Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The New Superba, and Other Little-Known Adventures Undertaken With My Family

And to think there are people today who don't know what a Superba is...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pretty Ladies Making Planes

These photos come from the Library of Congress' collection of photos from the Office of War Information. Thanks to Joculum's livejournal page for posting the original link. There's over 1600 incredible color photos from the 1930's - 40's, and if you have a couple hours to spare, they're well worth checking out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

If I Only...

Last year at this time, I posted my 2007 New Year’s resolution, which was to finish 42 books by year’s end. How did I do? I think the proper term is “failure.” I only managed to finish 28. Halfway through the year I realized I was behind schedule and planned a huge push to meet my goal. A few months later, when I realized I still wasn’t going to finish the fabled 42, I said “screw it” and stopped worrying about it.

On the one hand, this isn’t too disappointing. One of the reasons for the exercise was to read more than I normally do, which I accomplished. The other reason was to have something to write about in this online journal. However I stalled after writing about book #8, a collection of Brecht’s plays, even though there are things I wanted to say about each book. I will eventually post about each of the books; if not a full essay, then at least a paragraph.

Why didn’t I manage to finish 42 books? I’m too easily distracted by other media, of which I have plenty. Those who have been to my apartment know I have piles of dvds, cds, comics, magazines, and a dvr that’s always filled with movies and tv shows to watch. I’m also lucky enough to live in a city of perpetual distraction, a land where there’s always a band playing, an art gallery opening, or a walk to be taken. Like a child at school who’s always up from his desk, it takes effort for me to sit and concentrate and I’m not big with the self-discipline. Once I do manage to sit and read for more than a few minutes, I’m hooked and I don’t want anything else. It’s just getting over that small roadbump that’s the trouble. It’s the same with my meditation.

The 28 Books I Finished Last Year:
1. Bottomfeeder by B. Fingerman
2. Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
3. What If Our World Is Their Heaven? Edited by Gwen Lee and Doris Elaine Sauter
4. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
5. Not God but God by Reza Aslan
6. The Baron In The Trees by Italo Calvino
7. A Void by George Perec
8. Brecht: Collected Plays Vol. 2
9. The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris
10. Endless Things by John Crowley
11. Hatchet Jobs by Dale Peck
12. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Froer
13. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
14. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
15. Untold Stories by Alan Bennett
16. Mischevious Art of Jim Flora
17. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
19. Heroes & Villains by Angela Carter
20. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
21. Diary by Chuck Palahniuk
22. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
23. Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years by Michael Palin
24. How to Read by Harold Bloom
25. As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem
26. Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
27. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
28. I Am Legend and other Stories by Richard Matheson

Favorite Non-fiction: The Nuture Assumption (runner up: Untold Stories)
Favorite Fiction: Endless Things (runner up: Life of Pi)
Biggest Surprise: how much I liked Franny and Zooey
Biggest Disappointment: how much I was bored by Michael Palin’s diaries

So what’s my New Year’s resolution for 2008?

To read 43 books. By God, I’m going to keep trying this until I accomplish it.

Hope everyone has a good year.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Boxing Day

I had to work the day after Christmas, and after work, I decided to treat myself to the yummy Chicken Curry - half on french fries, half on rice - at Kinsale Tavern.

Kinsale is a neighborhood Irish bar on the Upper East Side, a few blocks away from the lower lip of Spanish Harlem. Despite the fact that I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I occasionally make the trek because it's that kind of warm neighborhood bar. Most nights, that is.

It wasn't particularly crowded the day after Christmas. I was eating my dinner when I began to overhear the conversation at the end of the bar. The reason I could overhear it is because the people were screaming at each other. "I think you are a Nazi pig!" a lady screeched. She didn't mean this rhetorically, but literally. A German gentleman at the bar was trying to explain why his countrymen got a bad rap for WWII, and the lady, whose family had to emigrate from Europe to Puerto Rico to avoid Hitler's armies, was having none of it. Loudly having none of it. The German gentleman tried the emotional appeal, saying that his father was killed fighting the communists and that he's tired of Germans getting blamed for everything.

As both the pitch and the volume of their argument grew, I thought: is this still controversial? Isn't it a given that the Third Reich was, you know, wrong? Not just misunderstood, not an example of relative ethics, but genuinely bad. It's not like the man was denying the Holocaust - their argument hadn't even gotten that far. Did he really expect to get a sympathetic hearing in an Irish bar in New York City?

The fact that his argument's thesis was the emotional and personal (father killed not only needlessly, but fighting for the wrong side) pretty much guarantees that shouting would eventually play a part in the debate. Still, despite the fact that I probably disagree with everything he would say, I can't help but be touched by the fact that this old man is still upset at the death of his father more than 60 years ago. Old grudges never die, in which case I guess he does make sense that he was in an Irish bar. My friend Tammy worked with Bosnian refugees and discovered that people are still angry about wrongs committed before World War I.

I found it interesting that the gentleman kept mentioning that his father and the Germans were fighting "the communists." Not the Russians or Soviets, mind you, but the communists. Every other group in the discussion was referred to by their nationality: Germans, Americans, the French. But the Russians were only referred to by their economic system, a propagandist play for sympathy. Had there been any Russians present, I'm sure the argument would have been even louder, and I certainly wouldn't have blamed them. I wouldn't want to be referred to as a capitalist rather than as an American.

So the yelling went on and the bartender didn't step in until people began cursing. Then "enough" was declared and everyone took their last cheap shots ("I should know better than to ever discuss politics with a woman"). Old nationalist resentments continue on.

What was I doing while all this was this was going on? I was reading all about "The Carol Burnett Show" in TV's Grooviest Variety Shows Of The 60s And 70s because I'm an American.