Thursday, March 30, 2006

Life after Katrina

Joe McKeever has another update from New Orleans.

Different ways of standing against evil

Back during World War II, wearing a paperclip could get you arrested in Norway. Wittingshire: Protests has the story behind that.

Volunteer proofreaders sought

Project Gutenberg is looking for proofreaders for e-books.

Mark your calendars, Zorro fans

The second annual totally unofficial Suitable For Mixed Company Zorro Fest will be Tuesday, April 18, marking the 49th anniversary of Guy Williams' screen test for the part of Zorro. (See Suitable For Mixed Company: Zorro - A history of the series.)

It's a celebrate-how-you-like festival. I'll be watching a Zorro movie or two, I suspect, at the very least. At last report, Disney had not seen fit to release the 1950s television series on DVD except in France (encoded for Region 2 DVD players), so I'll be watching either Tyrone Power or Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, most likely. They're not Guy Williams, but they do have their merits. Definitely.

Note to parents: If I were you, I'd preview the Banderas movies instead of just plunking down as a family to watch. I haven't seen the latest one, The Legend of Zorro, but The Mask of Zorro was a curious mix of admirable restraint overlying some rather serious bad stuff, including a beheading (artfully done, but still...), and the beheading wasn't the worst of it, in my opinion. Overall I'd call it a good movie, but it leans toward the early James Bond movies -- those with Sean Connery or Roger Moore -- in violence and our-hero-interacting-with-the-leading-lady stuff (not to mention the leading lady's necklines, etc.). It's cleaner than most of today's prime time television, in other words, but isn't quite Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, either. I might also note it's got perhaps the best car horse chase ever, or at least the most innovative. ;)

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Williams screen test. Perhaps I should be thinking about a costume party? Fencing lessons? A street fair? A parade? :-)

(I'm joking. But it would be fun to do something.)

Other Zorro fans, weigh in, please. Will you be doing anything?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nap time

When we decided to move our home and business out of a largish commercial-building-with-apartment a few months back, we thought we had a smallish house, a warehouse, and two storage units to move stuff into. Then the lady renting the warehouse decided to stay put, and only one of the storage units actually came open. Oops.

The whole move has been more or less like that. A second storage unit came open after a while, but without the warehouse the last several weeks have been full of sorting and culling and selling and giving away and throwing away but still not quite getting out of the old place. We made progress, but...

Then, two days ago, I found out that our old landlord had found new tenants and they were itching to get into the building. I thought we had it set up that as soon as he had either a buyer or renters we'd be told, and we'd do whatever needed to be done, even if it amounted to accepting our losses and sending what was left to the dump. But no, these people were waiting to get inside and start painting and getting a new store set up -- and nobody told us. Augh. Double augh. We are Judsons and we have our pride and we felt horrible about this.

We declared yesterday a do or die day and went at it. The last big problem, from our end, was that we still had shelves and shelves and shelves left from when we had a bricks-and-mortar bookstore over there. So, on a chance, we asked the new tenants if they wanted the shelves. Yes, they did. My husband made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

Even without having to haul the shelves out, for us to get totally cleared out still took several hours hard work on the part of my husband, myself, and two young men who volunteered to work all afternoon just to get us out of a tight spot.

The new folks were very nice about it, and quite understanding, especially once we told them that we didn't mind if they worked while we did. They were moving stuff in and painting as we carried our last loads out. One of them, dodging my husband's oxygen tubing (sixty feet long, attached to an oxygen concentrator at one end and him at the other), smiled and said, "It's like skipping rope, isn't it?"

She'll do. :)

My joints ache, my muscles are talking to me, I'm weary, but we're out. Finally.

I've done the put-bread-on-the-table work I needed to get done today, and I've taken a nap, and I'm seriously thinking about taking another nap.

Yinga. What a day we had yesterday. And how strange -- and wonderful -- it seems to not have to try to find time to get just a little more moving done.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Author spotlight: Joseph C. Lincoln

Over the weekend, I read The Aristocratic Miss Brewster by Joseph C. Lincoln, published by D. Appleton & Company in 1927. It only reinforced my plan to get my hands on more books written by Lincoln, and indulge myself. I've read nine already, but he was a prolific author and I have quite a few to go. Humorous, witty, wise, down-to-earth, unpretentious, suspenseful, romantic, occasionally over the top, full of a lively array of characters -- his Cape Cod novels are, for the most part, small treasures, at least the ones I've read so far.

They're entertaining, for one thing. But they're more than that. A while back, Headmistress over at The Common Room did a post on how she liked to use books to teach her children about character flaws and the consequences of poor choices. And then she did follow-up posts: Part 2 and Part 3.

The Lincoln books could be first rate for that. The heroes and heroines aren't perfect, and often get duped by slick cons; the villains often pretend to be friendly, even generous; a lot of trouble comes from simple, honest misunderstandings. Gossips put their oars in, do-gooders get out of hand, longstanding feuds cause trouble, but so does plain old-fashioned snobbery. The books are entirely clean, but not even remotely antiseptic. You can ignore the morals of the story if you want to, and just go along for the sometimes riotous ride -- or let kindly honorary uncle Joseph Lincoln clue you in on some of the common pitfalls of life. Your choice.

I see that a website devoted to Cape Cod history has a whole section on the author: see Joseph C. Lincoln - bibliography, filmography, reviews. From there, I see that The Aristocratic Miss Brewster is available online, at Project Gutenberg of Australia, here.

Some of his books led to movies. See imdb's page on Lincoln here.

I've been cleaning

My mother didn't seem to like spring cleaning, but I do. I love opening the windows and chasing the staleness out, and cleaning nooks and crannies that haven't been cleaned in a while, and shaking rugs, and I like finding a thing or two or three to send to the thrift store just to feel like I've shed something.

As part of the latest push, I cleaned a blanket we use while sitting in the recliner, and towels I use as seat covers on the dining room chairs. We have cats, you see. I hadn't quite noticed how much hair they'd shed recently, much less how much of that hair had stuck itself to that blanket and those towels. But how much fresher the house seems, with everything from the dining room/sitting room freshly clean. So now I'm tracking down other places that got hairy or dirty while I wasn't looking, and tending to them.

I'm having fun while I'm doing it. Like I said, I like spring cleaning. I do. It's an easy way to feel victorious, I guess. ;-)

OK, correction, it's a relatively easy way to feel victorious. It does take some elbow grease and ingenuity to do a good job of it. But, of course, if it didn't there wouldn't be nearly as much to feel triumphant about. :-)

And, of course, afterwards, the house is always more pleasant to live in, which is reward enough in itself, I think.

Of late, I've been opening doors and windows during those spring minutes and hours that pop up, and reluctantly closing them again when colder air blasts through. Open. Close. Open. Close.

I'd like to report that I'm very good at this, but I'm not. A week or so ago, the first day that seemed likely, I opened the front door and the biggest back window in the house. No sooner had the breeze gotten going than the outside temperature dropped something like twenty degrees. It does that around here sometimes. I closed the front door, but left the back window open partway. Sometimes the temperature jumps around here, too, after all. But it didn't get warmer, as hoped (not even slowly, incrementally, no matter how patiently I waited). When I got too cold to stand it anymore in my office I went to close the window, and caught my husband and the cats hovering around the Toyo (our oil heating stove), trying to will more heat out of it.

Oops.

My husband thought it was funny, by the way. And the cats forgave me after I played with them for a while.

There are reasons homemaking is considered an art instead of a science, yes?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

For Mimi

Why don't you settle in with a cup of tea (or coffee, or whatever you generally sip when sitting at the kitchen table chatting with friends), and let Donna-Jean tell you about visiting her grandmother?

The last of the children reported missing after Katrina and Rita is home

From Stacey Plaisance, Associated Press, March 23, 2006, in the Washington Times:

NEW ORLEANS -- When 4-year-old Cortez Stewart was reunited with her mother and five siblings in Texas last week, it brought a happy ending to a long journey that began with the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Cortez represented the last of 5,192 Gulf Coast children listed as missing or displaced after the storms struck more than six months ago...

[...snip...]

Of the more than 5,000 children from both storms, all but 12 were found alive. Most were found living with other relatives, family friends or other adults...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Refusing to be dumbed down, teens tackle Dante for fun

This article by Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle begins:

At first glance, the regular Saturday morning gatherings of friends over coffee, bagels and books could be any gaggle of intellectuals at any one of San Francisco's arty coffeehouses.

But look closer and the dozen friends sitting at a round, wooden table in the corner of the Morning Due Cafe are teenagers from Mission High and their young social studies teacher. They're studying Dante's "The Divine Comedy" together, and they do it for two hours every weekend.

Not for credits. Not for resume building. Just for fun.

Mission High is composed of mostly low-income, minority students, many of them new immigrants learning English. The school's curriculum concentrates largely on modern, multicultural literature as a way to engage students in reading. While Mission students do read a couple of Shakespeare's plays and a smattering of other classics before graduation, much of the Western canon never crosses their desks.

Callen Taylor, 30, teaches social studies at Mission and said many of her students lack "cultural currency." They have no knowledge of Greek mythology or Renaissance artists or ancient Rome.

She was made especially aware of their gap in knowledge when they returned to Mission last fall after having participated in a variety of summer programs along with wealthier students from other schools. They told her they'd felt intimidated.

"They felt like why are all the kids smarter than us?" Taylor recalled. "Why does everybody seem to know Greek mythology? How do they know Jupiter is the same as Zeus? A lot of people would take that for granted."

Her solution? The Dante Club...

There's more. It gets even better...

hat tip: The Book Den

Remembering Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

Way back when, somebody gave me a copy of Confessions of a Reluctant Optimist by Phyllis McGinley as a gift, I think as a graduation present. I (ahem) seem to remember getting a lot of mileage out of that book, carrying it around and watching people react to the title...

I still think it's one of the best titles for a book, ever.

My thanks to Denny Hartford for this wonderful post on the poet/author Phyllis McGinley, born March 22, 1905.

The Voice of the Poet: American Wits; Audio CD
The Voice of the Poet: American Wits; Audio CD


American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse
American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse

Following Ignatius into hospital work

Mark Mossa is a Jesuit scholastic (studying to be a priest, but not ordained yet). Over at his blog he's presenting a series of posts where he reprints part of Saint Ignatius' Autobiography and then adds his own observations.

In the latest in this series, titled Hospital Corners, he notes that Ignatius recommended that Jesuit training include some work in a hospital setting. Mark has, as a result, been steered into some experiences he admits he was afraid to face. After working in a regular hospital, and then a hospice, he moved on to...

Well, let him tell you:

My official “hospital experiment” would come two months later. I deliberately chose the one that scared me the most, perhaps because I’d learned so much from overcoming my fear of accompanying the terminally ill in their final days. This would be a new kind of challenge—The Father Purcell Memorial Center for Exceptional Children in Montgomery, AL. For two months I would work with severely handicapped children, only two of whom could speak, and only a few of whom could walk. I worked mainly in physical therapy. Each day groups of children would come down, we would lift them out of their wheelchairs and exercises their limbs, something that they could not do for themselves. They ranged in age from babies to teenagers. It didn’t take long to see what a gift these children were, as surprising as that might seem. Despite their limitations, they had a capacity to love and to be loved that brought out the best in people, even if at times they could be inexplicably difficult. Still, it was hard work, sometimes made harder by the harsh reality of the fact that some of these children were born handicapped because of a parents’ drug abuse or rendered handicapped because of physical abuse. And several had been left at the hospital by family members who never returned. There I learned the importance of allowing your heart to be broken by another’s suffering, and also the importance of loving, even if the person loved cannot acknowledge or return that love in a familiar way...

Read Mark's post

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Celebrating the craft and art of binding books by hand

Via Take Time to Smell the Coffee, here's an online exhibit from Princeton University on Hand Bookbindings: Plain and Simple to Grand and Glorious, based on a 2002-2003 exhibition at the Firestone Library.

Edinburgh University to set up the Scottish Confucius Institute

Ian Swanson, Scottish political editor at The Scotsman newspaper, reports:

A NEW institute is to be established at Edinburgh University to promote Chinese language, culture and business, it was announced today.

The decision to set up the Scottish Confucius Institute followed talks in Beijing between First Minister Jack McConnell and the Chinese Education Minister, Professor Zhou Ji.

Staff from one of China's top three universities will be seconded to staff the institute, which is expected to be up and running later this year.

Its first task will be to initiate language teaching, but it promises increased language teaching and the establishment of a programme of cultural activities next year.

The Ministry of Education in China intends to open around 100 Confucius Institutes across the globe by 2010. The network is intended to spearhead the teaching of Chinese language and culture worldwide and to strengthen economic and business ties.

[...]

Full article here

More on China can be found at The Scotsman's Trade with China archives.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Book note: Two Birthdays in Baghdad, by Anna Prouse

Two Birthdays in Baghdad: Finding the Heart of Iraq
Two Birthdays in Baghdad: Finding the Heart of Iraq

Pundita has a short, heartbreaking excerpt from Two Birthdays in Baghdad: Finding the Heart of Iraq by Anna Prouse (Howells House, September 2005), focusing on the high incidence of serious deformities due to marrying within clans. From that, I expected a downbeat book, but then I looked at Barnes & Noble, and read:

FROM THE PUBLISHER
Back in Italy after 14 months in wartime Iraq, this Italian journalist felt the international news coverage of bombs, rockets, and insurgency lacked the optimism she witnessed there every day, and writing an account of her own impressions became an effort to set the record straight. Trained as an emergency medical responder, Anna Prouse arrived in Baghdad in June 2003 to work at the Italian Red Cross Hospital, where she found the Iraqis she worked with to be full of aspirations for the future despite danger and provision shortages. She was subsequently hired to work in public affairs for the Coalition Provisional Authority inside the Green Zone (or the International Zone), where occupation authorities live and work. There in the foreign community, as elsewhere in Baghdad, she discovered a spirit of energy, dedication, and comradeship in the mission of rebuilding a devastated country.

The two professional reviews at the Barnes & Noble page both give this book a "highly recommended" rating, and suggest the book for high school libraries as well as general libraries. (Click on the book cover to get to the reviews.) There aren't any customer reviews yet.

Dispatches from Rwanda

Are you sitting down?

Karol Boudreaux has been working in Rwanda, and finds some hope in a few places -- such as coffee washing stations and co-operatives where families that were victims of genocide and families of the perpetrators are working together. (Scroll down past the gorilla story to the coffee story.)

Mrs. Boudreaux does research for Enterprise Africa!

hat tip: Karol's husband

Saturday, March 18, 2006

If I'm not here, try there...

For whatever reason, The Suitable For Mixed Company Annex has generally been coming up even when this site is crashed. I've switched to over there for the time being, until Google gets the glitch over here ironed out.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Book notes: Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad's Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond

The Paragraph Farmer (aka Patrick O'Hannigan) says he liked this book:

Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad's Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond
Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad's Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond


Click on the book cover to go to Barnes & Noble. From that page:

FROM OUR EDITORS

Charles "Pete" Conrad (1930-99) seemed to be the last person destined to make history. The dyslexic son of debt-ridden parents, the Philadelphia-born future astronaut took odd jobs at an airfield before landing a Navy scholarship to Princeton, where he majored in aeronautical engineering. A born risk taker, he became one of the nation's elite test pilots, then joined the Mercury Space Program, only to drop out. Some people thought that he was too free-spirited or too short in stature to become an astronaut. Conrad proved them wrong. On his four Gemini flights, he spent nearly 1,200 hours in space, but he is best known as the commander of the second lunar landing in November 1969. His first words on the moon were not exactly tailored for history: "Whoopie!" he shouted, "That may have been one small step for Neil, but it's a long one for me!" In Rocketman, Conrad's widow joins with Space Cowboys screenplay writer Howard A. Klausner to capture the life and achievements of a high-flying hero.

A toast to enjoyable art and music

Just because I know some of you like to look at nice paintings and enjoy classical music, here's a post at Benning's Writing Pad about (drum roll, please) paintings by Daniel Ridgway Knight and music by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Franz Liszt, and Georges Enesco (aka George Enescu), with a side mention of Moody Blues and the Beatles. :-)

And, no, right off the top of my head I don't think I know anything more about Enesco/Enescu than this post provides. That's one of the reasons I'm linking... Note to self: Find out more about Georges Enesco's music...

When war is between ways of thinking

Marc Schulman reprints "Separating Truth and Belief" by the French philosopher André Glucksmann, with his own emphasis. This goes hand in hand, I think, with the Dr. Sanity post I linked to the other day.

I don't endorse either post whole-heartedly (they are necessarily simplified to get the foundations of their arguments across quickly -- please keep that in mind), but I think they provide useful background and perspective, especially when read in tandem.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just for laughs

Note: If you are offended by blonde jokes, you should probably stop reading right now to save yourself a bit of annoyance...

Two guys from City Hall were sent out to measure a flag pole. They got to the flag pole and stood there looking up at it. They traded off ideas on how to measure it, but, really, none of the ideas seemed to be workable.

A blonde walked up to them.

"Whatcha doing, fellas?" the blonde asked.

"Oh, we have to find out the height of this flag pole," one of the guys said.

"OK," the blonde said. She reached in her purse and took out a wrench. She loosened a couple of bolts at the base of the flag pole and then tipped it over until it was laying on the ground. She reached in her purse and took out a tape measure. She measured the flag pole from end to end.

"Eighteen feet," the blonde said, and then she walked away.

"Isn't that just like a blonde?" one of the guys said. "We ask her for the height and she gives us the length!"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Book notes: Fragile Innocence by James Reston Jr

I was reading A Daughter's 'Fragile Innocence' on National Public Radio's website, about a recently released book by James Reston Jr. It didn't seem to be NPR's regular fare, somehow. It's about his daughter, who became horribly ill as a toddler and has been brain damaged since. I was amazed because it read like so many posts I've seen by the parents of children with severe disability, who find blessings they didn't expect to find. (See here and here for links to some of the more recent.) That this man faced challenges he didn't expect, and rose to the challenges, and loves his daughter just as she is comes shining through. So far, so good.

But this being NPR, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure enough, in the excerpt, along with all the prose about the amazing amount of love spread by Hillary Reston is the assertion that this girl puts a human face on the need for stem cell research and other controversial medical experiments, like animal organ transplants, etc. Hmmm. The NPR article and excerpt didn't specify which type of stem cell work, not that I could find, anyway. When it isn't specified, and I'm on a liberal leaning site, I have a nasty habit of assuming the worst until I find out otherwise. So I went to Barnes & Noble to read the write-ups there, looking for clues. The publisher's note danced around it, but the Publishers Weekly review mentioned embryonic stem cell research specifically. Sigh. It figures.

Overall, otherwise, it sounds like a worthwhile and probably inspiring read, celebrating a life that some people these days would like to sweep aside as not worthy.

From the Kirkus Review (via Barnes & Noble):

...Though Hillary lived, she sustained severe brain damage, losing her ability to speak. Here, Reston chronicles two decades of family life. Gradually, he and his wife, Denise, move from tortured self-pity to an absolute adoration of Hillary and an understanding that she is wonderful just as she is. Hillary's older siblings emerge as heroes, though near the end of the book (and none too soon) Reston reflects on the ways each of his older children has been shaped, and perhaps a bit scarred, by growing up in such stressful circumstances. There is real polemic threaded through this memoir-an insistence that disabled, retarded or handicapped children's lives matter just as much as everyone else's. (If you imagine that no one would say otherwise in this politically correct age, think again; sometimes even Hillary's physicians suggest that, well, if her kidney failure kills her, maybe everyone will be better off.)...

The author and I disagree on embryonic stem cell research and maybe some of the other medical experiments he seems to want to champion, but I am celebrating the fact that a writer who appears to be highly regarded in circles other than my own is speaking out for the value of life of the disabled and retarded among us, and also that left-leaning media is giving him air time and column space to promote that.

The NPR article is followed by a long list of links for medical, legal and other web resources. I haven't checked these out yet, but this is NPR, so expect a slightly different list than I'd compile ;-).

For the information available at Barnes & Noble, click on the book cover:

Fragile Innocence: A Father's Memoir of His Daughter's Courageous Journey
Fragile Innocence: A Father's Memoir of His Daughter's Courageous Journey


There must be more on this book out there. Hang on as your blog hostess searches...

There is another excerpt from the book at MSNBC/Newsweek (Feb. 7, 2006) -- in the health section. The NPR article, by the way, was listed under "children's health." (Can you imagine John Gunther's memoir Death Be Not Proud being listed under a Health heading? Are these people trying to tell me something about the book, or is this just the way they think about anything with hospital visits in it?)

OK, here's another Newsweek entry, also Feb. 7, also under health, but this is an interview of James Reston by Jennifer Barrett. Pretty interesting.

There must be something more than this, though...

Ah, here we go: The Demands of Love, by reviewer Suki Casanave (Washington Post, March 5, 2005, Page BW01). This is unexpected:

..."In the early years," Reston writes, "we often wondered, angrily, why our child had been singled out, and why we, far from perfect perhaps, but good and decent people, had been cursed. We demanded an answer about the randomness of tragedy.... We demanded to comprehend the incomprehensible." Meanwhile, the burden of managing Hillary's complicated care while still trying to provide a semblance of normal life for their other two children was a daily challenge. Their lives became a saga of doctor visits, medical jargon and complex drug regimens. Through it all, they lived with a persistent sense of loss.

A turning point came one night in the hospital, when 4-year-old Hillary lay near death. On top of everything else she had suffered, there was a problem with her kidneys, and her lungs had suddenly collapsed. Doctors predicted she would be gone within hours. Desperate, Leary climbed into the hospital bed with her daughter, settling in among the tangle of ICU wires. She held Hillary, caressed her, spoke in her ear -- and made a bargain with a God whom she doubted: She promised to "never, never again measure the losses ... only the gains. But let Hillary live."

This plea marked a new beginning in the journey of loving Hillary. From this moment, Reston suggests, the realization of how much they had took center stage in their lives, even in the midst of what felt like ongoing tragedy...

For more on Reston and his books, see restonbooks.com.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Variations on a different theme: Missionaries in France

A while back, I found out through Mom 2 Mom Connection: Meet author Mary DeMuth that DeMuth and her family were in France to help plant a church. DeMuth's website is Relevant Prose.

This got my attention for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I'd already been popping over from time to time to the Daveys de France blog, written by a missionary family from Wales living in France.

And then today I ran across A girl with a plan... to be a missionary in France when she grows up.

Hmmm.

S. Michael Craven wonders about the possibility of "A New Italian Renaissance?"

S. Michael Craven starts this article by noting a recent manifesto signed by more than 70 Italian leaders in government, trade unions and universities blasting the 'moral and spiritual crisis' that leaves Europe lacking 'the courage to react' to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Then he looks at history, and at how similar small groups have countered a morally declining hedonistic culture -- and changed the culture.

Mentioned in passing is the book The Sociology of Philosophies by Randall Collins (Harvard University Press, 1998). Click on the book cover below to read the publisher's write-up and critics' reviews at Barnes & Noble.

Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change
Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change

Variations on a theme...

At GM's Corner, GM (who is battling lung cancer), shares a few thoughts on Conquering Fear!. In addition to his own observations, he shares some great quotes. I like this Eleanor Roosevelt one especially:

There are many famous quotes regarding fear. Franklin Roosevelt’s probably being the most famous: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But his wife Eleanor said it better: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do." ...

In this post, GM talks about how he learned a lot from his grandfather, including a lot about optimism.

Over at Townhall.com, Mike S. Adams writes about what he learned from how his grandmother lived her life after she got cancer, in a column under the headline Life and how to live it, Part V. I especially like this bit that Dr. Adams writes:

Self-pity and gratitude are mortal enemies. Where one exists the other cannot. Since both are highly contagious, individuals must choose gratitude before becoming too thankless to do otherwise.

I should probably mention that his grandmother set a good example for gratitude. Not that other attitude.

Postmodernism under the microscope

Pat Santy, aka Dr. Sanity, addresses some of the seeming contradictions of the Postmodern intellectual left in her post Why Kant couldn't, and still can't.

Amongst other sources, she references this book by Stephen Hicks.

Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

The next time you are seriously considering becoming a hermit...

...you might want to read (or reread) The magnetic power of the herd by Garrison Keillor.

The not-always-obvious ways the UK has increased its tax take

"Stealth" taxes have been rising dramatically in the UK in recent years.

Jennifer Hill, writing in the Scotsman, has some of the details in 'Fiscal drag' and other ways Brown quietly gets your cash. For instance:

The scale of the impact of these so-called "stealth" taxes is startling. Typical middle-to-high income earners now pay up to 50 per cent of their incomes to the Treasury by way of taxes, compared with 36 per cent in 1996. And, since 1997, revenue generated by stealth taxes, fiscal drag and stamp duty has increased a staggering 78 per cent - to £123bn today from £69bn.

One of the most dramatic increases can be seen in stamp duty land tax on house sales: revenue here has risen from just £675 million in 1996 to £5.5bn in 2004 - a more than eightfold increase...

[...snip...]

Soaring house prices have also created an inheritance tax bonanza for the government. They have contributed to an 81 per cent increase in IHT revenue - to £2.9bn from £1.6bn in the past eight years.

That has been driven by a surge in the IHT take on property, which has risen 129 per cent since Labour came to power in 1997 - to £1.1bn from £480m.

[...snip...]

Money is flowing into Revenue coffers from more surprising areas, too: more than a quarter of everyday motoring costs go to the government through a variety of taxes....

The same page has tips on ways you might be able to cut down on the tax you pay, if you live in the UK.

Book note: Pooh and the Philosophers, by John Tyerman Williams

Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winie-the-Pooh
Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winnie-the-Pooh


What a way to learn a little bit about various famous philosophers, and also enjoy some of the best bits from Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner.

From the publisher (via Barnes & Noble):

In this splendidly preposterous volume, John Tyerman Williams sets out to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the whole of Western philosophy - from the ancient Greeks to the existentialists of this century - may be found in the works of A. A. Milne. Williams shows how Pooh - referred to here as "the Great Bear" - explains and illuminates the most profound ideas of the great thinkers, from Aristotle and Plato to Sartre and Camus.

The book has illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard, straight out of the Pooh books.

I am trying to think how to describe this book. I'm not sure this is quite right, but think the sort of scholarship where the scholar takes himself way too seriously, draws things out to their logical conclusion, and then keeps on mentally hopping and skipping beyond what any sensible person would do. In this case, though, it's done with a wink and some wit.

I'm about halfway through the book. I've had to take several stops along the way to give my mind a rest, and also to catch my breath from laughing so hard. It's great fun, but it's also a little relentless (in a better sort of British comedy kind of way).

I'm of two minds about recommending this book. I suspect that many, if not most, A.A. Milne fans would enjoy this book, but I'm also certain that some will be rather strenuously put off by it. From another angle, I know some folks in education who would love the lampooning of the worst sorts of dissertations and the comeuppance given their most pompous colleagues, and others, including of course the more pompous sorts, who will find the gentle and not-so-gentle jabs quite uncalled for and possibly unforgivable. I can think of some C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton fans who love this sort of intellectual high jinks mixed with real learning possibilities, but on the other hand...

Update: Sigh. The book proved too relentless for me after all, and I gave it up before I was done. If it were my own copy, I might have put it on the shelf and taken it off from time to time for small doses, but it was a friend's copy, on loan, and so I either had to keep at it at a goodly pace or give it up...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ralph Peters, reporting from the streets of Southeast Baghdad

In Dude, Where's My Civil War?, Ralph Peters shares what he saw on a recent trip around Baghdad, and also his ideas on why so much of the reporting coming out of Iraq is so negative.

hat tip: What if they gave a civil war and nobody came? at This isn't writing, it's typing.

Misunderestimated Germans : Clashing Mindsets

Michael Meyn writes about German mindsets, American mindsets, the media mindset in both countries, and how his Little Rib went from being a Bush-hater in Germany to a Bush fan after she came to America.

Flat Alexis gets a tour in Texas

Quite a while ago now, some customers of ours walked into our bookstore carrying a large paper doll, obviously handmade, and gave it a tour and took pictures of it visiting our bookstore. This seemed a bit odd, to tell you the truth. But the people with this paper doll explained. They had a young relative who lived elsewhere, and this was a school project. She'd made a 'Flat' version of herself, and mailed it off to them, and they were to take it around and teach it about where they lived, and send back pictures to the young relative to show where she'd been.

These people were having a blast taking Flat Samantha (or whatever her name was) around. The kids took her to school with them. The parents thought up field trips. A good time was had by all.

For a while. But then the children of the family decided that Flat Samantha (or whatever her name was) was insisting that everyone wear swimsuits. This being the middle of winter, this was not seen as a great idea by the parents. (But Mom, Flat Samantha really, really wants to see what it's like to run around in the snow wearing swimsuits. And she needs us to do it with her.) And then the children came up with other lovely ideas of what Flat Samantha wanted to do. I believe at that point Flat Samantha was mailed back to live with Real Samantha.

But until the children went insane with it, a good time was had by all.

Right now, a Flat Alexis is getting a tour of Texas. Her adventures so far are chronicled here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Book: Infamous Scribblers, by Eric Burns

Aram Bakshian Jr. reviews Infamous Scribblers by Eric Burns (Opinion Journal, March 8, 2006).

The title of the book is taken from one of George Washington's letters to a friend, in which he admits to being sick of the abuse of the gutter press of his day.

Infamous Scribblers: Journalism in the Age of the Founding Fathers
Infamous Scribblers: Journalism in the Age of the Founding Fathers

Book note: Getting America Right, by Edwin J. Feulner and Doug Wilson

Over the coming weeks, Doug Wilson will be writing about the blueprint put forth in a book he co-wrote with Ed Feulner. In particular, the authors feel there are six questions that should be asked and answered about every government action or policy that comes up for discussion.

In his first column in the series, Wilson looks at question number one: "Is it the government's business?"

Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today
Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today

Just another day at the bookstore...

The following is paraphrased, and altered slightly in the name of discretion (I'm rather protective of my customers and colleagues). But I think you'll get the picture.

Them: Do you have any books on Greek mythology?

Me: Some. Is there anything in particular you had in mind?

Them: We want a book on the Greek myth about the Eucharist.

Me: (Silence at first, as the brain tries to digest this. Then, slowly, carefully, hesitantly, not knowing quite what else to say, the following...) I think that Eucharist means the same as communion, doesn't it?

Them: No, there's a Greek myth about Eucharist. Not the Eucharist like with a church. The other one. It's Greek.

Well, yes it is. Utterly. I'm lost.

There follows an involved exchange wherein I wrack my brain for every Greek (or possibly Roman) myth I can think of that has something, or someone, in it starting with a similar sound, or that has something in it rhyming or nearly rhyming. We don't get very far, in part because I'm not as well versed as I might be in Greek/Roman mythology, and in part because my mind, having been started down the wrong path, is refusing to turn all the way around. The situation is further complicated by the fact that "Them" in this case is not the person who wants to buy the book, but someone who is trying to help someone else find a book she thinks she heard about somewhere. "Them" doesn't know the title, the author, whether the book is for adults or for children or for young adults, or if it was published recently or long ago. I know this because I ask about these things, searching for clues. "Them" also isn't sure that the person who wants to buy this book knows the title, the author, whether it is for kids or adults, or whether it was published recently or long ago. But he ("Them") knows she ("the potential customer") wants the book. She thinks it sounds interesting. We end the conversation for the time being, with me promising to work on it.

My husband and I have an intellectual conversation over dinner, in which we firmly establish that neither one of us knows as much Greek mythology we might, much less as much as we're sure we used to know in our school days.

Later, having been struck with a brainstorm, I have another go at it.

Me: What is this myth about?

Them: It's about flying too close to the sun.

Me: Got it. I know exactly what you mean.

That is an exaggeration to save face. I know exactly which myth he means (it being one of the few I know about), but my mind is crawling with all sorts of Names That Weren't Right that cropped up during earlier conversations and I couldn't give him the right name to save my life. I break off to go search on the Internet.

Guess first, if you'd like. The answer is here.

That hurdle cleared, we now get to move on to trying to figure out what book this person wants, and whether we can get it for her. My husband offers to take it from here. (The last I heard, he'd ordered in two different titles for her to look at, but they hadn't arrived yet.)

This sort of situation happens all the time. You would be surprised how few people ask for a book by its actual title or author. As often as not, we get something close to right, but not quite right. (Like the above example.) Most of the time this doesn't faze me. Most of the time I enjoy solving customer-caused riddles.

But, I have to admit, this one threw me for a bit of a loop, right there at the front end.

I know. I know. It should have been easy. In hindsight it's obvious.

What can I say? I was blindsided by this one.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Joust The Facts: Another Misleading Headline

The USA Today headline on the article by Bill Nichols says 8000 desert during Iraq War.

Reading that, you could almost think there was some kind of unprecedented rout going on, yes? If you didn't know better?

Or, for that matter, if you didn't read the article itself, which carefully puts the numbers into perspective.

Giacomo over at the Joust the Facts blog read the article and worked up some alternate headlines:

Military Desertions Down Since 9/11

Rate of Military Desertion Much Lower Than In Vietnam Era

Desertion Among Active Iraq Military Very Rare

Military Desertion Rarely Due To War Opposition

Read the Joust the Facts post.

The USA Today article also notes that the vast majority of desertions occur inside the United States and that most deserters return within months. There is also, according to this article, only one known case of desertion in Iraq.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Chicken Spaghetti presents the Carnival of Children's Literature, No. 2: A Coney Island Adventure

On a brighter note, the second Carnival of Children's Literature is up.

Update: Welcome to those of you coming over from the carnival. My recent posts on children's literature include Book notes: McDuff series and Meet author John Erickson.

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Pro-Life Posters Spark Debate

Sigh.

Does it amaze you (and discourage you at least a little, now and then) what is considered controversial by some people these days? Or what is considered disgusting?

The subhead on this Harvard Crimson article by staff writer Joyce Y. Zhang is "Students rip down controversial pro-life posters in protest":

Posters depicting in utero fetuses raised eyebrows and a small uproar last week. One of the posters, the second in a series created by Harvard Right to Life (HRL), featured the picture of a fetus named Elena with the words, “I’m 25 days old...and my heart already BEATS!!”

“The posters from this semester are getting torn down left and right,” said HRL President Meghan E. Grizzle ’07. “Apparently people find the picture of a fetus gruesome and I don’t understand why, because we’re not showing pictures of an aborted fetus or a dead baby,” Grizzle said. She added that HRL had to constantly replace the posters that were removed from displays across campus.

[...]

But not all students who opposed the posters agreed with those who tore them down.

“I personally find the image disgusting and don’t want to walk past it everyday,” said Nichele M. McClendon ’06, who said she did not tear down any posters. “It doesn’t have to do with abortion as an issue or free speech; it’s about being decent and not being disgusting.”

[...]

Grizzle said that posters from previous semesters had been torn down in far fewer numbers. Last semester HRL’s posters featured different facts and quotes, including posters saying that abortion is the number one cause of African American deaths surpassing AIDS and heart disease....

Do go read the whole thing. (I've cherry picked to suit my mood, I'm afraid. And I am in a mood right now, I must admit.)

I'm having trouble getting on the Internet today. I've had a problem with losing connection once I have managed to get on. And even when I'm on, I'm having no luck connecting to any page connected with Harvard Right to Life, much less one with a copy of the poster in question so we can all see for ourselves how disgusting it is (or isn't).

Anybody? I'd like to see this poster. If you find a good link, please share.

hat tip: The Alliance Alert (parental discretion advised)

Update: My thanks to the tipster (see comments) who pointed out a news story that links to some of the posters and provides more background on the situation. See Pro-Life Posters Defaced, Torn Down at Harvard, by Nathan Burchfiel, CNSNews.com Correspondent, (Cybercast News Service, March 07, 2006).

Hollywood Goes to War

I watched the "Hollywood Goes to War" episode of War Stories on Fox News Channel last night. I found it very interesting.

I hadn't really thought about this before, but many of the folks in Hollywood just prior to and during World War II were ex-patriots, people who had been run out of Europe by the Nazis as well as people just looking to work in the movies. Many of them had family still in harm's way over there. They had (and knew they had) a huge personal stake in the outcome of the war, in other words. I don't think this in any way diminishes what Hollywood did to promote the war effort back then (altruism can be nice, but it's often overrated, don't you think?), but I think it does make some of the differences between then and now more understandable.

Oliver North interviewed Alfred Hitchcock's daughter for this show, and she talked about her father calling his mother in Britain on a regular basis. One day, the daughter said, her father went to make the call but came back very pale. His call could not be put through, and the reason he was given was 'that country is at war now'. She remembers how deeply that affected him.

The show mentioned some of the movies he made during this period, including Foreign Correspondent and Lifeboat, in which he was unabashedly trying to wake people up.

I'm a bit pressed for time, so I'll just toss up links for some books mentioned prominently in the show, and clear off for now. The authors were interviewed, and all of them were informative in person.

Jimmy Stewart: Bomber Pilot
Jimmy Stewart: Bomber Pilot


Duty, Honor, Applause: America's Entertainers in World War II
Duty, Honor, Applause: America's Entertainers in World War II


Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services
Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services


and World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre (textbook)

A focus on author Helen MacInnes

Bookworm has been reading the 1984 book Ride a Pale Horse by Helen MacInnes, and she shares what MacInnes put in it about the difference between misinformation and disinformation.

She notes that MacInnes could just as easily been writing about today, instead of the Cold War.

She also links to other posts she's done on Helen MacInnes and her writing.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

New $10 bill set for circulation, new $100 bill delayed

You should be seeing the redesigned, more colorful U.S. ten dollar bill any day now. But the release of the new $100 bill is being postponed while the government tries to come up with better security features. The Associated Press is reporting "The hope is to introduce the $100 in 2007. There are no plans to colorize the $1 bill or the $5 bill."

The Beehive: The Lines, Invisible

For fun, perhaps you'd like to try making up stories in tandem?

Mitchell Lewis: A Soldier's Lent

Army chaplain Mitchell Lewis has a blog. From a recent post:

Soldiers who have seen combat have no problem remembering their mortality. They've seen it with their eyes, touched it with their hands and inhaled it into their nostrils. For those in a combat zone, every day is Ash Wednesday; the dirt on their faces is real and not a ceremonial embellishment...

hat tip: Murdoc Online

"I Want My Country Back" by Rick Roberts

Thank you, GM Roper for bringing it to my attention, and to Rick Roberts at 760 KFMB AM - San Diego, CA for saying this and giving reprint permission.


"I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!”- By Rick Roberts - 760 KFMB AM

I don’t mean to go off on a rant here, but here’s the bottom line, I want my country back.

I want my kids to be able to walk to the store or walk to school without being abducted by some 3-time convicted child molester. And the politically correct powers that be in this country just can’t seem to get over themselves with “CAN’T WE JUST HELP THIS PERSON!” No! You can’t. But they’re let loose to prey on more children.

I want my kids back. I want my country back.

I don’t agree with everything this President does. I’ve never agreed with anything 100% that any President has done or said.

You know, I was very young during the Vietnam War. So I probably missed that thing by a hair. I don’t know whether I would have agreed with that or not at the time. I was too stupid to have an opinion at that point and time even though I thought I did.

I want my country back.

I want some semblance of respect for authority, whether I agree with it all or not.

I want the Boy Scouts to be “boy” scouts, not boy and “we think she’s a girl” scouts. I want Girl Scouts to be “girl” scouts not Girl Scouts and “Bruce.”

I want my country back.

I want to be able to wake up in the morning knowing that I can walk outside without some gang-banger on parole taking my life.

Or being able to go down and purchase a car without having to worry about you know 90% of the parts being made overseas in some sweatshop.

I want my politicians, when they finally do get my vote, to do what the hell they said they were going to do in the first place.

I want the Abramoff’s of the world to be labeled what they…nothing more than organized crime in a better suit.

I want the Hollywood elite to make movies to entertain me. Not use their celebrity to sway me politically one way or the other.

Quite honestly, if you’re a has-been-pseudo-celebrity I want you to go away quietly, so that I can remember you fondly through your “artiste work” that’s left in the archives.

I want people to say something and when they say something look at me in the eye. And mean what they say. Not say what they think I want to hear. And then do what they want to later politically or any other way.

I want to be able to go out and work and make a decent wage and buy a home. Half the people that are listening to me right now can’t even afford to buy a house unless they’re working three jobs.

And I want America to be America. All of those opportunities, all of those things that made her great, I want those returned to the forefront. If you want to come to this country we welcome you with open arms. We simply ask that you abide by our laws. I don’t want you to snub your nose at our laws, then take advantage of our opportunities, and then cling to the constitution most of which you can’t even read because you don’t speak the language.

I want us to secure our borders because the country is worth securing. The people that live here are worth protecting.

I want my country back. I want my children back.

I want some semblance of what this country used to be.

It’s worth protecting. It’s worth defending.

I don’t recognize this country anymore.

Not politically, not philosophically, not spiritually.

Whether you like it or whether you don’t God was a part of building this great nation. To remove him is to take away the very foundation of what this country was all about.

I don’t care about your political correctness!

I don’t want to know your sexual preference!

I could care less about all of that. Stop making it the headline of the day!

That’s not America.

I want my country back!

And the only way I’m ever going to be able to get this country back is if I reach out to the brothers and the sisters that all feel the same way and we say “Hell No! You can’t have our country.”

It’s not for sale! Take the price tag off this country!

Take the price tag off the heads of our children!

Stop it already!

The politically-correct-psychobabble-hug-a-tree-experts ; You are not qualified to release sex offenders back into our neighborhoods.

The southern border, more than any other border, needs to be secured tomorrow. For all those that wish to come to this country to take advantage of her opportunity, to live under a constitution a living document that breathes in and out just like you do, this country is not for sale.

I should know. I’m one of the owners. You can’t sell it without my permission.

I want my country back.

Background Notes at the U.S. Department of State

FYI: You can visit the U.S. Department of State's website and find a section devoted to Background Notes on "the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations of independent states, some dependencies, and areas of special sovereignty."

I've found it can be fairly handy from time to time, even if all you want to know is the official name of a country, or how you should refer to someone with that nationality, or what the flag looks like. Search tip: for a map, click on the "official name" link.

Today's themes: Government, politics, history

Wandering around the blog neighborhood, I'm finding people discussing news and views, and points to ponder, about government(s) then and now, here and there:

At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux argues that Government Ain't Us. He wonders (as do I) why it is, for so many people, that "The assumption seems to be that unless certain things are done by government, they aren't done -- even if they are done!" Let him explain. And then let's all be more careful how we use the word we. ;-).

At Betsy's Page, Betsy Newmark is wondering where people have been for the last, say, hundred years to have come up with the idea that the government is good at doing things. She points out that even D-Day had its major mistakes, and it was very carefully planned, after all.

At Expat Yank, Robert Tumminello would like to give Sir Menzies a history lesson. Robert goes back to 1946, when Britain was holding German POWs past the time some people thought was proper. There were more than 400,000 POWs, and Clement Attlee's Socialist government was pointedly ignoring the Geneva Convention.

Over at Elephants in Academia, AcademicElephant brings us the news that Hugo Chavez is not a ladies' man. The post takes a glance at how two powerful women in Latin America -- newly-elected President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, and Lourdes Flores Nano (who apparently stands a good chance of being the next President of Peru) -- are dealing with Chavez and with his "vision" for Latin America.

And, just so you know, humorist Garrison Keillor is proposing a constitutional amendment requiring that a candidate for president of the United States have at least two years of full-time military service. I don't know about you, but I sometimes have a hard time telling when Keillor is being serious and when he's being snarky. This column is no exception. Some of it I think he means in earnest, and other parts, well, I'm pretty sure he doesn't. It does have some nice praise for people he's met who have served in Iraq, for what it's worth. (Via Garrison Keillor Goes Robert A. Heinlein? at the Apologies Demanded blog, via I don't remember. Does anyone else ever wish, now and then, that they took notes while following links around the 'net?)

Friday, March 03, 2006

OpinionJournal - A Lady's Lament

I didn't start the day intending to have a movie theme in half my posts. But it seems to have come out that way.

I can't resist sharing the first part of A Lady's Lament: Where have all the Hollywood hunks gone? by Kimberly A. Stassel (OpinionJournal, March 3, 2006):

This year I plan to conduct my own Academy Awards. And in my newly created category of "Best Red-Blooded Male," I regret to say that I can offer up only one nominee: King Kong.

Where have all the tough guys gone? Really, it's enough to make you cry--that is, if all our leading men weren't already doing it for me. From its earliest days Hollywood has had a glorious tradition of punch-throwing, gun-toting, testosterone-oozing leading men, and the world has loved every one of them. James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Sly Stallone, Mel Gibson, these were men. Some were strong and silent, some artisans of broken noses and busted rib cages, some villains, some heroes. But there was no doubt that they had a reason to walk with bowed legs.

And today? These marvelous males have given way to a new generation of Hollywood consumptives...

Sigh.

I'm with her.

Mommy Life: Movies - It's all about choice

Barbara Curtis loves movies. She used to go to funky movie houses in San Francisco in the 1970s. Then she became a mother and didn't get out as much. And then she became a Christian, and didn't want to watch some of the films she had before. And then the movie industry changed course.

I like how she puts it:

Add to that the fact that movies were getting darker and darker - It's been a long slide from Academy Award winners like Sound of Music and Ben Hur to American Beauty and Mystic River (ugh - what an ugly movie that was!)

But she still loves movies. It just takes a little more research beforehand, to weed out the ones not worth watching.

She shares the sites she depends on for reviews, praises the people who are working to remind Hollywood that their biggest money-makers are family-friendly films, and encourages support for Christians who are engaging the culture through film and other creative endeavors.

American Future : The Terrorist Mind

Can you spare sixteen minutes? Marc Schulman's found a video of a New Jersey television station interview with three former terrorists. Including one born and raised here in the United States, by the way.

Bookworm Room: Hollywood and simple patriotism

Hollywood used to be really good at lifting spirits, celebrating Americans and American achievement, and boosting our image abroad. Bookworm is fond of old musicals, especially the war musicals.

She's preaching to the choir around here. The DVD I have set aside to watch this weekend if we can find the time is On the Town. And, OK, it's not exactly the patriotic fare she's spotlighting in her post, but it has sailors and it is a musical :-).

Update: There's something in the air or in the water or something. I just got an e-mail telling me that War Stories on Fox this weekend is an all-new episode on the subject of (drum roll please....) "Hollywood Goes to War":

Hollywood films were instrumental in shaping the resolve of the American public during the gloomy days of World War II. Hear the story of silver screen heroes who served their country and inspired the nation! Oliver North sits down with legends Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney, and more! Visit FOX Fan Central for a preview from the all-new episode, plus, more exclusive extras.
http://www.foxnews.com/foxfan/index.html

Meet author John Erickson

A little background on John Erickson, the author of a popular book series starring a cowdog named Hank:

...The road to stardom for Hank, however, wasn't all dog biscuits and gravy. Erickson graduated from the University of Texas in 1966 and studied for two years at Harvard Divinity School. He began to publish short stories in 1967 while working full-time as a cowboy, farmhand, and ranch manager in Texas and Oklahoma. Hank and his sidekick Drover are dogs Erickson worked with on the range. This mixture of true life experience, fun, and adventure has gained Hank a loyal following of thousands of children and adults.

In 1982, however, Erickson was at his rope's end. "I was working out in the cold; there was 8 inches of snow on the ground," he says, "I had just gotten a couple of rejection slips from New York publishers; and, I had a wife with two kids and another one on the way." So, with $2000 in borrowed money, Erickson started his own publishing company, appropriately named Maverick Books.

Hank the Cowdog made his debut in the pages of The Cattleman, a magazine for adults. An obvious favorite of readers, Erickson included two of Hank's humorous stories in Maverick Book's first publishing effort, The Devil in Texas (1982). Erickson began selling books from his pickup truck at cattle auctions, rodeos, and just about any place cowboys gathered.

When Erickson started getting "Dear Hank" letters, he knew he was onto something. So in 1983, 2,000 copies of The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog were published, and sold out in 6 weeks. Not long after that first printing, the book was recorded word-for-word on audiotape. Since then, every Hank book has been recorded, making Hank the longest running successful children's series on audio ever....

Read the whole write-up.

hat tip: "Rationalizing" post at Wittingshire. This post shares a short passage from one of the books.

There are lots and lots of Hank the Cowdog books. A sampling:

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog (Hank the Cowdog Series #1)
The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog (Hank the Cowdog Series #1)


The Curse of the Incredible Priceless Corncob (Hank the Cowdog Series #7)
The Curse of the Incredible Priceless Corncob (Hank the Cowdog Series #7)


The Garbage Monster from Outer Space (Hank the Cowdog Series #32)
The Garbage Monster from Outer Space (Hank the Cowdog Series #32)


The Case of the Falling Sky, Vol. 45
The Case of the Falling Sky, Vol. 45


The Case of the Tender Cheeping Chickies (Hank the Cowdog Series #47)
The Case of the Tender Cheeping Chickies (Hank the Cowdog Series #47)


And, the latest one (due May 4, pre-orders being taken now)...

The Case of the Monkey Burglar
The Case of the Monkey Burglar

Misunderestimated Germans : American Pride and Optimism

Here's a guy who has moved to the United States from Germany and is looking forward to becoming a citizen. And he's got a sense of humor, too. :-).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Tom McMahon: What I Have Learned In 15 Years

Fifteen years ago, Tom McMahon's son suffered a severe brain injury that left him unable to walk, talk, or feed himself. Mr. McMahon's learned a thing or two in fifteen years of caring for his son. The lessons might surprise you.

(Or not. I suspect those of my readers who live with disability know much of this already. But he puts it so well.)

I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that his post would be good to print out and put in the hands of teens and twenty-somethings -- for that matter anyone who is still cheerfully assuming his life will go the way he plans it to, or anyone who thinks happiness depends on circumstances.

hat tip: GM Roper

George Washington, in the flesh (make that in the wax)

Mount Vernon has commissioned three wax figures of George Washington -- representing him at age 19, at 45, and at 57. British artists Sue Day and Stuart Williamson are doing the sculpting. Richard Pyle of the Associated Press has an interesting article about the project (The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 20, 2006).

The life-size figures are part of an attempt to help counter the image of George Washington as the stiff and somewhat boring figure on the one-dollar bill.

And, yes, some people think it's funny that British artists are doing the job. I prefer to think of it as further proof that we well and truly buried that hatchet a long time ago...

hat tip: The Bernoulli Effect

Book notes: McDuff series

Going through a stack of used books, getting them cleaned up for the store, I came across three picture books for young children. They looked to be cute, and fast reads, so I settled in.

McDuff and the Baby first. A white terrier has jealousy problems when a baby arrives and he doesn't get as much attention as before. But he comes around in the end. Delightful. (I especially like the page where "McDuff gave the baby terrible squinting looks. The baby didn't mind at all.") The illustrations are wonderful. Fred and Lucy, McDuff's owners, are wonderful people, who radiate intelligence, friendliness, love and joy.

McDuff Comes Home next. The white terrier McDuff sees a rabbit and does his level best to catch it. By the time the rabbit goes down a hole, McDuff has torn off his collar, losing his tag. He is lost, and exhausted. A kindly lady finds him, and helps him find his way home. Just the sight of an old lady in an old-fashioned dress driving a motorcycle with a terrier in the sidecar is worth getting the book. Delightful book. The illustrations are wonderful. Fred and Lucy, McDuff's owners, are wonderful people, who radiate intelligence, friendliness, love and joy. I know I said that about the other book, but I'm impressed by this. How nice to have such charming adults in a kids' book, for a change. (I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot of adults in kids' books leave much to be desired.)

Finally, McDuff Moves In. Oops, this is the starting book in the series. I probably should have started here. A nameless terrier is lost and looking for somewhere to go, and people keep telling him to go away -- until he meets the delightful, good-natured, intelligent, compassionate Lucy and Fred.

My copies are Scholastic school market editions, and the covers don't match what I see for sale elsewhere. But I presume that if the book in question has Rosemary Wells as the author and Susan Jeffers as the illustrator, you'd be getting essentially the same books I read.

There are, I find, lots of books in this series. For instance:

McDuff Moves In
McDuff Moves In


McDuff Goes to School
McDuff Goes to School


McDuff's Hide-and-Seek: Lift the Flap Pull the Tab
McDuff's Hide-and-Seek: Lift the Flap Pull the Tab


McDuff Saves the Day
McDuff Saves the Day


And many more. Too fun.

The books are set several decades ago, from the clothing, cars, and other clues. For instance, the big entertainment in the evening is sitting down to listen to the radio. Anybody who's seen the books and is better than I am at fashions and styles might help me out here. I'm guessing 1930s, give or take a few years? Am I close?