boat cruise:

    After dinner was a program called the “Light Side of the Right Side.” A frenetic, tightly wound man named James Lileks, a National Review columnist from Minnesota, warmed up the crowd with one-liners: “If we can put a man on the moon, we can put 50 million Democrats up there as well!”

    Haw haw haw! Stop, you’re killin’ me!

    ‘Twould be funnier if conservatives hadn’t spent the last 20 years gutting NASA and privatizing its functions.

  6. coozledad said on December 27, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Whatever else John Lanchester has done, The Debt to Pleasure is the best book Nabokov never wrote. I like his subsequent work, but I started losing my ear for fiction around the time he published Mr. Phillips.

    I don’t know whether it’s because we moved out of range of a decent library, or middle age neural apoptosis.

    It could be because there’s so much crazy shit going on now, who needs to make stuff up?

  7. coozledad said on December 27, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Jason T: About that cruise:
    I met a man near the railing who was there as a caregiver for a 70-year-old National Review cruiser from Palm Desert, California. He was gay and seemingly liberal and had come on the cruise only to push his boss around in a wheelchair. As he smoked a cigarette, he recounted a conversation the two had about the ship’s largely Indonesian and Filipino staff.

    BOSS: You notice none of the workers are white.

    CAREGIVER: Except the managers upstairs.

    BOSS: Well, that’s the way it should be.

    H/T TBogg

  8. coozledad said on December 27, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Ideally,The part of BOSS would be played by Alistair Sim.

  9. Jason T. said on December 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Ideally,The part of BOSS would be played by Alistair Sim.

    Nah. Lionel Barrymore.

  10. Prospero said on December 27, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Downton recap.

    One more comment about the Gregory banana clip hoohaw, and I’ll shut up about it. Consistency under the law? Like all those rightwingers calling for police action were up in arms when the Teabangers showed up strapped with large magazines attached to their prosthetic mechanical dildos at the Glenn Beck rally. Same nutsos will attend the inauguration in protest of the anti-colonial Kenyan Manchurian president. I’m sure there will be outrage on the right. And for those that expressed a general distaste for Gregory, I’d point out that I did too, when I first brought him up.

  11. adrianne said on December 27, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Didn’t one of our former presidents say something like, “Facts are pesky things” before he launched into a tale of how he was with the Army press corps filming the liberation of death camps? Only, um, he never went overseas during the war?

    My most famous brush with journalistic fabulists came in summer of 2003, when Stephen Glass was my intern at the Syracuse newspapers. Yes, THAT Stephen Glass. After the storm broke over his made-up stuff for other publications (mainly the New Republica), I had to go back and fact-check the stories he did for my paper that summer. Thankfully, he appeared to still be in the fact-based world when he was a puppy dog of an intern.

  12. Prospero said on December 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Roy Edroso recaps 2012 rightwing mishegas. Chortle, chortle.

    Millenium People, by J.G. Ballard, which I read recently, sounds like a good companion piece to Capital. It’s about an ineluctable revolt of the upper middle class against the status quo, and it’s mordantly funny, like a political movie by Alfred Hitchcock, The Trouble with Harry complete with class and economic overtones and subplots. With lead roles custom made for Glenn Close, William Hurt and Zelkjo Ivanek.

  13. Dorothy said on December 27, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Checking in from Vegas; getting here last night was nothing short of a miracle. We watched dozens of flights get cancelled while sitting @ the airport all day. But our flight got out. Almost three hours late but we GOT OUT! Thankful to be here for all the pre-wedding fun.

  14. brian stouder said on December 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I think Dorothy’s Christmas/New Years travel-miracle wins the holiday thread!

    It must have been a marvelous feeling, when the plane lifted off the ground and you realized your plans (and hopes) would fly afterall

  15. Deborah said on December 27, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Good news Dorothy, I was wondering if you made it.Have a great time.

  16. Judybusy said on December 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Dorothy, I’m glad you made it! Here’s to a great time….

  17. Prospero said on December 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    A documentary about the Replacements, a band I think is one of the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll bands ever:

    http://www.prefixmag.com/news/watch-full-replacements-documentary-color-me-obses/72578/

  18. beb said on December 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    The only experience better than leaving an airport in a blizzard is safely landing at one’s destination!

    I have no idea what events “Capital” refers to. At first I thought “The Lifespan of a Fact” would be about some Internet rumor that gets debunked ever other year only to resurface year later like a MRSA infection.

    Speaking of getting books for Christmas….

    I’m the kind of guy who has kept virtually every book I have ever bought in my life. At 62 that’s a lot of books (We need a bigger house). The idea of throwing books away, or of burning books, is just unconscionable…. Until this year, when a niece handed out to several members of the family her “greatest book of all time.” The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. To quote from the back cover, “You hold in your hands a Great Secret…

    “It has been passed down through the ages, highly coveted, hidden, lost, stolen, and bought for large sums of money. [snip]

    “As you learn The Secret, you will come to know how you can have, be, or do anything you want.”

    It goes on from there. A self-help book, obviously. Like most self-help books, it’s a crock.

    What do you do with a vile thing like this? Re-gift it, of course. But you do we hate enough? My wife throw that question out yesterday while we were driving through Detroit little blizzard. The answer comes immediately to mind – Mitch Albom. He was just the sort of man to write such stuff so he would be immensely deserving of getting the like. And then he could write a review of “The Secret” and expand on the five people you’ll meet in hell who have read The Secret….

    And it goes on from there.

  19. Julie Robinson said on December 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    beb, vile though it is, someone would probably buy The Secret from a library book sale, and you would be helping fund library needs.

    Dorothy, yay! Hugs to your son & bride!

  20. Prospero said on December 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Beb’s Christmas book reminds me of a Christmas back in the early 80s (I think) when everybody was giving everybody Passages, by Gail Sheehy, the alleged life-changer. Fortunately, I didn’t receive a copy. In hell, you probably get copies of both books.

  21. paddyo' said on December 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    No, Pros’, I think in Hell you get all those books “on tape” (as read by the author!) — The Secret, Mitch’s Tuesdays and Five Whatevers, every last one of ‘em — except that instead of printed copies, they are hard-wired into your head (no earphones needed!), playing in never-ending loops.

    That, or all of El Rushbaugh’s daily radio brainbarf, archived, in the same eternal headloop.

    Your pick.

  22. brian stouder said on December 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    ! That, or all of El Rushbaugh’s daily radio brainbarf, archived, in the same eternal headloop.

    Good Gawd, man! I just ate lunch!

    Actually, this discussion – especially the part about aversion to pitching out books – is very close to home for me, just now.

    With my mom progressing through the long goodbye, we have been cleaning out her house – and I have dozens of books dating back to when I was a twenty-something rightward know-it-all (as opposed to the fifty-something leftward know-it-all that I’ve evolved/devolved into). I was in the Conservative Book Club, and thought R Emmett Tyrell struck me as witty*, and that Jeane Kirkpatrick was hot. (Actually, I still think Ms Kirkpatrick was pretty sizzlin’. Thinking about Sandra Day O’Conner, one still has to say that RWR had a flair for finding exceptional women…although Ms Kirkpatrick should have been a SecState, or, better, president – but we digress)

    So all these books are boxed up, and I was thinking of giving them to Hyde, but Julie makes an excellent point, and if the library can sell ‘em for 50 cents or a buck apiece, then more’s the better.

    *What a worm that guy is – and always was. But, worms have their place in the world, and at that time, he brightened my rightward garden (anyway, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it!)

  23. crinoidgirl said on December 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    A most excellent multimedia story about an avalanche.

  24. Prospero said on December 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    R. Emmett Tyrell always struck me as a perfect match for Maggie Gallagher. They both stuck with the same thumbnail byline photos I remember from my youth. They are equally dense about truth that beggars their beknighted worldviews, and their byline photos make it clear the rest of us hoi polloi exude a stench they find intolerable. Grampa bought my grandson a real toy piano. You know, like Phillip Glass wrote music for. And the Bs wrote Dance This Mess Around on:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCp6YNalsUY&noredirect=1

    And in the list of the 16 dances, does Kate say Jugaloo?

    Brian, worms poop compost, their only excuse for existing. And the easily greatest B’s song ever:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oPuVAdGkk8

    I used to know these folks and they are more enjoyable than the videos let on.

  25. MichaelG said on December 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Crinoidgirl, that link doesn’t work so I don’t know what avalanche it refers to but two people have died in avalanches just up the hill here in the last week.

  26. del said on December 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Those songs are good Pros, but this might just be the the greatest B-52′s song ever:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FyLcHxbSRk

    It’s got a trance-inducing dance groove. And what exactly do they mean when they sing “6 or 8,000 years ago they laid down the law?” Are they referring to Hammurabi’s code, or something else? Oh, who cares — just get your groove on.

  27. Bill said on December 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I think Crinoid girl meant this one from the NYT:

    http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek

  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    beb, what I’ve read about “The Secret” reminds me of the coded journal in “Magnificent Obsession,” Lloyd Douglas’ other well-known in its day book — he wrote “The Robe.” Much of “Magnificent Obsession” takes place in Detroit and Ann Arbor, during the 20′s, and you get a taste of what it was like when the area was the new Paris and only growth and new possibility were on the horizon.

    Anyhow, the “secret” of the journal is nothing more than a doctor taking Matthew 6:3 seriously. He argues that if you put serious effort into doing good deeds where there is not only no chance of benefit to yourself, but in making sure no one can find out you did it, there is a spiritual energy that comes back to you manyfold. If you tell people that you did it, it’s like taking the insulation off a power cable. Mind you, this is all packaged within the novel per se, but the idea is that this doctor tries this method which he learned from another (that’s the Ann Arbor sequence), records the results of his experimentation with the effects in a coded notebook, and the notebook is discovered by a younger doctor whose life is saved at the expense of the elder physician. The callow hot-shot ends up with the notebook, decodes it, mulls it over, and . . . well, that’s the part then that the movie(s) focus on, and the spiritual practice part is greatly de-emphasized (in both the original and later remake, all of which play a role in helping create Dr. Kildare, which is a whole ‘nother story).

    Project Gutenberg Australia has “Magnificent Obsession” available to read, and most of it holds up pretty well, as does IMHO “The Robe” – http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400631h.html

    Like Dickens, you have to give the language and rhythms some time to settle in, but the story is better than you might expect if you only know the movie versions.

  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Paging Jeff Borden, Jeff Borden to the courtesy desk, line two . . .

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/us/libraries-try-to-update-the-bookstore-model.html?pagewanted=2

  30. brian stouder said on December 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Jeff – what a superb, superb link!

    Great to see a stand-out NNc-acenti add some color and vibrancy to the New York Times. (I’d say Mr Borden is a skybox season ticket holder, hereabouts)

  31. Bitter Scribe said on December 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    R Emmett Tyrell struck me as witty*

    In his memoir, Tony Hendra wrote that when he and P.J. O’Rourke (whom he couldn’t stand) were editing the National Lampoon, O’Rourke kept trying to get Tyrell’s stuff into the magazine. Hendra described Tyrell as “an odious little fruitfly” and his writing as “great swatches of Latinate alliteration draped over gutter-level bigotry.”

  32. brian stouder said on December 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Hendra described Tyrell as “an odious little fruitfly” and his writing as “great swatches of Latinate alliteration draped over gutter-level bigotry.”

    Hah!! Yup, that’s him alright.

    I remember, many (many) years ago…back in the days when I pestered a local newspaper columnist with typewritten letters sent via US mail-mail, and every so often would get a typwewritten response via return US mail-mail (a process that took 10 or 12 DAYS – in a best-case scenario. Good heavens! That sounds like something from the last century! And of course, it is, but we digress) – I remember pestering that columnist about whatever-the-hell, and invoking the name of R Emmett Tyrell….and the succinct retort from the (apparently supernaturally patient) columnist was something along the lines of “You mean the guy who opposes curb-cuts for handicapped Americans?”

    Yeah – that guy.

  33. Connie said on December 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    OK. New York Times. Cincinnati Library. Guy from Chicago. How does that all come together? I would like to hear the rest of the story.

    At our last couple of big book sales we had an entire case of multiple hardcover copies of the Twilight series. In another year that will be an entire case of Fifty Shades of Gray. Of which we have purchased multiple copies in hardcover, large print, audio book, audio download and e-book formats.

  34. David C. said on December 28, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I prefer to be a library’s patron rather than its customer. As a patron, I support the library through my taxes for everyone to use and enjoy. My custom I can prefer or withdraw as I see fit in a way that only benefits me. Changing from patron to customer strikes me as something a management consultant would dream up and put in a Powerpoint presentation to a Republican library board looking to cut the library budget and privatize it.

  35. Basset said on December 28, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Back when PJ O’Rourke was funny, around the time of “Republican Party Reptile,” I got myself invited to a lunch speech he was giving in Nashville and was quite disappointed when all he did was read from his latest book. Guess it’s enough just to show up out here in flyover land.

  36. Julie Robinson said on December 28, 2012 at 9:02 am

    David C, it’s precisely because of management consultants at the legislative level that most libraries have had their public support reduced. At my mom’s old library, the book sales pay for all the childrens’ programming. Jeff Borden pointed out the importance of getting people in the door and it goes double for kids. They may come in for a Pokemon tournament, pick up a DVD, and stumble into books.

    I love libraries, and only partly because I grew up as a librarian’s daughter. I ditto everything the NYT wrote.

  37. brian stouder said on December 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

    You know, the feeling of being underwhelmed that Basset describes struck a chord with me. Had to think about it awhile, and then I remembered. Years ago, Judy Collins came to Fort Wayne, and put on a show at the Embassy Theater. That is certainly Fort Wayne’s most beautiful venue for any live show; a place where even the cheap seats are marvelously good (a lot like visiting nn.c, really). I remember when Pam and I were looking forward to it, and the excitement when the evening arrived. And then, pfffft. I don’t know whether Ms Collins had a bad day, or wasn’t feeling the best, or what – but she stood motionless at the microphone and slogged through one song after the next. Even “Send in the Clowns” – which should have matched her mood, and might possibly have therefore been especially affecting – was a desiccated nothing; another task marked off her to-do list. In fact, I wouldn’t even call her performance that evening ‘workman-like’; it never rose to the level of a person doing her job. She seemed genuinely hostile – the evening had a ‘go-to-hell’ feel.

    Really, everyone would have been better off if she had simply flown over.

  38. Connie said on December 28, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Brian, I had the same reaction to Linda Ronstadt years ago. She just stood there and sang and something was missing.

    I will add my voice to Julie’s about Library Friends. My Library’s friends group funds all of our children’s programming and other things as well. Our summer reading club programs feature performers for whom they pay the fees.

    Those Republican library boards do sometimes have that idea and then generally realize that fees won’t get near matching their tax revenue per capita.

    And there is a company out there called LSSI to which you can outsource your local library operations. They might even rehire your library employees at a lower rate with no benefits. Book selection is centralized which means your staff can no longer select the books they think are appropriate for your community. But they are a little cheaper than running your own community library.

  39. crinoidgirl said on December 28, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Let’s try that again.

  40. brian stouder said on December 28, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I remember, ages ago, every Tuesday (or maybe every other Tuesday?) walking a block with my mom to the library truck, where she would return the half-dozen or so books she had*, and pickup whatever ones she had requested, and browse at whatever other things Mr Krebbs** had thought she might like; and meanwhile, I’d be looking at whatever was on offer (I recall liking Alvin Fernald[?] and Henry Huggins back in those days)…and that did the magic. Books were (and remain) cool things.

    So, taking the hint from my mom, every so often the young folks and I saddle up and go down to the main library – because if you’re going to saddle up, why stop at a branch?, I say – and then they seek out a book or two or three, and off we go.

    It’s like investing in a 401(k), in that it doesn’t require much of an expenditure, and as long as you make it regular and routine, the effort cannot help but pay dividends.

    *she always liked new fiction, or as new as could be gotten. Several of her friends around the neighborhood did the same, and their coffee klatches often revolved around whatever they were all reading

    Do they still run library trucks?

    ** the guy was ancient, plus he was always smoking, right there in his library truck. But – so was my mom, quite often, as well as other patrons, so there’s that

  41. brian stouder said on December 28, 2012 at 11:24 am

    A lot like this – but not “rural service”!

    http://media-cache-ec3.pinterest.com/upload/34340015879106510_FWs2dywf_c.jpg

  42. Connie said on December 28, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Brian these days they are bookmobiles, usually a custom built interior in a school bus body. Fort Wayne had one years ago, I had a board member back in the day who had fond memories of the Fort Wayne bookmobile.

    In the early 60s the Indiana State Library used federal funds to buy bookmobiles for small towns to serve rural counties. That program had a huge and positive impact on the development of community libraries in the state. These days they are as likely to be a technology bus as a book filled bus.

  43. LAMary said on December 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

    The main library in the town where I work has a big meeting room that local groups can use for next to nothing as long as they clean up after themselves. My department used this room two years in a row for a Christmas party for which we had no budget. The first year was nice, if low key and low budget. Last year’s sucked. At least half the room knew their jobs were going away and the food was bad potluck. Luckily the library was having a book sale in the next room, and one of my colleagues and I sneaked out and went book shopping. I got the Lileks unfortunate food book for a dime and gave it to someone who deserved it. I also got a half dozen other good cookbooks for myself and a few things I knew my older son would like.

  44. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Jeff@28. Ralphie’s “Be sure to drink more Ovaltine” secret code notwithstanding, my favorite embedded secret code meaning of life is the Art of Memory in Little, Big by John Crowley, an astounding work of imagination.

    Connie@42: That bus is called “Further”, right? Books are gems, to my mind. My finest possession is a first edition of Mencken’s The American Language. I read it through once, and dip into it occasionally. It’s probably worth some bucks I want to leave my kid and my grandson. I’m working on my will today. It’s the special bequests outside “all my earthly goods” that is weird. The temptation to direct the end of all of my books is strong, though it’s totally ridiculous. Some things are a no-brainer. All my Obamagear goes to my corporate lawyer bro. At least it wo’nt cause ungainly fisticuffs between two old farts after I’m dead and gone. And is it wo’nt or won’t? That contraction has always stymied me. Yore mamy went to Watt Street to gatt what?

    No human being actually deserves James Lileks. Maybe Newticle Gingrich.

  45. Catherine said on December 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I try to get books from the library, but there are gifts and the inevitable book club book that’s not going to be available in time. So, at least once a year, I round up all the books we are ready to part with and take them to my local branch* library for their book sale. They are SO happy to have my donation, and my need to be free of clutter (a bit, temporarily) is met, so everyone is happy.

    *Our main library here in Pasadena is a beautiful building — 1920s Spanish style, terracotta tile floors, big oak tables & dark exposed beams; but my 1950s ranch-style branch just smells like a library is supposed to smell. I don’t know if it’s the old cork tiles on the floor or just ink and slowly rotting paper, but it’s convenient and I love it.

  46. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Oh, and the world is somewhat lighter today because Sid Williams bit the dust. Chiropracty? I give you, climate change denial.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-obituaries/sid-williams-84-founder-of-life-university/nTgWm/

    Scariest looking mofo I ever saw.

  47. Sherri said on December 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    My library (King County Library System, which is huge, covering all of King County except for Seattle) has a variety of mobile library vehicles, targeted at different needs: http://www.kcls.org/library2go/.

    My former library, the Mountain View Public Library, has a bookmobile funded by Google.

  48. brian stouder said on December 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Pros – that IS a scarey looking mofo.

    He looks like the illegitmate father of both Newt Gingerich and Rick Perry….plus, he actually is a back-breaker

  49. David C. said on December 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Everyone should be a chiropractor? Hell’s bells, from the look of some mini-malls you wouldn’t be far off thinking everyone is a chiropractor.

  50. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Wonderful musical interlude from my ol’ pal Dex Romweber (felicitous name), with the theme song from my second favorite movie of all time (from the unmitigated genius, Terry Gilliam). That is how to play some jazz chords.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvwGgxr8eYI

  51. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Sherri, leaving no room for streets and buildings? Just kidding. But reminded me of one of the few Talking Heads songs I can listen to without gagging:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dErdvJrv8JE

  52. Danny said on December 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Well, we are back from the frozen and treacherous Sierra Nevada’s. I suppose the avalanche story is apropos of the events in the Tahoe region this week. My cousin knew the 28-year veteran patroller who lost his life at Alpine Meadows. Scary stuff. Apparently, the area they were detonating behaved differently than in the past, but her description of avalanche mechanics jived well with my knowledge of fracture mechanics and morphology of crack propagation along slip planes.

    Interesting reads, Nance and I do agree with Jeff and anyone who holds that some of D’Agata’s “embroidery” was of questionable utility. For lack of a better term, the embellishments you describe seemed to be just plain old stupid.

    Though I haven’t had near enough luxury reading time this holiday, I did get to peck at some areas of peripheral interest: hacking (couple issues 2600 magazine) and number theory (philosophy, art or science? nay, but philosophy, art AND science). I know this may sound boring to some of you, but believe me, it represents a stimulating and light-hearted departure from my regular, career-related reading.

    Jeff, I had the same objections as you did to Mr. Jackson’s recent effort.

  53. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    brian @48: His goal late in life was to take over college hoops.

  54. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Danny, with all due respect, things don’t jive, they jibe. I’m not looking to start a fight, but

    http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20000711

  55. Danny said on December 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    My bad. Thanks for the correction. Link was unnecessary though.

  56. Minnie said on December 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    “Nobody loves me but my mother,
    And she could be jivin’, too.”

    - Riley B. King

  57. adrianne said on December 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Mark me down as a prime library lover/user/patron/customer/what have you. I was pleasantly surprised to find Mr. Borden’s comments lurking on the jump of the NYT story on changes to the library system. In our current hamlet on the Hudson, our neighbor and friend is the dynamic director of the hamlet’s library and she is NOT your stereotype of a library director. Far from it. She’s taken the lead in making the library the center of our community life for kids, adults, therapy dogs, whatever.

  58. Jolene said on December 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    The NYT had a great story re how, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, bookmobiles were helping people in all sorts of ways.

    As a kid in a rural community, I found it a huge treat when the bookmobile showed up at our school. We were near enough to the nearest public library to go from time to time, but not near enough to go just any old time. Of course, the bookmobile didn’t come often, which prhaps made it even more of a treat.

  59. brian stouder said on December 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Regarding jibe/jive question above, just today at lunch (at a chicken joint a mile away) I was reading a locally published monthly lifestyle magazine/broadsheet, and one of the main features was about a guy who has several jobs and avocations.

    The very first sentence was something like “Ask this guy what his career is, and you’ll get a virtual calliope of answers” …and I suspect what they meant was “cornucopia” – but then again on second thought, ‘calliope’ jibes, too – so who knows?

  60. Melissa said on December 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Alan Bennet has a wonderful talking book (actually a story) called the Uncommon Reader. It
    tells the story of a bookmobile visiting Buckingham Palace. Guess who becomes the uncommon reader? It’s avaiable on Tunes.

  61. Deborah said on December 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    LAMary your description of the depressing holiday party where half the people there knew their jobs were not going to last reminded me one of my favorite holiday movies of all-time, “Desk Set” with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Only they have a fabulous holiday party in the office that has become my standard for the most successful office holiday party you can possibly have. If you haven’t seen this movie, do see it, a classic.

  62. MichaelG said on December 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Somebody broke into my car last week and stole my briefcase. Among other things that were in it was a library copy of Neal Stephenson’s ‘Reamde’. When I went to the library to fess up, I was told there would be no charge since the book had been stolen. How about that? I was only half way through. ‘Reamde’ is a really good book. I gotta get hold of another copy and finish it.

  63. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Deborah: Desk Set is a great movie.

    Danny, Merry Christmas, buddy.

    High-speed rail doesn’t make more sense than the interstates and mean far fewer auto deaths? But it’s a Kenyan socialss plot.

    Calliope is one of the Muses. The muse of epic poetry, I think. You know, like Homer. Like Odysseus:

    SPEAK TO me, Muse, of the adventurous man who wandered long after he sacked the sacred citadel of Troy. Many the men whose towns he saw, whose ways he proved; and many a pang he bore in his own breast at sea while struggling for his life and his men’s safe return. Yet even so, by all his zeal, he did not save his men; for through their own perversity they perished—fools! who devoured the kine of the exalted Sun. Wherefore he took away the day of their return. Of this, O goddess, daughter of Zeus, beginning where thou wilt, speak to us also.

    Read it in Greek Sophomore year in HS, for all the good it ever did me. Well, Euripides is funnier in the original.

    I would, being pedantic, point out that jibe and jive are basically countervalent, since jive has to do with making shit up.

  64. alex said on December 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    LAMary, Deborah–

    I once worked in an office where there were impending layoffs but people were surprisingly good-natured about it. For halloween, they showed up in their company tees and polos with knife handles affixed dorsally and lotsa fake blood. (I’d have joined the revelry except that I was an independent contractor benefiting from the company’s staff-cutting efforts.)

  65. Danny said on December 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Wow, tough crowd. One little typo (“b” is next to “v”) and it becomes a topic (almost). Thinking back on Props many, many unassailed, late-night sojourns into creative spelling leaves me with wondering if there is an agenda with you guys. Say it ain’t so…

  66. alex said on December 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Wow, tough crowd. One little typo (“b” is next to “v”) and it becomes a topic (almost).

    There you go again hijackin’ the thread. And you weren’t even being an asshole.

  67. Danny said on December 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I know, Alex. It’s depressing. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  68. jcburns said on December 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I redesigned the outside of an old bookmobile a few years back so that it can live its new life as a roving ambassador for Georgia Archaeology. They’re interesting, and, as it turns out, not at all cheap to keep on the road.

    Oh, and Nancy, here’s one more sad tale of fabulist to cap off the year. (Sammy came across this.)

  69. Heather said on December 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I haven’t seen “Desk Set” but there was a pretty swingin’ office holiday scene in “The Apartment.” Oh look, here it is. See how many modern HR no no’s you can find!

  70. Jolene said on December 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I thought we had discussed the Cape Cod creative newspapering a while ago, but the earliest reference to it was in early December. Am I mixing it up with some other case, or is it just that early December already feels like a long time ago?

  71. Jolene said on December 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Check out this picture. This is just part of the toys and other items that have been sent to Newtown, CT in the wake of the shooting. What are people thinking? What is the point of sending toys to dead children? Presumably, this stuff will be sorted and, eventually, find a good home, but there are so many things that could have been done with this money if it were collected and allocated according to some reasonable set of principles. And not only are there more toys in the warehouse, there are thousands of teddy bears and other items that have been sitting out in the rain for two weeks. Such a waste of good intentions.

  72. brian stouder said on December 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Jolene – agreed; definitely a waste of good intentions.

  73. Connie said on December 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Newtown has asked that people stop sending toys.

  74. basset said on December 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    High-speed rail? Says a lot about our priorities that even France has high-speed rail… and we don’t, the Acela hardly qualifies even on the rare occasions when everything’s working properly and they can run at full speed for a few miles.

  75. Deborah said on December 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    About to start season 3 of Breaking Bad tonight, season 2 got pretty far fetched towards the end, way too many coincidences. Hope it gets better again.

  76. Deborah said on December 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Hey, where’s Dexter? Haven’t seen his comments for awhile. He must be visiting relatives for the holidays?

  77. beb said on December 28, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    The Northeast corridor is full of twists and tunnels. It’s not a line where trains can open up and achieve high speed. And straightening out that route would be a money pit on the scale of California’s LA to SF HSR project.

    And by not sponsoring HSR domestic companies are going out of business for lack of business, leaving the field to the Chinese. As Supertrain fan Atrois notes, just achieving an average speed of 100 MPH would be a big improvement over what we have now.

    And Danny, agreed a wiki link was not necessary to distinguish between jibe and jive. As for Pros getting away with things you aren’t. I don’t think he should but he has written so many high illegible posts over the years that people have learned to ignore them.

    I’m glad you had a good vacation. Number theory is way over my head but I’m glad you found some good discussions about it.

  78. Prospero said on December 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    AAAAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEE!!!!!! GOPers over the cliff. This should be the functional end of the GOP. None of this had anything to do with anything but racist aholes like Senator Yertle that could not stand a brown President. Let’s get this bucket movin’ Race.

    Danny, people have been making that error for years. Even intelligent people. And where the hell is Dexter?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aErNjERoLJM

    And the Camper song is funny as hell, but I care quite a lot about Dexter. And Beb, I ignore you too. and jive for jibe is not a typo, it’s a brainfart, and kinda ignorant.

  79. basset said on December 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    >>The Northeast corridor is full of twists and tunnels. It’s not a line where trains can open up and achieve high speed.

    And there is no place else, of course, where it would be worth doing. My main argument with Amtrak is that, like NPR, it seems to assume that anything of importance must involve either Washington DC or New York City and other places should get, at best, passing attention.

  80. redoubt said on December 29, 2012 at 12:25 am

    (My two cents–I work in Atlanta, weekends/holidays in Savannah.)

    In other places worth doing, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed wants to see high-speed rail between the two cities. (There’s not even regular rail service now, unless you’re freight.)

  81. Dexter said on December 29, 2012 at 1:29 am

    I guess I had better stop in to say hello. I did spend Christmas Eve and Christmas in a Columbus suburb at my daughter’s home, and had to leave a day early , just ahead of Storm Euclid. My old van started bucking coming up Mad River Mountain, and I attribute that to some bad gasoline, I figure, anyway, I made it home as the snow began falling.
    I used to ride bicycles year-round, hang the bad weather…but now with the ice on the roads I no longer tempt fate, and I await dry pavement without black ice.

    Today is a giant personal milestone that I really never thought I’d achieve, but here I am, twenty years, 7,305 days without an alcoholic beverage. I don’t feel “funny” sharing this status report with you folks, most of you who do take a little nip once in a while, because you folks are smart, and you know there are some people who just shouldn’t drink, and I am one of those. For me, this is a day of great joy and no remorse. If I let this milestone go to my head, all I have to do is think of my AA sponsor, just four years my senior but who has over forty years sober. Hopefully, I have a ways to go, too.
    http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/08/my_name_is_roger_and_im_an_alc.html

  82. Sherri said on December 29, 2012 at 2:37 am

    Congratulations, Dexter. You have my respect.

  83. Deborah said on December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Wow Dexter. I’m impressed, good for you.

  84. Minnie said on December 29, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Headed down toward Coozledad’s territory to attend my husband’s uncle’s 90th birthday party. Hoping the spiritual atmosphere of the church fellowship hall will prevent the raised voices and table pounding that have been known to occur at family gatherings. We’ll see how the Obama bumper sticker is received.

  85. coozledad said on December 29, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Minnie: I haven’t attended a family gathering for years. I should probably get to checking the obits to see what they’d even look like these days. The few squawking phone calls they place my way seem to suggest that while the old guard is dying away, the cadet corps of grifter shite will provide a more than energetic replacement.
    It seems like just yesterday when the coveralls and spittle set had to be turned under. Now they’re all in some variant of LaCoste and the women are leaner. The quality of the infighting from a purely athletic standpoint must have improved considerably, but I’d rather hear about the bloodletting from a disinterested observer.

    I don’t hear about shit my family gets up to like I did when I ran a postal route some hundred miles away from their theatrics, but it says something that news of them used to travel that far (or non-news, because it was widely accepted there were few skeeve trenches so deep and bathetic).

  86. Prospero said on December 29, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown music with old farts.

  87. brian stouder said on December 29, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Dex – congratulations and thanks for the Ebert link.

    As with everything else from him, it is a worthwhile read

  88. Prospero said on December 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Rockin’ the cello for Christmas. Did y’all know that in the last movement of A Quick One While He’s Away (the practice opera before Tommy), the backup vocals are actually singing “cello, cello,cello” because Pete wanted actual cellos and the record company guys wouldn’t pay for them?

    KT Tunstall’s excellent version of Chrissie Hyndes’s brilliant Christmas and snow song.

  89. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Prospero, here’s a bucket of fun for you, on Teilhard and his increasing relevancy to current questions and concerns — or at least Andrew Revkin thinks so! Check out the full “On Being” transcript link at the end, and anyone wanting to know who this Teilhard de Chardin fellow is that Pros keep mentioning could get 3 credit hours worth of orientation on this page and the links therein.

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/exploring-the-roots-of-an-emerging-planet-spanning-mind/

    Fun piece of trivia: Teilhard (everyone calls him that, it’s not overly informal a’tall) is buried on the grounds of the CIA. No, not Langley, Virginia, but the Culinary Institute of America, which bought the monastery where he lived out his last years in this country. And Teilhard continues to be one of the leading suspects, as a youthful provocateur, of a famous hoax turned 100 years old a few weeks ago, Piltdown Man. That’s two pieces of trivia, actually.

  90. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Hat tip and deep bow to you, Dexter.

  91. Prospero said on December 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Danke, Jeff. Theilard is his surname, Jeff. de Chardin is whence he came. And calling him de Chardin is a faux pas. The Piltdown connection is almost all in the imagination of Stephen Jay Gould, whose self-promotional urges would have embarrassed Carl Sagan. Charles Dawson was likely the sole perpetrator of the hoax.

    For Dorothy: Avid Bookshop Christmas Party pictures:

    http://spotted.onlineathens.com/photos/index.php?id=4560313

  92. Dexter said on December 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks, Jeff-mmo , Deborah, Prospero, brian stouder, sherri.

    My wife the lovely Carla Lee usually bakes me a lemon cake with white frosting for my AA anniversaries but this year we have so much candy and so many cookies left over from Christmas I don’t even want a cake.

    We got snow dumped on us last night, too. Lots of it. I cancelled my trip to Toledo for today when I tested the roads and found them slippery and nasty with ice and packed snow. After I saw the second car in the ditch I pulled into a driveway and returned home to my warm house. My new modern efficient furnace was the best investment I have made in years

  93. Prospero said on December 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    As the old Grail Knight Templar said to Indy, “You have chosen wisely” Dexter. Even here in the Tropics, it ain’t fit fer man nor beast outdoors today.

  94. nancy said on December 29, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Brian, I just saw this in Leo’s Saturday column, re: “Lincoln”:

    The movie got a lot of things wrong. The dispute between conservative and radical Republicans, for example, didn’t really exist – they were unanimous in support of the 13th Amendment. And Abraham Lincoln was not quite the heroic emancipator that our national myth depicts and this film reinforces. Slavery was crumbling from pressures from many quarters, and Lincoln’s role was just one part of a much bigger story.

    Slavery was crumbling, eh? I guess Leo’s getting his history entirely from Lew Rockwell-approved sources these days.

  95. Kirk said on December 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Congratulations, Dexter; a milestone well worth noting.

  96. brian stouder said on December 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I always liked Leo, back in the day.

    And Abraham Lincoln was not quite the heroic emancipator that our national myth depicts and this film reinforces. Slavery was crumbling from pressures from many quarters, and Lincoln’s role was just one part of a much bigger story.

    The book he should read is Lerone Bennett’s iconoclastic (and refreshingly contrarian) Forced into Glory.

    At the end of the discssion, I would agree with the carefully worded phrase “Abraham Lincoln was not quite the heroic emancipator” – although I would not concede an inch to Leo or any other “conservative” who wants to contest which modern political group is more enthralled with elements of “our national myth”.

    The damned Romney campaign essentially caromed from one “national myth” to the next. The faux “You didn’t build that” controversy, revolving around the ‘rugged individualism’ national myth leaps to mind.

    In fact, the idea of a corporate raider, who literally reaped personal profits from the destruction and disintegration of corporations that others had built (and within which many working class Americans lost their entire investment of years worth of labor and sweat – if not actual stock ownership) – the idea of that very same corporate raider – unless he’s honestly (and hopelessly) delusional – pulling out his Etch-a-Sketch and touting the idea that the president should be fired for saying “you didn’t build that” is a guy who was clearly counting on national mythology to sweep him into office.

    Or, what about the “American exceptionalism” myth, that we constantly heard?

    And indeed, the myth of the 47% leaps to mind; the 47% who do nothing, care about nothing, and produce nothing, and who sip icy cold Diet Pepsi and watch big screen TV all day from their Lazy-Boy, when they’re not fornicating (and utilizing contraception that they didn’t pay for…or else popping out more babies for more bennies – take your pick)

    Just now, I’m in no mood to bear any lectures about national myths from a sour-grapes/delusional right winger.

    But I’ll credit Leo this much: it looks at least intellectually consistent that a 2012 Republican (or Republican friendly) pundit feels compelled to diss the first Republican president of the United States.

    If there’s no room in the conservative Republican party for President Lincoln, then indeed the Republican party has imploded

  97. Connie said on December 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    We had a lovely last Christmas celebration today with my family on the other side of the state. Only 13 people, 4 generations. Love those little great grands.

    As we departed this morning we saw several cars off the freeway but once we got about 50 miles away the road was clean and dry. Unfortunately coming back we were all funnelled off the freeway at Webberville, which was a pain. We did agree that driving through a couple of small towns all lit up for Christmas was sort of pleasant.

    As for politics? My uncle got going on what a good thing for the state right to work was. My husband commented later that considering his lifetime career in workman’s compensation insurance he certainly didn’t know his union history, as the unions (?Walter Reuther in particular?) were responsible for the existence of workman’s comp. As a group we found one thing we could all agree on: no matter what one thinks of the governor we all made fun of his voice.

  98. brian stouder said on December 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Well Connie, as a hoosier I cannot laugh at anyone else’s governor.

    Our outgoing fella was the budget director for the catastrophically mis-directed Bush-43 budget, in addition to being as essentially strange little man…and our incoming fella’s only readily apparent credential for heading the state of Indiana’s government is his resemblance to Bobby Knight. (as far as that goes, I bet Bobby Knight himself would have a better chance of making sound decisions, then our little tea party partisan has exhibited)

  99. Dexter said on December 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks, Kirk. Now that I have stopped reeling from Ryan Freel’s suicide at age 36, I now am looking forward to Red’s baseball, 2013, and great years from my favorite Redleg players, Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman.

  100. Dorothy said on December 30, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Thanks for that link, Pros. I will go look at the pictures shortly.

    For anyone who likes to watch a wedding, here’s a link to my son’s wedding ceremony. It is about 14 minutes long. Keep some Kleenex handy if you lean towards the sappy side like I do. Meg didn’t cry; Josh did.

    http://flash.cashmanpro.com/hls-vod/132587.f4v.m3u8

  101. Deborah said on December 30, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Dorothy, congratulations to the bride and groom. Sweet video.

  102. Prospero said on December 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Personally, I like cursive handwriting, and wish my own was more aesthetically appealing. (Actually, my Russian cursive is better, even though the language slips away from me all the time.) It is legible, and a few of the capitals are reasonably cool looking, but my old nun devotees of the methods of Palmer would abhor my scratch. Losing the art of cursive would, in my opinion, represent regression for mankind. Of course, having been a newspapers major in JSchool, I also love typefaces. Every rational and serious person excoriates shit like comic sans, and the common choice to represent probity and taste seems to be Garamond. I prefer the super clean Tahoma and a few other sans faces.

    Michael Musto reviews 2012:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-12-26/columns/2012-the-year-in-review-michael-musto/

    That guy cracks me up.

  103. MichaelG said on December 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    That’s wonderful, Dexter. I’m proud and happy for you.

  104. Danny said on December 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Dexter, congratulations. Dorothy, congrats to your family.

    No good transition here other than to say that this caught my attention this morning:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2254780/Spectacular-photo-captures-moment-great-white-gobbled-EVEN-BIGGER-shark-hauled-fishermans-boat.html

    Wow.

  105. Prospero said on December 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Blog of an old-timer that became a widower one month before Christmas, after 67 years of marriage. I love the descriptions of Vevey, which I’ve visited, and Lake Geneva, one of my favorite places on earth. Got here through a tweet from Margaret Atwood, who uses her middle initial E. (for Eleanor), one of the greatest writers of fiction there is. Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace, Oryx&Crake, The Blind Assassin, great novels. And The Robber Bride, and The Handmaid’s Tale. First sentence of The Blind Assassin:

    Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.

    Damn, that’s nervy.

    Great shark picture Danny.

  106. Prospero said on December 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    America’s merriest cities. A list with Detroit ranked high. In a good way.

  107. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    From Walt Whitman in 1871, but it could serve well today with a little editing and contemporizing:

    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/whitman/vistas/vistas.html

    For my part, I would alarm and caution even the political and business reader, and to the utmost extent, against the prevailing delusion that the establishment of free political institutions, and plentiful intellectual smartness, with general good order, physical plenty, industry, &c., (desirable and precious advantages as they all are,) do, of themselves, determine and yield to our experiment of democracy the fruitage of success. With such advantages at present fully, or almost fully, possess’d — the Union just issued, victorious, from the struggle with the only foes it need ever fear, (namely, those within itself, the interior ones,) and with unprecedented materialistic advancement — society, in these States, is canker’d, crude, superstitious, and rotten. Political, or law-made society is, and private, or voluntary society, is also. In any vigor, the element of the moral conscience, the most important, the verteber to State or man, seems to me either entirely lacking, or seriously enfeebled or ungrown.

    I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believ’d in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings,) nor is humanity itself believ’d in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appaling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, &c., the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable. An acute and candid person, in the revenue department in Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to regularly visit the cities, north, south and west, to investigate frauds, has talk’d much with me about his discoveries. The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time. In business, (this all-devouring modern word, business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician’s serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magician’s serpent, remaining to-day sole master of the field.

    The best class we show, is but a mob of fashionably dress’d speculators and vulgarians. True, indeed, behind this fantastic farce, enacted on the visible stage of society, solid things and stupendous labors are to be discover’d, existing crudely and going on in the background, to advance and tell themselves in time. Yet the truths are none the less terrible. I say that our New World democracy, however great a success in uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic development, products, and in a certain highly-deceptive superficial popular intellectuality, is, so far, an almost complete failure in its social aspects, and in really grand religious, moral, literary, and esthetic results. In vain do we march with unprecedented strides to empire so colossal, outvying the antique, beyond Alexander’s, beyond the proudest sway of Rome. In vain have we annex’d Texas, California, Alaska, and reach north for Canada and south for Cuba. It is as if we were somehow being endow’d with a vast and more and more thoroughly-appointed body, and then left with little or no soul.

  108. Danny said on December 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Shorter version: “A pox on everyone’s houses.”

    More modern shorter version: “We all suck.”

  109. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Sterne: “They order these things better in France.”

  110. brian stouder said on December 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease.

    I think that statement is always true.

    Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States.

    I think that sentiment is said in every age, and that the word “never” makes it inaccurate, although I would concede that arguing that point is arguing a distinction without any difference.

    If you read about the early and mid-19th century Mitt Romney-eyed view of the worldwide slave trade, for example, you would immediately see a “hollowness at heart” that vastly exceeds Walt Whitman’s post-civil war view. (I invoke the Romney-view because any number of New York/London financiers bankrolled slave shipments, and made enormous [enormous!] returns on the deals, without ever dirtying their hands. The game was to structure arrangements so that – in the unlikely event of an interdiction or any arrests [from the British navy, chiefly], the financial backers and investors could all walk away with semi-plausible deniability)

    We don’t have to look any further than the massive loss of life at an Indian shirt factory to see that things really never change much

  111. brian stouder said on December 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    BREAKING NEWS

    http://www.wane.com/dpp/about_us/hillary-clinton-hospitalized-with-blood-clot

    the lead sentence:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been admitted to a New York hospital after the discovery of a blood clot stemming from the concussion she sustained earlier this month.

    Once again we see, Fox News and John Bolton (et al) have shit for brains and should really STFU

  112. Kirk said on December 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    How naive of you, Brian. This so-called health crisis obviously is a concoction of the internationalist-liberal-atheist-medical clique.

  113. basset said on December 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Meanwhile… that Order of the Occult Hand business that Nancy mentioned awhile back is a front-page topic on Reddit tonight, dunno why, with a link to the appropriate wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Occult_Hand

  114. Linda said on December 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Dexter, congratulations on your anniversary. My dad was a couple of months shy of his 40th in AA when he died. He really lived the last 40 years, and saw his grandkids grow up, and great-grands born. Very cool for you.

  115. Dexter said on December 31, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Thanks MichaelG, Danny, and Linda. Linda, you’re from Toledo, right? Unless your dad passed away a helluva long time ago, chances are good I may have seen him in a meeting. I used to hit random meetings all around the Toledo area when gas was cheap and I had a little Ford Escort Pony car, the model designed for maximum gas mileage. I could baby 40 mpg out of that manual transmission car, but I usually hammered it and always got over 35 mpg.

    I am worried about Hillary. Remember when Reagan fell off that horse out west? I thought he had injured his head but I guess I remembered incorrectly. With all the data being released about the true effects of concussion, we can rest assured the very best care is being given Hilary Clinton.
    http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/05/us/reagan-is-injured-in-fall-off-horse.html