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From the Archives: Weighty Summer Reading

[By J.A., originally ran the afternoon of Aug. 30 on]

Weighty Summer Reading

The Rough Draft Book Club this month has picked Bernard Bailyn's "Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution" (Knopf, 1986) as the book that we will lug around and occasionally skim.

It is the philosophy of the Rough Draft Book Club that books are meant to be owned, not read. The ideal book is large enough to be socially impressive. This is such a book. Airborne, and with sufficient velocity, "Voyagers to the West" could kill a man. It runs 668 oversized pages and could, if held front of your chest during a shootout, save your life. The book does triple duty as reading material, weapon and personal armature.

I found the book in my attic and, intrigued by its boast of having won the Pulitzer Prize, took it to the beach. Most people take thrillers or romances or comic novels to the beach, but I prefer something punishing, something to take the edge off the relaxation. Recreation rattles me; a long and low-key vacation puts me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Thus the need to bring along a book so dense it could be used as shielding around a nuclear reactor.

(One more protracted aside before I get to the actual contents of the Bailyn book: The inability to read efficiently is an excellent tip-off that your life is too stressful. You know you need to throttle down a bit when you can't read an entire page without your mind wandering. You're in even worse straits when you don't even NOTICE that your mind has wandered, and about 20 minutes pass, and you suddenly snap to, realizing that while you've been allegedly "reading" your brain has been in a fantasy world. Worst of all is when you no longer can manage to read left-to-right. This is when I know I need to take a day off. I get to the point where I read straight down the page, just the center words, and even begin to skate right-to-left, and diagonally, just randomly moving my eyes over the page the way you move your hands on a Ouija board....)

Now for the contents. (This is the part of a book review that Rough Draft finds tedious.) Bailyn shows that, during

a brief period prior to the American Revolution -- the 1760s and early 1770s -- the stream of immigration to America intensified dramatically, as thousands of people in England and Scotland suddenly left their farms and voyaged to the colonies. This was, in a sense, the revolution before the Revolution.

People had a Gold Rush mentality about America. They risked everything to grab a piece of the action. When they arrived in the colonies they kept moving, pushing back the frontier into remote mountain valleys and southern swamplands. They rolled south from Pennsylvania on a primitive superhighway called the Great Wagon Road. Bailyn captures the incredible energy of these pioneers -- "the risks they were willing to take, their enterprise and gambling instinct."

Land speculators proliferated. The slave trade expanded. Native Americans found their territories overrun with frontiersmen. Ben Franklin got into the action, proposing two start-up colonies along the Ohio River.

It was a go-go atmosphere, a crazy dash for riches. Some of this has a familiar ring -- it's the dot-com madness, played out 240 years ago.

There's even an Old Economy parallel. The political and cultural leaders of England were aghast. They were getting drained with each passing day of their human capital. In 1774 a London newspaper published a futuristic tale, set 200 years in the future, in which visitors from America tour the ruins of London, where St. Paul's dome has collapsed and Westminster Abbey has been turned into a stable.

The parallel doesn't extend to daily life. If you were a migrant your life was extremely harsh; if a slave, or a Native American, it was likely to be even worse. Bailyn writes:

"While Americans of the Revolutionary generation struggled for freedom and equality in public life, they remained remarkably insensitive to the human consequences of deprivation. . . . Unlike the inhabitants of the British Isles, they were not located at the center of their culture looking outward toward exotic margins. Their experience was the opposite. They lived on the far periphery looking inward toward a distant and superior metropolitan core from which standards and their sanctioned forms of organized life emanated. They lived in the outback, on the far marchlands, where constraints were loosened and where one had to struggle to maintain the forms of civilized existence."

The book is humbling. Our lives are so much softer, our voyages so much easier. We think we're living in a special moment, but we're following an old script. The big stories today involve globalization, technological innovation, the movement of capital, the mad scramble for wealth and real estate, issues of justice and equity -- as was the case in 1770.

The book may leave a different impression on other readers who, for example, choose to read the entire thing. It may actually turn into a thriller or a romance in the final third. We do presume that, as our monthly selection, it will rocket to the top of the bestseller list and inspire a TV movie.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 21, 2006; 2:40 PM ET
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I visited London for the first time after reading Bailyn's big brick. While there, it occurred to me that any possible ancestors who had left from London were convicts or indentured servants (I have ancestry from Franklin County in very rural Virginia). The place suddenly felt chilly.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 21, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The last thing I read that might qualify as a "tome" was Dawn to Decadence. I'm not sure about it's stopping power as a weapon, though (I got the soft-cover). An excellent read, but I would say the hard cover is more suited to home defense.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 21, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I think I have the whole Gulag Arcgapelago floating around somewhere in hardback.

A couple of straps over the shoulders, and I'd have a fine bulletproof vest.


Posted by: bc | July 21, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Archipelago.

Dang me.


Posted by: bc | July 21, 2006 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I have quite a few tomes, some of which I have carried around and occasionally even read. One of my favorites combines the Rough Draft requirements with the novel form -- "Anthony Adverse" by Hervey Allen. Very popular in the 'thirties, before Margaret Mitchell cornered the historical novel/tome market, it is a romantic adventure story that is also useful as armor, a weapon, or (propped open on both ends) a tent for a very small child.

And what about Will & Ariel Durant -- highbrow, hifalutin, substantive, and REALLY BIG. Also, the volumes resemble one another enough so you could carry one around all summer and people will think you're reading the whole series.

"just randomly moving my eyes over the page the way you move your hands on a Ouija board" -- that is how I sometimes read portions of cases that have truly no significance to what I'm working on.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 21, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Amen bc. I find my carpal tunnel's syndrome me when a book is to heavy. The best place to read heavy books is laying on the lawn beside the house. A steep slope means the book is propped just right.

Posted by: dr | July 21, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom, Durant's "Our Oriental Heritage" from that series was one of my $2 purchases at the library sale I referred to the other day. How could I pass it by?

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 21, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Slyness and TBG: Thanks for responding. I'm not sure that we can make it, what with all of the social calendar commotion. When you zero in on a time, holler. BTW, comforting post regarding your Mom, TBG. Thanks.

Posted by: jack | July 21, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Thank you everyone for the comments, TBG lovely thoughts. Yes there has been much humour throughout and indeed some comfort in assisting with the funeral details. Humour has always gotten me through difficult times, comes from being in a family that doesn't express emotion well so we just make a joke.

This kit and boodle helps a lot, so many laughs during a day as well as the realization that many people have difficulties and the best you can do is face them head on and if possible smile.

Scotty nuke that joke on the last boodle was great.

Back to books, my great lugs were Russika, and Sarum - Russika more of a struggle because I kept getting confused by the Russian family names, started Princes of Ireland (all the same author) but haven't been able to finish yet. My other lug was The Potato Factory, which I chose because I loved the Power of One and Tandia by Bryce Courtney unfortunately the Potato Factory I didn't enjoy as much but plodded through.

I give you the author of Sarum but well I can't remember not even sure title is Russika - I remember books but not authors/titles, same for music makes it difficult to discuss them.

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry -- gotta continue the last boodle. Does anyone other than me get the same disconnect when a new kit is posted, and suddenly the boodle starts a completely new conversation -- the old one comes to a grinding halt. It reminds me of the odl Monty Python skit about getting five minutes of time for an argument.

The guy gets real worked up, venting, feeling very good and satisfied in arguing with (was it John Cleese?) -- and suddenly, his five minutes are up. Bam, cut off just like that. No ifs, ands, or buts. Frustration mounts. Makes one want to go whack a dead parrot!

SciTim, that was a wonderful kit. Thanks so much. I've found it's hard to keep long hair as one gets older, even as a woman. I imagine you're gonna have a tough time in that intermediate, can't-do-a-thing-with-my-hair phase. :-)

Martooni -- wow.

We could start a boodle band. In a blatant attempt to front the band, I will ad my experience singing acoustic blues.

Long ago, before marriage and the East Coast, I sang with a covers band in Colorado. We did everything from Dan Hicks to Bonnie Raitt.

A few years ago, I performed with my then boyfriend, who is a scholar-performer of Mississippi Delta Country Blues from the 20s and 30s. He's also the author of the books "Blues Traveling" -- a guide book to all the hot spots of blues history in the Delta. He's now in Portland, Or, having left the Delta for a while.

Never mastered the guitar -- or the flute that I played in junior high band -- did well with piano but quit playing.

Martooni, I really loved your music.

Pointy Bird, welcome! I wondered who you were when I saw today's kit (I just logged on at 3pm). What a splendid idea -- google memory. I'd worry about someone else getting access to my memories though. Some of them are pretty embarassing!!

dmd -- you're in my thoughts. We went through a tough time as a family in '04 when my sister-in-law died of cancer (she just made 43). There was a lot of laughter at her memorial service. Her family and close friends were invited to share their memories of Lisa. People stood up and talked. Some went up to the microphone -- others roamed the aisles of the service. It was a very touching experience.

Posted by: nelson | July 21, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Sarum and Russka (no "i") were both by Edward Ruhterfurd.

For a good summer "tome"-weight read, I recommend James Clavell's old goody, "Noble House."

Then there's everything Michener ever wrote, and most of Leon Uris.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 21, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Mudge, Noble House was great. Michener and Uris were pretty much one whole shelf in my house growing up.

dr, great idea for Hardcover books, I alway struggle with how to read them comfortably.

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

dmd, before I leave campus today I'm going by the library to get Tandia. I loved the Power of One but hadn't ever found anything else by Courtenay. Don't know how I missed it. It's looking like a good weekend.

Posted by: bia | July 21, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, I may have to spring for this book, as my maternal grandparents' families were among those who came from Northern Ireland into Pennsylvania and travelled the Great Wagon Road into NC, although a little earlier than 1760.

I am into reading in bed, where I balance a book on my tummy till I am so sleepy I drop it and wake up enough to put it down, turn the light off, and fall asleep.

Posted by: Slyness | July 21, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

dmd... If you really want to laugh, make sure to ask the funeral director to show you the cheapest casket they sell.

They'll tell you they range from $300 to $50,000. Ask to see the $300 one. Not just a picture, but the real thing. You'll crack up.

Then you'll find out that the next price up from there jumps to $2300 or something like that.

OK... that's enough. I just hope no one reads this out of context and decides I'm a horrible person for making light of this.

Posted by: TBG | July 21, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

bia, you will love it, small word of caution the first chapter is very emotional. He has many other books all set in Australia where he now lives. In my opinion not as good and some quite depressing but you may like them, I tend to have quite narrow tastes.

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

bia, you will love it, small word of caution the first chapter is very emotional. He has many other books all set in Australia where he now lives. In my opinion not as good and some quite depressing but you may like them, I tend to have quite narrow tastes.

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

TBG no worries about making jokes with me, give me time and I might discuss the jokes my dad and I made waiting for mom's colonoscopy. Mom's favorite expression to my dad and her kids - you guys are terrible normally after a sick joke or two.

We have done the casket thing my sister and I, saw the cheap one - oh my - it was a little humorous there were some interesting interiors, mom had given us some preferences, we didnt ask she just knew what we were doing so we asked what she would like. Now however she is kept really sedated from the pain medication so I am glad we prepared when we could still obtain her input.

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Has Joel run out of guest kits, or is he just making sure he's not forgotten totally?

As regards Nelson's comments on long hair-- some hair just has it to be long, others don't.

I was visualizing SciTim performing in a wig for some reason. Wouldn't that be much easier, and he can go with so many more interesting colors.

I'd like to see the blues performed with a rainbow wig and suspenders, just for that good ol' "gotta throw the tomato at him" feeling.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 21, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

dmd, TBG is right. Caskets are amazing. When we went to make the arrangements for my mother's funeral, the solid mahogany casket was in a room by itself. So was the price: $17,500.

Nope, we sprung for the $1500 one.

I've instructed my children that I am to be cremated and my ashes dropped (spread? dumped?) in the scattering garden at my church.

Posted by: Slyness | July 21, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else having problems viewing the comments?

Nelson thanks for your words you are in my thoughts as well, don't give up.

Slyness you are wise to have your plans ready before they are need it helps, we had to handle some important issues including legal ones very quickly and not under the best circumstances, as difficult as it is it is much better to have everything in writing well ahead of time.

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

dmd, we were fortunate that my mother had her estate in order, so when she decided to die (I swear, it was pretty much a matter of volition, although her health had been declining for some months), we were okay. The biggest hassle was that I changed her address to my home, and the junk mail has been outrageous. It has come by the boxload; today, 2 year and 2 months after her death, I got two pieces. I keep a grocery bag into which I consign it, then put it in the trash when the bag is full.

Posted by: Slyness | July 21, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

We still get junk mail for the last owner (and actually for the owner prior to that) and we've been in our house 5 years now. It's not like we're just dumping it either (that would be my inclination). Yeesh. What part of "Owner moved 4+ years ago. Stop sending to this address" are they not understanding?

So Slyness, what's on your summer reading list?

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 21, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

dmd, when all else fails we must laugh. I look at laughter as the gift we are given in times of most need. I'll be thinking of you.

Posted by: dr | July 21, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Well dr I will be thinking of you and SoC my kids head out to your general direction soon. I am hoping for no incidents! :)

Posted by: dmd | July 21, 2006 5:31 PM | Report abuse

my system's been showing comments OK all day, dmd (unlike the past few days).

I have no evidence whatsoever, but I suspect the latest kit posting was a timing error; had he thought about it, I think he would have left up PointyBird and PointyheadTim's kit for at least a full day. The only other possibilityI can think of is he has so MANY kits that he's going to have to start doing two-a-day. Which, given the, uh, loquacity of this crowd, is quite possible.

But I do know that there is some sort of automatic timing mechanism whereby kits can get launched somewhat "automatically" (meaning Joel doesn't have to keep his hand on the wheel 24/7/365).

In 1963, Jessica Mitford wrote a brilliant, devastating expose of the funeral industry, called "The American Way of Death." When she died in 1996, she was in the midst of updating/revising it, and it was re-released shortly thereafter, and is still in print. What's worse is, good as her book was, very little has changed, and the funeral industry is as rapacious as ever. It used to be that cremation was the "inexpensive" "alternative" to expensive funerals, but even those have gotten out of hand.

I've left detailed instructions--I'm an organ donor, assuming any certified, respectable hospital or med school except the University of Grenada School of Medicine and Caribbean Jerk Chicken Plant would want anything I'm likely to have available; somewhere on the hospital consent form, I'm sure some pesky lawyer like SofC or ivansmom will insist on inserting the phrase, "Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha" under "Disclaimer." Be that as it may, after I'm sliced and diced, whatever's left is scheduled for a Curmudgeon Corpse Suzette, and don't spare the flaming Grand Marnier. If a casket is required by law, then I'm all prepared: I have a casket-sized wood crate that I use for a tool box that will do just dandy. The notion of paying thousands of dollars for a coffin that's got a shelf life of a bag of potato chips is offensive to me. Better my family should spend the money on a commemorative crab boil/beer bash in my honor.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 21, 2006 5:41 PM | Report abuse

The room was full Monday night, when I slipped in just a couple of minutes late and took the nearest empty seat, which was on the far right, front row. The author had already begun reading the first two pages of his book in a strong, clear voice, his manly cadences flowing above the strumming of a classical Spanish guitar melody, played by a young reed of a man seated next to him.

The author is dressed in tight gray slacks and a form-fitting gray shirt. His dark black hair tumbles loosely in soft waves behind his ears and rests on the back of his collar. When he raises his arms to speak with animation from the tabletop whre he is perched, the three silver bracelets on his right wrist, one a cuff, softly clank together.

When he takes questions, mine is the second, and I thank him for putting several paragraphs about one of my family members into his memoir--Frederick Law Olmsted and his 1854 "Saddle Trip through Texas." He thanks me for Central Park, since he lived in New York for more than a decade. He has taught at Princeton and knows Joel's college, though not Joel himself.

I am reading his book to better understand Nani and her old San Antonio--I am doing my homework. I am reading his book, a 1999 finalist for a National Book Award, because it has been selected as the first book of the "One Book--One San Antonio" project to increase literacy throughout our river-mission-Alamo town during this dry, scorching summer.

I am reading his book because we are on parallel journeys, looking at our respective family pasts--families of different cultures and continents. He is a Santos, a "saint" and I could too be Linda "de los Santos," thanks to forbears and cousins Louis IX and Ferdinand III. I am devouring his book because I believe I may be the female embodiment of his Tio Lico, the uncle, the collector of distant memory and antiquity, who had files and files of family history in a room devoted exclusively to remembering.

I am not confused when he uses terms in the book such as "abuelo" or "viejitas" or "tio." I understand most of the simple Spanish he uses in the book--although he translates almost all of it for the reader. I toss in Spanish when I question him.

He signs my book after he finished his hour presentation, but he hasn't even yet had time to be seated and he has grabbed a black pen from his simple black backpack. There is a crush of women behind me. I leave--we still trying to talk to each other over the din emanating from his snaking line of admirers. At home, I canot figure out the meaning of the three squiggles he has placed on the Mayan glyph imprinted on his coverpage above his fresh, graceful yet wildly expressive signature.

I want this man, not in the way that a woman desires a man, but in a way that a well-read, curious and inquiring mind is drawn to another. He is the first Mexican Rhodes scholar. I am on his family's ancient soil--land connected by generations of ancestors, land without borders, land of the antepasados--although my family's history in the official *state* of Texas goes further back in time.

He has risen to meet opportunity--he has lived on my family's ancient soil--having studied at Oxford and then finishing post-graduate work at Yale on a Danforth fellowship. There are Danforths on my family tree. He has more opportunities to see what my eyes have never or barely laid eyes on--England and Connecticut. I crave the memory of these images in his brain.

I must know about his research trip to Seville for his second book, tales to be told about his mother's side of the family--she, Lucille Cecille Lopez, because Seville, Spanins Moorish Seville, is my family history, too.

He is John Philip Santos. His book is "Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation." I cannot wait to talk to him, perhaps over a cup of coffee--and tear into his mind.

Posted by: Loomis | July 21, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Just noticing the juxtaposition of Loomis tearing into this author's mind along with Curmudgeon's organ donation.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 21, 2006 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Yes, a very surreal change of tone, and hard to go to the lyricism from visualizing Mudge in a grandpop chop shop.

Mudge, Rodney Dangerfield said it best about organ donation.

He said he was donating his body to science fiction. Me, too.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 21, 2006 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Utterly offtopic, but I'm watching someting I've never personally witnessed before (mit mein own eyes, anyway): the spinning of a spiderweb from start to finish.

While I was on the back deck about ten minutes ago, I noticed a floating spider before me. It turns out that she was suspended from an invisibly thin strand attached near the top of the (currently furled) sun umbrella on the patio table. She drifted over to the top of a chair back about 5 feet below and about three feet out laterally. In a particularly inspired move (I thought), she went back about halfway back up the now-anchored strand, dropped again, and waited until a stray breeze took her back toward the bottom of the umbrella, almost horizontal with the chair anchor. NOW she's got three solid, widely-spaced anchor points, and is going to town!

Please understand, I'm not a big fan of spiders anywhere particularly close to my person! I've been known to shriek & dance in a panicky manner when one of any significance size lands on me when I'm not expecting it, and to react pretty strongly even when I know it's coming. (Except tarantulas, for some reason. I've let pet tarantulas walk on me. It was mildly unnerving, but not panic-inducing. I think that maybe they're SO large & furry that they strike me as tiny dogs!)

Anyway, I wish I had a videocamera handy, it's fascinating to see a master craftswoman at work!

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, you made me laugh.

SonofCarl, I finished Captured by Aliens (J. Achenbach) over the 4th of July trip to Arizona. It was a great book to read on an airplane. Also recently read The Good, the Bad, and the Difference, both recommended by boodlers. Am looking covetously at Lynn Truss's new book, since I thoroughly enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Have done all the Jane Austen I can handle for a while. At bedtime this week, I've been dipping in C.S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy and a biography of Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess that I've had for 30 years.

How about yourself?

Bob S., I don't mind spiders doing their thing, but I hate to walk into webs unawares. It's the time of year for that to happen daily.

Posted by: Slyness | July 21, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Current tomes: "A New Kind Of Science" by Stephen Wolfram. I was right with him - up to page 7. Favorite coffee table book: Applied Cryptology (Protocols, Algorithms and Source Code in C)" by Bruce Schneier. Makes a great coffee table.

Bob S., I had to go down the the basement the other day due to the power outages and saw a spider with a body much larger than a golf ball, and very strange markings.

I didn't mess with him.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 21, 2006 7:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm reading "Quantum Questions", a compilation of writings on science, philosphy, and spirituality by Heisenberg, Schroedinger, de Broglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington, edited by philosopher Ken Wilber.

Only 225 pages, but it's *very* heavy, if you know what I mean.


Posted by: bc | July 21, 2006 8:16 PM | Report abuse

The edifice appears complete. For such a tiny architect (the artisan is bright crimson [top & bottom, I checked!], body no more than sixth or fifth of an inch, legspan extends that to less than a quarter [let's call it 5-6 millimeters, for the continentally or scientifically inclined!], the outcome both audacious and promising.

The plane of the web lies basically parallel to, and about 6-7 feet away from, the sliding glass door which will soon be the brightest source of light in the immediate vicinity. The center is about 4-5 feet above the deck, and (given the umbrella which blocks most direct paths to the center of the glass doors) centrally located on likely flight paths.

She is currently hanging around dead center. In the current light breeze, the web sways back and forth a few inches from time to time. With VERY close & careful scrutiny, I determined that there are now five supporting lines, with the woven portion covering about 2.5 square feet. I've got a suspicion that she'll get a meal sometime tonight!

While watching her apply the finishing touches, I saw two hummingbirds wander nearby. One was a (ruby-throated?) familiar looking type with a reddish bit up front, the other had a semi-brilliant green front grille. I'd never run across that before. Kinda' cool, this watching the backyard critters stuff!

Error, I've would have had to ponder (for quite a while, I suspect!) how I wanted to proceed with that monster. On the one hand, I appreciate the work that spiders do to keep other annoying creeps away from me. On the other hand, unless we have a clear understanding that the larger spiders will stay FIRMLY in the inaccessible corners, I do get a tad nervous about where they'll show up next. I'll usually let one unexpected close encounter go without anything more than a bit of chidlike gibbering, but a second within a fairly short time period can lead to seriously unhealthy chemical warefare (if it takes place in or immediately around my house), and/or me abandoning certain locations for a good long while.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

SCC: I THOUGHT that I'd proofread it!

"childlike" gibbering, that would be!

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I have a tome on my bookshelf that I may never read: The Stones of Summer, by Dow Mossman. The reason I own this book is because of a movie called Stone Reader, a a documentary about the author and about the book, directed by Mark Moskowitz.

Moskowitz was convinced that The Stones of Summer was the greatest book ever written. The New York Times reviewer said this: "[reading Dow's book] is like crossing another Rubicon, discovering a different sensibility, a brave new world of consciousness. The Stones of Summer is a holy book and it burns with a sacred Byzantine fire, a generational fire, moon-fire, stone-fire." (The reviewer admits that when he wrote the review in 1972 he was under the influence of the New Journalism a la Tom Wolfe.)

This may be a great book but it's over 600 pages long and even Moskowitz didn't like it the first time he tried to read it. Ten years later, he picked it up again and had his life-changing experience with it. So I'm letting it sit on my bookshelf. Maybe someday it will change my life, too.

Posted by: kbertocci | July 21, 2006 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Kbert - I don't remember which book club I was a member of which was so pleased with offering me "Stones" as a monthly selection, but I had plenty of bonus points, and they seemed to like it, so I took a shot. It's been a long time since I read it (I don't remember it well, and I lost it in a quickly orchestrated move, so haven't re-read it), and it took me a couple of starts to get around to finishing it, but I remember being REALLY pleased with it. Once I adjusted to the rhythm of the writing, it was a very pleasant, bittersweet journey. Worth making time, when you've got the time, I think.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I'll amend that last post slightly:

I was pleased to have taken the bittersweet journey. There were definitely parts of the book that were somewhat unpleasant, but that was what made it bittersweet, eh?

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 8:57 PM | Report abuse

bc, I'm looking forward to your review of that book.

LindaLoo, Places Left Unfinished sounds wonderful. Tell us more.

Posted by: Slyness | July 21, 2006 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Stripey, the intrepid weekend sailor, sat in the coffeehouse sipping his triple latte cappucino Carbucks, and mused. He was there to hear the prize-winning enigmatic author discuss topics of mutual interest and, he hoped, to explore their mystical connections. As he waited, he thumbed through his current favorite tome, "Applied Cryptology". Suddenly a spider the size of a baseball, with peculiar and totemic markings, dropped to his table. Too swift for thought, Mr. Stripey slapped "A/C" firmly on the tabletop, with a simultaneous graceful backwards leap. The tome's great weight crushed the spindly cafe table, allowing the spider to launch itself -- straight at the Prizewinning Author, even then graciously approaching. Mr. Stripey heroically threw himself in the spider's path, shouting, "I'm an organ donor!"

The triple latte cappucino Carbucks dripped slowly into a pool on the floor, distracting the spider, who stopped to lap up the calorie-laden caffeinated confection. Mr. Stripey nodded in satisfaction -- another disaster averted. Retrieving "A/C", he and the Prizewinnning Author adjourned next door to the wine bar to calm their nerves and think great thoughts.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 21, 2006 10:01 PM | Report abuse

For weighty reading, I'm always a big fan of Douglas Hofstadter. I'm not aware that he's come out with anything real recently for the general reader, but I get by by re-reading.

The canonical Hofstadter is (Pulitzer prize-winning) "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid". I love it, but as a first exposure for most of my acquaintances I recommend either "The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul" (written & edited with Daniel C. Dennett, this was my first introduction to the author), or "Metamagical Themas" (a heavily commented collection of columns that he wrote for 'Scientific American' after the retirement of Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" column. See the anagram? I think that Gardner may have hand-picked Hofstadter), both are wide-ranging brain food with a sense of humor.

For those who love playing with language (and particularly but not exclusively those with some knowledge of French), one of his most recent was "Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language". A fantastic journey through his own life and the intellectual and emotional experience of language & translation.

All of these (except maybe "Mind's I") are hefty enough to serve as light weaponry & armor, certainly as decent doorstops under all but the draughtiest of conditions!

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

I-mom ... I was droning on while you were posting sheer brilliance!

Fun stuff!

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 10:08 PM | Report abuse


Simply brilliant. That should clearly be promoted to a kit of it's own.

I'm off to watch Caddyshack again, and drink Cap'n and Coke.

D@mn Apple keyboard, I hate it. Steve, are you listening?

I'm going to buy your next quad machine, get the ****ing keyboard right.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 21, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom: A+

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 21, 2006 10:21 PM | Report abuse

An observation on "Caddyshack""3

In my early twenties, I shared a three-bedroom house with a couple o' fellas who watched "Caddyshack" several times a week for at least six months. Alas, I exaggerate not in the least! That I not only don't despise it, but still actually get a kick out of the film, says something important (I have NO idea what that might be!) about either the film, myself, or both.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Just plain "Caddyshack"!

No "3" involved here.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2006 10:29 PM | Report abuse

I cut over to "Secret Agent". They're in Beirut.

The more it changes the more it stays the same.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 21, 2006 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, too funny!

If the new kits keep coming rapid fire like this we're all going to end up like Lucy and Ethel on the confectionary assembly line. Not that I am old enough to know about that stuff; heard about it from my grandparents, I swear.

Posted by: Bill Everything | July 21, 2006 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Error... my iBook keyboard's spacebar doesn'twork half the time. In fact, I'm notcorrecting this post justtoshowyou.

What's wrong with yourkeyboard?

Posted by: TBG | July 21, 2006 11:22 PM | Report abuse

>What's wrong with yourkeyboard?

It's mushy. It works OK if I concentrate, but any (every!) cheap PC keyboard has better actuation. Makes me crazy, since it was like $50 and they are all closer to $15.

Listening Steve?

I've had no problems with my G4 Powerbook keyboard.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 21, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Last spider update:

The lilliputian crimson queen has snagged a heavily armored big brown thing (I'd call it a junebug until someone gives me better advice) that is still struggling, but losing badly. I figure that the bug outweighs the spider by a minimum of x100-500, and I outweigh the bug by (conservatively) x10,000, but the spider is going about the process much more confidently than I would. The spider is managing to go back and forth (this is all observed dimly with the dining room light shining out the glass doors. I don't actually have a light mounted outside on the deck) between web repair and junebug constriction. The sheer willpower and competence of the little wench is mightily impressive!

[A note on my math, for the skeptical: In my current prosperity, I'm probably pushing 190 lbs. Given that I'm grossing at least 180 x 16 (oz/lb), that means I bring in excess of 2880 ounces = 80,640 grams to the game.
Having picked up and removed from the deck a twin to the junebug currently being entwined, I'm life-bettingly certain that it weighs something noticeably south of 1/4 ounce (for reasons involving coin collecting and/or amateur agronomy, I feel competent to estimate certain small weight measures), and I'm nearly as certain that (as much as it would give me the heebie-jeebies) if I held and then weighed a hundred twin sisters of the little red-hued raptoress, they'd probably be able to laugh down at the bug from their higher pan on a balance scale. Alas, I'm unwilling to perform the capture and/or kill that would be required to prove this empirically.]

Posted by: Bob S. | July 22, 2006 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of death, and cheese steaks (we were, weren't we?) - Harry Olivieri of Pat's King of Steaks passed away -

NPR had a good interview with his son on All Things Considered.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 22, 2006 1:12 AM | Report abuse

Error - Seriously, I'm over the spider thing!

Keyboards, now that's a whole 'nuther can of invertebrates, as it were!

I learned a LONG time ago (as I recall, I first comparatively shopped keyboards for an employer in 1982-3, or thereabouts. I started caring about it for myself a couple of years afterward), cost & appreciation are variables which are related NOT AT ALL in the world of keyboard purchases.

I've become so enamored of $15 dollar 'boards that I bought spares, and I've given/thrown away $85 models because they irked me mightily. I've definitely stopped expecting any manufacterer to package both a computer system (generally) and a keyboard (specifically) which make me happy at the same time. It probably ain't gonna happen!

Posted by: Bob S. | July 22, 2006 1:25 AM | Report abuse

mostly: After becoming aware of the great language debate, I happened to be headed that way this past May (the two weeks before Memorial Day weekend), and got a slight feel for the lay of the land. All contention there (cheesesteak-related, anyway) is loud (DID I MENTION THAT IT"S LOUD!?!?!) but essentially good-natured.

I apparently just missed the "Harry Tour". He'd been wandering (with friends/family/ assistants) into a bunch of the sandwich joints in town, to have a (last? maybe he knew!) bit of fun. Three different shops that I visited in ten days told me that I'd just missed a visit by "Hoarerry"! (Sorry, that's the closest written approximation I can make to the pronunciation that I was given at the time)

Posted by: Bob S. | July 22, 2006 1:46 AM | Report abuse

I meant to catch the Oliveri thing on NPR, but, alas, I couldn't sit in my car long enough to catch it.


Posted by: bc | July 22, 2006 7:31 AM | Report abuse

bc, listen to it online!

And then, if you have more time to spend, review the Audio Achenbach Archives:

Posted by: kbertocci | July 22, 2006 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Also recommended at NPR:

NPR Series Looks at Artists and Their Inspirations

Including Achenbach fave E.L. Doctorow [ELD trivia: The E stands for Edgar, as in Edgar Allan Poe!] ...and one of my favorite literary personalities, John Irving (we share an admiration for Dickens).

Posted by: kbertocci | July 22, 2006 7:51 AM | Report abuse

***Paging ScienceTim,
paging ScienceTim!***

Dude, I think we've found your next new car:

There have been a couple of interesting electrics based on the ancient but still wonderful Lotus 7, but that's basically a four wheeled motorcycle. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I don't think my mom would want to drive it every day. I love the newer Lotus Elise except for the fact that my size 10 shoes don't fit in the footwells, requiring that I drive in my socks. Oh, the Lotus fit, finish, quality control and factory warranty are worrisome factors as well, and may be more so with a more complex vehicle than the minimalist Elise/Exige cars.

Come to think of it, I may not have found Tim's new car, but perhaps mine.

On the other hand, I'm not in a position to take a small-mortgage sized loan on a tiny two seater. Even if it *is* quick and environmentally responsible.


Posted by: bc | July 22, 2006 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Ah, thanks, for the links, k!


Posted by: bc | July 22, 2006 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Whew, had a time trying to hook up to the Achenblog this morning. Took several attempts, but at last I'm here. First of all, would like to tell you dm, you and family are in my prayers. May God send you peace and comfort through Jesus.

Welcome, pointy bird, lovely kit. Don't know if I want to Google some of my memories, maybe the good ones.

Martooni, loved the story of your playing with the blues band. I'll bet you were out of sight.

Science Tim, good kit, but didn't understand the reference, "my baby has not done left me, nor is she doing me wrong." An attempt at humor?

I've had the walk, feel better this morning. Missed a lot of the achenblog this week by going to school. The kits have been really good. I hope Joel isn't envious. Well, I'm off this morning. I have missionary meeting at the church. Please have a good weekend, get some rest, give God some of your time, kiss the wife and children and tell them that you love them, and remember most of all that God loves you more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 22, 2006 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - I hope Ivansdad knows what a lucky man he is to live with such a clever woman.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 22, 2006 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I am in mourning for Harry Oliveri.

I hope they bury him "wit'."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 22, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

In the "heavy reading" department, I was amazed by Joel Mokyr's "Lever of Riches", an economic history. Things evolve, even if a book review this week says that "evolutionary economics" is a fringe business.

Also surprisingly heavy, for those who have access to "The Complete New Yorker" is William Finnegan's "Playing Doc's Games," which he wrote upon leaving San Francisco for New York. Finnegan was (and probably still is) a serious surfer, and San Francisco with its cold water and challenging beach, is no place for wimps. Remarkably, Finnegan left just before Jeff Clark of Half Moon Bay invited the San Franciscans (including Doc Renneker) to try out the monster wave now known as Mavericks.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 22, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Hi guys. I'm taking a break this morning from the National Storytelling Conference in Pittsburgh. In fact, I just finished my guitar practice. I'm up to using three fingers and three strings! Cool!

I've been itching to say something about trying to learn guitar, but I wanted to wait for the kit to appear, especially since I wasn't certain if Joel had given me advice on how to do a re-write (it used to be twice as long), or whether it was actually a really gentle rejection. I'm such a worrier. I wonder if Joel knew that he would be taking on a role as a writing tutor when he asked for guest kits?

I will tell you that I submitted a second guest kit. No idea whether it ever will see the light of day.

I love that electric car! Sadly, I do not have the many, many dollars required to acquire it. Phoo.

Cassandra, I was playing with themes that are commonly stereotyped as being the basis for many blues lyrics, such as "my baby done left me...". Come to think of it, the part about "doing me wrong" is actually from the Ballad of Frankie and Johnnie, with which I am most familiar in a bluegrass version, not blues. Oh, well. For humor purposes, I retained the colloquial structure but converted all spellings and dialect to textbook English: "my baby has done left me", "she is doing me wrong." The tin ear for language in such phrasings cracks me up. Maybe that's just me. It makes me think of Richard Nixon trying to appear like a regular Joe by walking on the beach at San Clemente in a business suit, carrying his dark socks and dress shoes. Political humor as insight into a man's soul may never have risen above that moment.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 22, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of heavy tomes, I finished Bix's biography of Hirohito last week. While I admire the rigor of the author, I think he included a lot of information that wasn't strictly necessary to support the central thesis that Hirohito was not an innocent powerless figurehead. It was as if Bix figured that if he bothered to get the info he might as well put it in the book. As a result, it was a brilliant 200-page biography embedded within 700 pages of text. This contrasts nicely with the biography of Newton by Gleick that I finished last night. It comes in at a lean 191 pages, but still presents a fascinating picture of a brilliant genius who was also obsessive, petty, secretive and a little vain.
In writing sometimes less really is more.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 22, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

If you really want to impress people at the beach, just take along your CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Nothing wows those beach bunnies like a pasty man perusing a table of organic solvents.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 22, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I could mention some of the tomes my agency produces, but as Robin Williams (channeling Truman Capote Jr. Jr.) once said:

"That's not writing, that's just typing."


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 22, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

RD, with a regional airport only two miles away I've been advised to notify the FAA before wearing shorts in the yard.

Something about an extreme glare warning for the pilots...

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 22, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the kind words -- that is what happens when I synthesize after a glass of wine (or, Why They Don't Let Me Drink at Work). I glanced at a shelf this morning and saw several non-science tomes: Spells of Enchantment (Zink), The Golden Bowl, Graves's Greek Myths -- any one guaranteed to knock you cold. I think they don't have the sheer obscurancy quotient necessary for the Kit, but that could just be me.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 22, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

By Zink, of course, I meant Zipes. These are next to the four volume Companions to, respectively, ethics, epistomology, aesthetics, and philosophy of the mind; Critical Theory Since 1965; and Hughes's Epic History of Art in America.

Come to think of it, that's a pretty scary bookshelf.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 22, 2006 12:20 PM | Report abuse

bc -- Quantum Questions sounds like a book I'd really enjoy. As does the Bailyn book.

I keep saying I won't buy any new books -- no place to put them -- but the kind of books I want to read, as mentioned before, aren't in the local library.

Guess I'll end up hitting Amazon after reading all the reviews on the boodle.

To go back a number of posts -- I really cacked at the vision of Mudge ending up in a "grandpop chop shop." Thanks Wilbrod for the laugh!!

Am currently reading a book that's really only of interest to locals. 'Pocahontas, Powhatan, and Opechanconough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown.'

It's a wonderful little turn-the-tables book. Helen Rountree, anthropology professor emerita from Old Dominion Unviersity (and the only anthropologigst/researcher who ever took an interest in the natives' side of the Anglo settlement) has done the best she could to reconstruct how the Powhatan Indians felt about the settlers.

They had no high opinion of them. Stunned that a bunch of grown men would not grow food to sustain themselves. Appalled at the English hygiene habits (no baths).

Of course the Powhatan saw the English through their own cultural references --

She also debunks -- yet again -- the myth that John Smith and Pocahontas were romantically linked, or that she saved Smith's life, as he claimed in a 1624 version of his travels and travails in Virginia.

Sadly, Disney, and that silly film 'The New World' (wasn't that a Dsiney film?) will forever keep the myth alive -- that a ten or eleven year old girl, certainly not allowed into the private negotiating sessions between her father, Powhatan and the captive Smith, would have had the power, or even the desire to rescue him.

Besides, as he Smith himself wrote in 1608, his life was never in danger. His story about nearly having his head caved in was a fabrication meant to glorify his travels.

Anyway, as someone who specialized in the indigenous cultures of the Southwest, it's always been stunning to me that the archaeologists in this area are only interested in the Anglo story.

I've read site reports where any native artifacts found have been ignored as irrelevant to the real story.

Of course, I've only worked with folks from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, so their bias is completely understandable.

But William and Mary did not have a professor of pre-contact archaeology until only 5 or 6 years ago. The entire program was historical archaeology only.

It's amazing after 400 years there still exists a bias in the "history" of Jamestown and the eventual settlement of Virginia.

Anyway, ivansmom, that lovely story you spun about Mr. Stripey and the spider was wonderful.

Have to go now to Amazon and order some tomes.

Posted by: nelson | July 22, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom -- that does sound like a pretty scary piece of bookshelf. My top shelf, which is in the 'A' section, ordered alpha by both topic and title, is filled with such heart-stopping titles like 'Paleoclimate and Evolution: with Emphasis on Human Origins' and 'The Neandethal Legacy; an Archeological Perpective from Western Europe'. Both of them chock-filled with dense charts on subjects like the change over time of the levels of two different oxygen isotopes in ocean sediments.

Needless to say, these ain't beach reading books! They ain't page turners at all. Mostly they serve(d) as reference books for when I was still actively working as an archaeologist. and of course, I still buy books like this to keep current in my field. But I would be lying big time if I said I've read every page of some of the top-shelf books.

I have almost no fiction books. It's a little sad, really. It's as though there is no room for poetry in my soul. Not true, by any means.

Posted by: nelson | July 22, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Nelson, in the spirit of the Kit those sound like perfect beach books. Multi-purpose, intimidating, good for the whole summer, and if you read the same page several times you'll never know. BUT if you finish the book you'll know something.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 22, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom -- you're right -- in the spirit of the kit they ARE beach reading. My dad was reading 'Napolean in Exile' at our family vacation. He tends toward dense historical reads. My sister was reading Maureen Dowd's 'Are Men Necessary?' -- a more impish choice. Maureen gave all of us women a lot of good tidbits to throw at the guys!

Actually, I've read through most of both of the ones I listed -- they're good reference books.

Neandertals are all the rage these days -- now with the Max Planck Institute's attempt to reconstruct the genome. The long, still running and very contentious argument on how much interaction there was between early modern H. sapiens and Neandertals may finally be put to rest.

Which would be sad in a way. The back and forth of this argument has been a lot of fun, and has spun off some real creative thinking.

The old take as Neandertals being non-verbal, stupid brutes is giving way slightly. But the only evidence of their culture and intellectual abilities has been the manner in which they made stone tools -- the Levallois tool kit (not to be confused with our kit) :-).

Bascially, this method involved the use of a "core" of "flint" (and really good tool-making stone -- cherts, jaspers, super-dense quartzites, etc.) which then had long flakes knapped off it for use as various type of tools.

The Levallois style of making stone tools did not change for hundreds of thousands of years -- it showed no innovation, no creative variation. Not until early modern humans tumbled into Europe did tool kits change -- they began changing, different types of tools were made, more advanced tools, different methods of making them.

The lack of change through time of the basic Levallois has been used to argue there was little to no ability amongst the Neandertal to innovate. They were not creative, had no dynamic thought processes. They simply made the same tools, the same way, with no variation at all, for 300,000 years.

The sparcity of material artifacts at Neandertal sites also buttresses the argument they were "unable" to create. That they lacked the internal mental landscape to leave behind cultural artifacts that attest to music, myth and religion, etc.

Somehow the Neandertals were unable to mentally leap into the terrain of thought that makes humans, well . . . human.

Language -- the ability not only to communicate, but to think, literally, beyond the survival level. To internally create symbols -- to have abstract thinking -- language is the core essential for all of this.

Something happened between 50,000 to 35,000 years ago. Suddenly mateial culture changed dramatically -- cave art appeared in Europe. Australia, which is thought to have been inhabited by at least 50,000 BP (before present) became the geographical landscape that held cultural and mental Dream Time.

Most anthropologists tend to believe this fluorescence is due to fully modern language developing. Beyond mere communication; rote learning of how to make a stone tool the way one's remotest ancestors had. Language as the scaffold for the inner thought processes, the creative and innovative world.

Even early modern humans (let's say earliest at 200,000 BP -- maybe 150,000 - 100,000 BP) may not have had this ability.

Why this amazing ability developed, how it developed, is a huge mystery.

I once was rebuked by a mentor for asking the "Why?" question after a lecture on early modern humans and the sudden (maybe?) appearance of language as we understand it. It is an unanswerable question. As much as we'd all like to know what happened -- how some bio-cultural line was crossed -- the answer is not in the dirt.

It's unlikely to be in a genome either.

I'll be looking forward to the results of the genomic unraveling of the Neandertal mystery. How many answers this project provides as to how Neanderals fit into (or don't at all) the evolution of H. sapiens -- I dunno. Everyone will probably argue over the results for another century or more.

Posted by: nelson | July 22, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

First, I have to say I'm totally in awe of all the guest Kitters - wonderful writing. And the comments lately have been "Kitworthy" too (present company excepted).

I'll have to check out Voyagers to the West sometime - never heard of it before - and I missed this Rough Draft when it first appeared, apparently. One of my ancestors on my mother's side immigrated in the 1790's, so a bit after the book's focus. He was from Scotland, by way of Northern Ireland, probably. Until my Dad died, we still had part of the land he settled on in PA. It was tough to let it go, but impractical to keep it, unfortunately.

I picked up "Ireland" by Frank Delaney at the library today. It's fiction, and not as weighty because it's a paperback, but at 500 some pages, it'll be a challenge for me to finish. I started it once before.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 22, 2006 5:49 PM | Report abuse

>Why this amazing ability developed, how it developed, is a huge mystery.

Call me crazy, but I think it had something to do with the rise of women complaining about the paucity of their kitchen cabinets, and their husbands desire to make good on the same in the name of domestic tranquility.

Call it the beginning of feminism if you like.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 22, 2006 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Joel's RD this week had me LOL.

Loved Mr. Thompson's illustration, but the picture I have in my head of Joel doin' the full bump and grind onstage with Mrs. Butterworth is priceless (I remember the TV commericals she used to do).


Posted by: bc | July 22, 2006 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I'll have to make a banner of Joel's slogan for the nearly-new millenium for some office meeting or another.

Thinking of brick-sized beach books, I bought Andrew Solomon's "The noonday demon: an atlas of depression" at an Orlando Airport bookstore that was closing. It flew with me somewhere, returned, and has ever since stared at me from its niche on the bookshelf. I should probably read something like Murray Bail's slim novel, "Eucalyptus" first. My mom, who likes Hiaasen and dislikes most New Yorker fiction, liked it. Or finish Jamila Gavin's "Coram Boy." The novel doesn't have the stage version's chorus singing Handel, but has more details, as in:

'What is the present going rate for white girls?' asked a third voice.

'One hundred pounds apiece if they be virgins,' came the reply.

'I want three hundred, minimum,' announced Mr. Gaddarn.

There was an intake of breath. 'That's a lot of money.'

Umm, the stage version was the National Theatre equivalent of PG-13. Certainly enough to give teens some respect for Hogarth's paintings.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 22, 2006 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, bc, I thought Joel's RD column was a bit...well...harsh, and --dare I say it? --perhaps even a bit abrasive. But then, as you well know, I've often been told I'm much too sensitive for my own good. *sniffs*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 22, 2006 8:36 PM | Report abuse

>perhaps even a bit abrasive

I kind of liked it, but then I've been called somewhat abrasive myself. A bit of a change, and I think a reasonable appraisal of the state of things. When someone is being nasty, even (or especially) without using "nasty" words they deserve to be called on it whether they're "insiders" or skippy.

The record will show I've defended people here vigorously against the "skippies" of the world, and it would please be greatly if they would take up arms against the passive-aggressive in like manner.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 22, 2006 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Mudge, you're just upset because Thompson left you out of the illustration as the fifth Milquetoast of the Apocalypse, Flatulence.


Posted by: bc | July 22, 2006 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Definitely a very good kit, ivansmom. And science tim, it was kind of funny the way you explained it. I've been missing from the boodle. Real tired from so much running, and doing. Have to go back to the center Monday, but looking forward to it, although sleeping sounds real good. We've had a number of deaths in our little town so that's hard on members of the community. Just trying to get through everything. There is much sickness in this world, and death, a need for much prayer.

I hope your weekend is good. I'm up so early this morning, but couldn't go back to sleep. I'll try to go to church this morning, hope I don't fall asleep during service. I love you guys, and I lift you up in my prayers. I really do want good things for you in this life, and the life to come. Know that God loves you more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 23, 2006 4:05 AM | Report abuse

The only fat book I've read was War and Peace, and it might not be considered a big book now. I read it because it was fat, and after I started reading, I couldn't put it down until I finished it. I love that story. I don't get to read as much as I would like now, I guess doing too many other things. But for me, there's nothing like curling up with a good book. I used to run a tab at the public library, because I was always late returning the books. And I never checked out just one book, I needed two or three bags for my books. I wish I could go to a bookstore, and just buy as many books as I want, but books are so high. I love their smell, and I'm like a kid with candy or ice cream as far as books are concerned, I never get tired of them. My taste have changed over the years, but not my desire for them. If we could get everyone to read, to really love reading books, just think what the world would be like. I believe it is a dying art, and that is so sad.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 23, 2006 4:16 AM | Report abuse

Running a tab at the library...that, Cassandra, is a great line! It describes me, too. My library books would get mixed in with the rest and I'd have a hard time finding them in time to return them.

Did you have storms last night? We had three in succession, starting about 10 p.m. Thank heavens for the rain, we need it badly.

Today's objective will be to recover from yesterday, in which we traveled to my brother's home to celebrate two six-year-old birthdays. We hadn't seen the twins since Easter, and I was amazed at how tall they are getting. Oh, the energy! With 15 kids running around, it was quite the event, and we were all exhausted when it was done. Very little crying and squabbling, I'm glad to say; it was fun.

We paid $2.719 for gas outside Spartanburg. Saw in the paper this morning that SC has the lowest gas prices in the nation.

Posted by: Slyness | July 23, 2006 8:16 AM | Report abuse

"Oh, Mudge, you're just upset because Thompson left you out of the illustration as the fifth Milquetoast of the Apocalypse, Flatulence."

Well, I TOLD you I was too sensitive for my own good, didn't I?

Good morning, Cassandra, et al.

Slyness, I cut the grass last evening after dinner, when it was a little cooler. There was a nice breeze blowing, too, but it was sunny. As I cut I watched a big thunderhead growing in the north. I finished about 8:15, went in and jumped in the shower. By the time I got out it was dark, thundering, lightninginginging, and raining like mad. I zonked about 10 (unusual for me), so I have no idea what meteorological conditions prevailed through the night. But this morning everything's still pretty wet out there.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 23, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse


It rained here last night - a couple of brief but very hard showers. Good choice to mow the lawn yesterday.

I'm a couple of days late with this but that's a great photo of you and your boat and its blue bottom. Very Druid of you.

Posted by: pj | July 23, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, I'm halfway through Master and Commander. Last few reads have been The Forever War, re-read of The Hobbit, The Selfish Gene, and Da Vinci Code.

Not quite sure what to read next.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 23, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Landis won the Tour! I can't help but get a bit MUSHy over his victory.

Making up time from his nearly 8 minute drop, with a severely arthritic hip that will be replaced after this race . . .

The guy is my inspiration today.

Historic come-from-behind ride.


Cassandra -- I used to check out so many books from the library I had to make two trips to get them all in the car.

And, I wish they would let me run a tab. I once owed $35 in late fees (they let me off the hook because they know me).

When I was a freshmen in college, I used to go up into the stacks at the huge library on campus and just breathe in the book smells. I still love doing that. Problem is, I wanna take them all home.

Posted by: nelson | July 23, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha - a tab at the library - that is good. I'm much better at getting things back on time now that I can access the library online. Right now I'm going to 2 libraries - one's run by the county, the other by the city. It's a long story, but soon city residents won't be able to place holds with the county library system. So, it's back to the city for me, but I've still got some holds on order with the county, and then I see books on their shelves that I can't resist. Anyway, I'm sure I'll return books to the wrong library before it's over.

Must have more coffee.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 23, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl, I really should read Master and Commander. I loved Hornblower as a kid, so I'm sure I'd enjoy M&C. I recommend the Achenbooks, if you haven't already read them. The Grand Idea is probably a bit stronger history than Captured by Aliens, if you know what I mean.

I don't normally do sports books, but I did read Will Blythe's To Hate Like This Is To Know Joy Forever, about the 2004 Carolina basketball team. I bought it for my husband but decided to read it when I realized that the author is the grandson of a good friend of my father's. I was exhausted when I was done with it, but then it was an exhausting subject. It will be a cult classic, for those who care about basketball in North Carolina.

Posted by: Slyness | July 23, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It's a no-brainer, Son ofCarl: read "Post Captain" next. (You have to read that one so you can then read "H.M.S. Surprise.")

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 23, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse


A couple of days ago, you said you were going to see Doc Watson. How was the show? I haven't seen him in a few years and he was still quite impressive.

Posted by: pj | July 23, 2006 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I think I will have to read Post Captain and HMS Surprise at a minimum in the series.

Captured by Aliens was just before the list I mentioned. That was a fun read.

I wonder if Joel is in Paris right now. It is NOT fun to try to keep up an ambitious tourist schedule if it's super hot out.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 23, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Joel's eff-word Rough Draft (Was it seven or 14 days days ago?)was run front and center on the San Antonio Express-News' Sunday op-ed section, accompanied by a hugh graphic, done by the E-N's art department, with Cheney front and center, with a balloon/snipe of symbols coming from his lips (%$@**^).

This is the second time Joel has been on OUR pages, the first was Joel's Dalai article. Today's reprint of Joel's eff Kit, with art and byline, is supersized, as mentioned.

Posted by: Loomis | July 23, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl, Curmudgeon is right about what you must read next. Post Captain is the best book in the series, and even if you're not up for all 4000+ pages of Aubrey/Maturin, at least don't stop until after Post Captain.

Slyness, I would encourage you as well, if you have an inclination, don't hold back. O'Brian will not disappoint you.

Posted by: kbertocci | July 23, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

SoC, or is he in Geneva by now?

Posted by: Loomis | July 23, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Doc Watson was fabulous! The concert was at the zoo, so there were lots of families with little kids, much fussing with coolers, etc - in other words, a lot of people were using the music as background noise, at least from as far back as I was. But it was very enjoyable, and he did some of my favorites - Shady Grove (dedicated to his wife of 60 years), Blue Railroad Train, Walk On Boy, Sitting on Top of the World (way different from Cream's version!), Summertime. No Tennessee Stud, alas. David Holt played with him for the first hour, then he did some solo numbers, then his grandson Richard played with him, then David Holt came back. A two and a half hour concert - not bad for a guy who's 83! He sounded good, played guitar and harmonica superbly.

BTW, he's on a Prairie Home Companion this weekend, which is a rebroadcast from 2004, I believe - from Spartanburg, SC. He did a song called Milk Cow Blues, which goes something like this:
Well I woke up this mornin'
Looked outdoors
I can tell my milk cow
I can tell by the way she lows
If you see my milk cow
Please drive her on home
Cause I ain't had no milk and butter
Since that cow's done been gone

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 23, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe I spotted JA on the tour de France podium with Landis, showering the winner with American beer and engaging in a bit of improv dance involving jiggling and pelvic motion. Decidedly R rated, I'd say.

I wonder if there will be a rule for le Tour next year prohibiting Americans from entering or attending? We may be spoiling it for them.



Posted by: bc | July 23, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

From the art world re: Mrs. Buttersworth:

In February 2001, there was an exhibit at The Chicago Athenaeum entitled "Art Scene Chicago 2000" that offered up a painting by artist Dick Detzner called "The Last Pancake Breakfast" with the image of Christ replaced by the figure of Mrs. Butterworth. Gathered at the table were such TV mascot disciples as [left] Snap, Crackle and Pop, Cap'n Crunch (as Judas), Tony the Tiger, and Aunt Jemima; [right] Toucan Sam, the white-haired Quaker Oats man, Quisp, the propeller topped alien, the Sugar Crisp Bear, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun; and the Trix Rabbit.

Detzner intended his parody of Leonardo di Vinci's "The Last Supper" to be a protest of our idolatry of commercials and the products they promote.

Posted by: Loomis | July 23, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Probably my favorite, most played CD is Doc Watson and Chet Atkins, "Reflections." From back about 1980. If you don't own it, you should.

Posted by: nellie | July 23, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse


I didn't realize Doc Watson was 83! That's amazing. I recall that he announced a semi-retirement some years ago. Happy to hear that he hasn't completely retired yet. I saw him in the early '80s in a club here and was kind of surprised that he didn't do "Tennessee Stud" then. I thought it was kind of a signature song. That and "Black Mountain Rag" are the songs of his I most remember from the "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" record from way back when.

A few years ago he and David Holt released a 3-CD set called "Legacy." It is both a studio and concert recording and in the studio part he and Holt talk about some of the songs they do. It's a lot of fun to hear their stories and, of course, to hear their songs. "Tennessee Stud" is on it, too.

Posted by: pj | July 23, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I'll have to see if I can find Reflections. I've heard Legacy - the library had it, and the interviews are interesting. At the show the other night, someone yelled out for Tennesse Stud, but Doc explained that he had done that song about 3000 times, and so he hoped we'd understand that he would refrain from doing it then. Which we did.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 23, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Gotta agree with Mudge on Joel's RD. How coarse of him to pick on people who are simply not born to be New York truck drivers.

And unfortunately it wasn't quite as funny as if he had covered a New York trucker's convention and been able to convey the complex gesture system and subculture thereof.

Of course, he'd probably be wearing concrete shoes in the bottom of the Hudson soon afterwards, had he made fun of the wrong trucking group.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 23, 2006 6:12 PM | Report abuse

(Or wind up in the same grandpop chop shop a smidgen earlier than he'd like.)

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 23, 2006 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, the weather was looking a little iffy when I got in last night. Went to bed, don't know if it got violent. Inside my apartment I cannot hear the rain or the bad weather unless it is very, very, loud. I went to sleep, and probably slept through the whole thing. Gas in my little section of the world is $2.94 for regular, and the premium is over three dollars a gallon. I only go where I have to, and without air conditioning, not much of anywhere.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 23, 2006 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I've been following the Tour daily on OLC and say hooray for Landis. What a ride.

It is hard for me to read heavy many paged books - except the tax code which is heavier and more paged than most, and a necessity. Probably the reason, its deja vu.

I'm off to see five plays in three days at Stratford's (Canada) Shakespeare festival. If I make it back without wilting under the stress, I'll give you a short synopsis. (Two Shakespeare, plus three others.) Much Ado About Nothing is the one bright spot.

Ivansmom, I loved the Mr Stripey post. Bob S., does the spider story have a happy ending?


Posted by: boondocklurker | July 23, 2006 8:19 PM | Report abuse

bdl, have fun in Stratford.

Just to make everyone feel better current gas prices here, 1.07/litre or 4.28 Cdn a gallon. Sorry bdl hope you aren't driving, if you are fill up before you cross the border.

Posted by: dmd | July 23, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Er...I was kidding about Joel's kit, right? It was supposed to be ironic?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 23, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Thomas Ricks has a really excellent piece on how the military repeated a good many mistakes in Iraq, similar to those made in Vietnam, and mirroring mistakes made by the French in another Muslim insurgency. What is even sadder than the fact that we made serious (and potentially fatal) errors is that (a) there were a few people who knew our tactics were wrong, and said si, suggesting the "proper" ones, and (b) although Ricks doesn't say so explicitly, many of the "military" mistakes (IMHO) were driven by civilian leadership in the Pentagon and White House. In a nutshell, Rumsfeld and co. screwed up. (No, this is different; we already knew they screwed up in "starting" the war, and all the bad/forced/wrong intell. etc. What I'm saying is, having decided to go to war, for whatever (wrong) reason, they then proceeded to screw up the prosecution of the war. What turns it into a tragedy of Skakespearean/Aristotelian proposrtions is that the mistakes were foreseen, and preventable.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 23, 2006 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Watching one of my favorite movies, "Cotton Comes to Harlem." Boy, I miss the late great Godfrey Cambridge.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 23, 2006 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Representatives of Mr. Stripey are pleased and delighted to report that, after much effort, a fully ripened fruit has finally been produced. It was revealed that, as is traditional, Mr. Stripey remained entirely silent during the picking. Rumors that family members may have nibbled at the stem remain unconfirmed. Plant and fruit are resting in an undisclosed location. While the name of the fruit has not yet been disclosed, given the elevated social strata of Mr. Stripey it is widely expected to be something appropriately pretentious and weird.

Frantic bidding for pictures of the fruit is not anticipated

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 23, 2006 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, I wondered whether this week's RD was ghost written by Weingarten as a send-up of JA's column (no doubt, if true, brought on by his professional jealousy of the former "mentee" and the literally dozens who post on his blog). Suppose WaPo wouldn't allow that to happen in the hallowed print version.

I mean, the Mrs. B part is pretty out there, isn't it?

Posted by: bill everything | July 23, 2006 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Felicitations, RD, on the real Mr. Stripey's accomplishment. I trust it will be tasty and appropriately savored.

Boondocklurker, Ivansdad & I spent our honeymoon at Stratford, attending plays and wandering through the town. It is charming. At the time they were having some rain, and everyone kept apologizine. We'd come from Southern California where there'd been no rain for the previous two years, so we loved it. The theater was good too, and we became part of the cult of Colm Fiore.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 23, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

I am feeling very sad this evening nd grieving the loss of my eyesight in my left eye, which was measured at 20/400 before it was lasered a week ago Friday. I have discovered on the Web that legally blind is considered 20/200.

I did some Web searching last night about fluorescein angiography and the results of my Googling made me very angry. On the day that I underwent the fluorescein angiography (green dye injected into the veins so that it travels to the back of the eye and can be photographed) at Medical Center Opthamology Associates here in San Antonio--my vision was 20/100. This was the incident where I fainted, the retina specialist had difficulty reviving me and put out a distress call so that two teams of EMTS showed up. I Boodled about it--Nani even parodied it.

When I went in for my eye appoinment a week before the lasering, pictures were again taken of the back of my retina--this time without any green dye. The lab tech was the same for both sets of photos--Rene. He let it slip that he thought my serious vaso-vegal reaction midway through the first photo session was because I had had an allergic reaction to the green dye.

What I discovered in my searching is that eye clinics typically have in place protocols for this procedure. The patient is informed of the risks and is asked to sign a release form. That never happened in my case. More importantly, there are certain contraindications for the procedure--a patient should not be in the first trimester of a pregnancy, for example, or have a known history of allergy to dye, iodine or shellfish.

In some cases, patients who have undergone fluorescein angiography have had heart attacks or died. I was never asked the question about shellfish allergy. If I had been, I never would NEVER have undergone the procedure.

I Boodled about my severe allergic reaction of hives to shellfish some time ago, although I know that it made some on the Boodle uncomfortable. My Boodling is beginning to feel like a statement of record.

I'm wondering if the injection of dye made my vision worse? More importantly, I wonder if the ocular lid scrubs I was given as a free sample on my very first visit could have caused the veins to burst--if there was some ingredient in them that triggered a vasuclar reaction? Hives is a vascular reaction in the upper dermis.

It has been extremely difficult for me to have my vision cascade downward from 20/25 this past spring, on the first visit, to 20/400 a week ago. I can no longer see the "big E" on the eyechart in the exam room. I face a very uncertain prospect of whether my eye, now that it has been lasered, will show any improvement whatsoever.

Even on the day of the lasering, I had received so little information to answer my basic questions, I refused to sign a consent form until some of my questions were answered. The attempts to hand me photocopies of the procedure that didn't address my own particular malady were pathetic. All the while I was continually being prepped for the laser surgery, which took place without me ever signing a document giving my informed consent. You can be quite certain that I am not signing that document post facto.

Do I need a lawyer? Would a second opinion from another retina specialist or allergy specialist be the way to go, since I'm no expert in this field? The City of San Antonio sent me a bill for $100 for the ambulance service that I argued should be paid by the clinic, since they are the ones that called the EMTs. They eventually agreed to cover the cost, but knowing that they didn't ask any questions about my known allergy history has me even more outraged.

Any basic lawerly advice from our Boodling barristers?

Posted by: Loomis | July 23, 2006 10:11 PM | Report abuse

The spider story had a happy ending for everyone except the junebug! When I woke up, the shriveled, somewhat silk-wrapped carcass of the bug was on the deck, and the spider was nowhere to be seen.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 24, 2006 4:07 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, I am sorry about your ordeal I cannot offered legal advice, I can only wish that things improve for you.

Ivansmom "the cult of Colm Fiore", thats funny, he is quite popular up here for both his work in Stratford and in films - very talented. Oh and sorry for the rain :).

Yea Mr. Stripey!

Posted by: dmd | July 24, 2006 5:23 AM | Report abuse

Bill Everything writes: "Honestly, I wondered whether this week's RD was ghost written by Weingarten as a send-up of JA's column"

BE: I had a similar thought. Actually my first thought was that I could picture Joel saying, "Run this one when I'm out of the country, OK?" and my second thought was that Gene must have really enjoyed it.

Posted by: kbertocci | July 24, 2006 5:27 AM | Report abuse

Linda, so sad, hope there will be some improvement in your eye. I can offer you a place to stay if your search leads you to consult an eye dr. in NYC or at Yale. Thinking good thoughts for you.

Posted by: newkid | July 24, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

i had just done something that idid not want to do at least i won 10 dollars reading this whathever

Posted by: Fernanda | August 13, 2006 4:46 AM | Report abuse

i had just done something that idid not want to do at least i won 10 dollars reading this whathever

Posted by: Fernanda | August 13, 2006 4:51 AM | Report abuse

i had just done something that idid not want to do at least i won 10 dollars reading this whathever

Posted by: Fernanda | August 13, 2006 4:51 AM | Report abuse

i had just done something that idid not want to do at least i won 10 dollars reading this whathever

Posted by: Fernanda | August 13, 2006 4:51 AM | Report abuse

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