Saturday, August 29, 2009


I'm starting my English classes on rock song lyrics, since they offer a certain accessibility. We began with Oasis's "Wonderwall," which has a nuanced but not overly difficult lyric. I think I will try Stone Temple Pilot's "Plush" next with my advanced English class, since it does have a challenging lyric. This acoustic version, with Scott Weiland in excellent voice, shows off the words very well:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Acquisitions, August 22-28

I checked out the location of Mom's Books & Gifts in Carson City. It was apparently a real used bookstore, but it closed in May. There appears to be a concentration of used bookstores in South Lake Tahoe, California, a half-hour trip which I will undertake one of these weekends once I've started to receive paychecks.

  • Neil Kagan, National Geographic Concise History of the World: An Illustrated Timeline (National Geographic hc) -- This will help me in planning my World History class. (Amazon, used)
  • Oasis, Stop the Clocks (Reprise, 2 CDs)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Acquisitions, August 15-21

Just a couple of items this week:

  • Russell Atwood, Losers Live Longer (Hard Case Crime pb) (Hard Case Crime Book Club)
  • William Shakespeare, Richard III (London, 4 LPs) (Ebay)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay to Join 'Dancing With the Stars' -- Fox News headline, August 17, 2009

The fusion of the celebrity culture, the political culture, and the media complex, long worked toward, is now complete. There is no point in debating the "public option," the war in Afghanistan, etc., because none of it means anything anymore; it's all bread and circuses from here on out.

My brother has commented shrewdly on the emergence of a "new genre" of person, exemplified by Rod and Patty Blagojevich, Nadya Suleman, Glenn Beck, Jon and Kate Gosselin, and Sarah Palin: whackos who "act out" in public with absolutely no sense of shame, and who get paid big sums to do it, because our appetite for the outrageous is insatiable. We just buried their forerunner and patron saint, Michael Jackson; the only key difference being that he actually had some talent to begin with. Now we have reached the point when those who, for better or for worse, are known for other, more important accomplishments -- the DeLays of the world -- want to join this cadre of nutjobs.

It is just sad that the dreams of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton should have come to grief on the shoal of reality television. But the wreckage is visible for all to see.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Acquisitions, August 8-14

Very light week. Book-buying -- and blogging -- have taken a back seat to getting acclimated to my new surroundings and preparing for my new teaching job.

  • Marianne Moore, Tell Me, Tell Me: Granite, Steel, and Other Topics (Viking Press hc) -- This appears to be a first edition of one of the last collections by the great American poet published in her lifetime. The book and the dust jacket are in very nice condition. A lovely find for $2.00! (Carson City Public Library)
  • Margaret Drabble, The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Fifth Edition (Oxford pb) (CCPL)
  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster pb) (CCPL)
  • Paula Rutherford, Why Didn't I Learn This in College?, Second Edition (Just ASK pb w/CD) -- Educational tricks of the trade, provided by the Douglas County NV School District.

The Failures of President Obama

This brilliant essay by Yale English professor David Bromwich astutely sums up the problems a lot of us are having with President Obama lately:

Money quotations:

His instinct is to have all the establishments on his side: Wall Street, the military, the mainstream media; the most profitable corporations in all but the most signally failing industries; and that movable establishment (which disappears and reconstitutes itself), the quick-take pulse of popular opinion on any given issue...The president tries to line up all of his forces, all together -- and do it with so finely tuned an understanding he can't possibly be wrongly portrayed. But while he is working in the background in foreign policy, or leaving things to Congress in domestic affairs, those who are angry, Cheney, Limbaugh, Netanyahu, the big insurers, say what they please. They don't much care whether it is true. The errors "take," as errors will.

Pragmatic justifications have been offered to explain his aversion to any contest that implies a clash of opposing interests. Thus Rahm Emanuel said of the disastrously time-wasting courtship of Republican support for the stimulus package: "The public wants bipartisanship. We just have to try. We don't have to succeed." But try every time and you will waste your life...Taken to the circuitous lengths Obama allows, pragmatism is another word for the compulsive propitiation of unnecessary partners. It expands the work and blunts the achievement of reform.

Several months into the president's call for health care reform, [the public's] level of ignorance is his responsibility...Somewhere at the bottom of the missteps of the last few months is a failure to recognize the depth of the popular ignorance a president of the United States confronts on any issue.

The strange thing about Obama is that he seems to suppose a community can pass directly from the sense of real injustice to a full reconciliation between the powerful and the powerless, without any of the unpleasant intervening collisions. This is a choice of emphasis that suits his temperament.

To take control of his presidency, [Obama] must give up the ambition to serve as the national moderator, the pronouncer on everything...If the public option in health care reform is finally defeated, Obama will not soon recover his credit as a national, a party, or a general-issue leader. To avoid that fate, he will have to grant to politics, mere politics, an importance he has not allowed it thus far.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Acquisitions, August 1-7

I arrived in Carson City last Friday, and although I'm loving it so far, I can't say as the local bookstore scene looks especially promising. Maybe Reno is a smidge better; and I know there are Half Price Books locations in northern California.

Carson City has a Borders that I haven't been to yet; a small bookstore inside the public library; and at least one "paperback trader" type store, Dog-Eared Books. A more promising-looking second-hand store, Comstock Books, hasn't been open on the occasions when I've walked by it, but I'm hopeful that it will be choice. "Mom's Books & Gifts" doesn't sound so promising. The thrift stores could be worth exploring.

  • W.H. Auden/Norman Holmes Pearson, Victorian & Edwardian Poets: Tennyson to Yeats (Viking Press pb) (Carson City Public Library)
  • Paul Engle/Joseph Langland, Poet's Choice (Time Reading Program pb) -- More than a hundred modern English-language poets choose their favorite specimens of their own work, and explain their preference. (CCPL)
  • Philp Sidney, The Old Arcadia (Oxford pb) -- An English prose romance of the late 16th century. (Dog-Eared Books)
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Penguin pb) -- The proprietor of Dog-Eared Books sold me these ;ast two volumes for $1.25 apiece, for which I'm most grateful. These were the highlights of the stock, which is thinner than the similar paperback trader stores in Appleton and Green Bay. But I'll stop by again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Intersection: Lemony Snicket / George Romero

They'll eat my feet,
they'll eat my head,
I'm just a meal
for the walking dead.

Song from screenplay for Zombies in the Snow
Featured in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography, Chapter Four

Monday, August 3, 2009

Commonplace Book: Self-Appraisal

[George] Bellows was not a stern critic of his own work; he thought it was fine. What's the good of saying you're worse than you are? Leave that to other people. Maybe it's not the greatest in the world, but compared to the fellow next door, it's pretty good, which is all you have to worry about.

Mahonri Sharp Young, The Paintings of George Bellows