Monday, November 22, 2010
Random and unconnected thoughts
* If John Boehner, incoming Republican Speaker of the House, thinks he's going to stick a finger in Nancy Pelosi's eye by flying commercial, he had goddam well better go through Airport Peep-and-Grope like the rest of us. Every single time he flies.
* Why do so many know-nothings deny the human impact on global warming despite the huge, huge preponderance of scientific opinion on the other side? Are they thinking only of short-term profits rather than taking the long view? Or are they just aggressively anti-intellectual?
* John Buchan's 1915 novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, one of the prototypes of the spy thriller, is still remarkably readable -- and free for the downloading on one's Kindle. There's a little too much Scots dialect wha hae muckle glee, and the hero Richard Hannay is a chip off the old Empire, but the action is crisply modern.
* The year's best book is Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, about the great African-American migration north and west away from Jim Crow in the South between World War I and the 1970s. Bigoted whites who think civil rights are over won't read it, but they should. I thought I was enlightened, but Wilkerson astonished me.
* What am I reading on the Kindle now? A surprise best-seller, the new edition of The Autobiography of Mark Twain from the University of California Press. Before getting to the meat, one has to plow through chapters and chapters about the multiple abortive attempts Twain made to write his memoirs. This is only intermittently interesting to a non-academic like me, but it is a scholarly work. (The tree-book, the first of three volumes, is $35 list; $19.22 on Amazon.com, and the e-book is $9.99.)
* I am going to miss Christopher Hitchens, the world's most likable intellectual bomb-thrower.
* Roger Ebert writes the best blog anywhere, and it's not about the movies. He has a generous and expansive mind, and always displays a graceful humility.
* I crave the new Pentax K-5 camera but not its $1500 street price, which for me is about $300 too high.
* I have at long last become interested in local politics because of the city of Evanston's misguided and maladroit attempt to kill its local branch libraries. The rise of the Evanston Library Friends to save them from a shortsighted city manager and council has been an object lesson in the power of grassroots anger in this liberal community.
* I think I'll get out my G scale garden train set -- a loop of track, a locomotive and two passenger cars -- and lay it out on the basement floor to play with between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let people laugh at me -- what do I care?
* Even I am a better dancer than Bristol Palin, and I've got a bad knee and a bad back. Let's face it: the fix is in.
* Joy is a big yellow dog who just wants a little loving.
* Consternation is learning that a red squirrel has broken into your summer cabin on Lake Superior, 420 miles away.
* Despair is realizing that May 1 (when we can go back up to the summer cabin) is still five long months away.