Weekend Edition: 2-14

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? (“‘We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school… People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science.'”)
  • The House That Jon Stewart Built (“The idea that what Jon Stewart and his team did was journalism always rankled some journalists, but that’s exactly what it was. At its most fundamental level, the purpose of journalism in a democracy is to build a more informed citizenry. For many Americans, especially younger ones, Stewart fulfilled that task.”)

Blog Headline of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Weekend Edition: 2-7

Bulletin Board

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • The Trip Treatment (“…cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months.”)
  • What Really Happened to Baby Johan? (“In the context of a brain-injured infant, the word ‘shake’ has totemic meaning. To many parents and caregivers, it evokes a modern-day version of the Salem witch trials, a trumped-up charge, a specious crime.”)

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


Intelligence makes sincerity difficult.

Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms, Ninth Selection

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Best of January 2015

In the hopes of some more consistent posting, I’m going to try (“try” being the operative word) to do a monthly post on the books, movies, etc., that grabbed me the month before.

Books

johnnySurprisingly, the best book I’ve read this year will be 75 years old in September. But there’s a somber timelessness to Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun.

Set in World War I, it is the internal monologue of Joe Bonham, whose wounds leave him limbless, deaf, dumb, blind and without a mouth. His discovery of and efforts to deal with his injuries is itself worthy of praise. But Johnny Got His Gun is viewed as a quintessential pacifist work that explores relevant before and after the book was published, including our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the most striking parts is an extended passage in which Bonham compares the abstract reasons offered to justify the death of soldiers with reality.

If the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is awfully important so if you’ve given it away you’d ought to think with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing you traded it for. So did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and stripes forever?

You’re goddam right they didn’t.

Trumbo’s style and structure — the novel won the 1939 National Book Award for Most Original Book — make it even more powerful. The book’s history reflects its strength. By chance, it was published two days after Germany invaded Poland, setting off World War II. Trumbo and his publisher agreed there should be no more press runs until that war was over so it was not printed again until 1946. Deservedly, the book has sold millions of copies since.

Video

About as far divorced from Trumbo’s work as anything, the new season of the BBC/Netflix series The Fall tops January’s movie/DVD/streaming consumption.

the fallThe series is built around a British detective, played by Gillian Anderson, heading up a unit trying to catch a serial killer in Belfast. Admittedly, the fact I’ve had a crush on Gillian Anderson since The X-Files plays a small role in my interest. But I’m usually not a fan of detective/mystery type shows, let alone one with a sexually warped and the killer and I watched the first season late last year only because it was recommended by a friend. Yet the series is binge-worthy. (I watched the 6½ hours of season 2 in two sittings). There is an undercurrent in which Anderson’s character and the killer seem to have somewhat kindred spirits in terms of their strength and ability to focus on a goal. This is as much a character study than a crime drama.


What’s so noble about being dead?

Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun

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Weekend Edition: 1-31

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (“If you find yourself consistently giving too many fucks about trivial shit that bothers you … chances are you don’t have much going on in your life to give a legitimate fuck about. And that’s your real problem.”) (This piece also has the benefit of perfect artwork, which was immediately added to the Curmudgeon’s Gallery)
  • Running amok (“…it appears that the most important risk factors aren’t those that set mass murderers apart from the rest of us; instead, they are simply appropriated from culturally sanctioned patterns of aggression.”)

Blog Headline of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


The supposed right of intolerance is absurd and barbaric. It is the right of the tiger; nay, it is far worse, for tigers do but tear in order to have food, while we rend each other for paragraphs.

Voltaire, A Treatise on Toleration

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Weekend Edition: 1-24

Bulletin Board

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

Blog Headline of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


We are always the same age inside.

Gertrude Stein

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Popularity causes welcome problem for Historical Society Press

wilderAround 1930, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote an autobiography about her and her family’s pioneer experience. No one would publish it. Wilder ended up using it as a source for her wildly successful Little House series. Turn the clock ahead 80 some years and things have changed dramatically. The autobiography was finally published late last year by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press in an annotated edition — and SDSHSP can’t keep up with the demand.

Both Slate and Mental Floss reported this week that widespread pre-publication publicity for Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, essentially an academic book, generated mass interest in it. The initial print run of 15,000 copies, which SDSHSP received at the beginning of November, was exhausted before Thanksgiving. Reportedly, there are 15,000 other orders being filled with a second print run and there’s some 30,000 orders at Amazon. The SDSHSP says individual orders placed after January 9 won’t be shipped until March, once it’s received a third printing.

SDSHSP actually felt the first print run was “a huge risk,” its director, Nancy Tystad Koupal, told Slate. After all, its best seller so far was a children’s book that sold about 15,000 copies. Perhaps because of the demand, it appears the suggested retail price of the book has gone from $39.95 to $44.95. But if you want a copy of the book now rather than waiting until March, it will be more than a tad expensive. As of this posting, prices for new copies on Amazon ranged from $342 to $350 while used copies were $120 to $399. EBay today had a listing for one copy of the book, with “Buy Now” price of $149.99.

Now Pioneer Girl certainly won’t come close to the success of the Little House series, which sold more than 60 million copies by 2006. But SDSHSP must be thrilled about how many people want a book that was initially unsaleable.


As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

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